India invests in surveillance drones

According to The Times of India, the Indian military is investing massively in boom military industry of the moment – Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs or drones).

An IAL Heron TP UAV in flight
An IAL Heron TP UAV in flight

The initial order is apparently for coastal protection and involves the purchase of Heron UAVs from Israel Aerospace Industries, a specialist in such technologies which produces everything from large payload drones to tiny micro-UAVs like the Mosquito, which can be launched by hand and is designed for “providing real-time imagery data in restricted urban areas.” The Indian Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) have also been developing their own drones in conjunction with IAI, the latest being the Rustom MALE.

A Predator UAV equiped with Hellfire missile (USAF)
A Predator UAV equiped with Hellfire missile (USAF)

Herons are supposedly unarmed but armed versions were used in the 2006 invasion of Lebanon by Israeli armed forces. The ToI article also makes it clear that Indian forces will be buying more overtly aggressive drones such as the US Predator systems that have been used to such devastating effect against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in the Pakistan-Afghanistan frontier regions. Far from easing up on the use of these remote-control killing machines, Obama’s administration has accelerated their use. They put fewer US troops in the firing line, and can attack remote areas, from where it is also very difficult to get an accurate independent view on their activities. However they are alleged to have been massively inaccurate, with the Pakistan government claiming that only 10 out of 60 missions between January 2006 and April 2009 had hit their targets, killing 14 Al-Qaeda leaders and 687 civilians, an appalling ratio.

With the advent of strategic bombing and then the ICBM, the Twentieth Century saw a massive increase of the role of remote surveillance in warfare, which was intimately linked to the growth in destructive power and the ability to not to understand the consequences in any direct or emotional way. Even with the tank and artillery ground warfare was not so remote, but now in the Twenty-first Century we are seeing surveillance-based, remote-control warfare becoming increasingly normalised. It is not surprising to see both hypocritical states like the USA and Israel intimately involved in the promotion of this form of conflict which looks cleaner and more ‘moral’ from the point of view of the user, but which in fact simply further isolates them from the consequences of their action. Real time surveillance turns everyday life in to a simulation, and drone-based warfare makes war into something like a game. And it’s a deadly and amoral game that increasing numbers of states, like India, are now playing.

Author: David

I'm David Murakami Wood. I live on Wolfe Island, in Ontario, and am Canada Research Chair (Tier II) in Surveillance Studies and an Associate Professor at Queen's University, Kingston.

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