May 28, 2013 idrw.org (IBN7)
The deadly Naxal attack on the Congress leaders in Jagdalpur could have been prevented had the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) not been lying idle in faraway Hyderabad. According to intelligence sources, since every drone takes off from Hyderabad, they can’t spend sufficient number of hours hovering over the Naxal-affected regions in Chhattisgarh to gather intelligence. The Indian Air Force (IAF) never agreed to operate these UAVs from Jagdalpur, considering the region unfit for the stay its officials, the sources said.
The 12 Heron drones, bought from Israel in 2009, have failed to scan the Darbha forests or Sukma region as they never fly over these interior regions, the intelligence sources said. This is the reason why more than 500 Maoists gathered in these forests without being noticed by anyone. After the massacre, the killers were able to easily flee, putting a big question mark on the utility of such high-tech devices.
These drones are operated from the Begumpet airbase near Hyderabad. After flying for almost three hours to reach the Naxal-affected regions in the state, these machines are forced to return as they run out of fuel and have already reached their maximum range.
The IAF was requested to fly these drones to Jagdalpur last year from a DRDO’s air strip near it. But the IAF, citing lifestyle reasons of its officers, did not agree to do so. Meanwhile, the IAF had assured of shifting the Hyderabad UAV base to Bhilai and operate it from the airstipr of Bhilai Steel Plant but even after one year, the drones are being operated from Hyderabad.
The modus operandi of the intelligence agencies has also raised eyebrows, the sources said. The IAF sends the information gathered by the drones to National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) for analysis. Shockingly, NTRO does not have access to the intelligence reports. Thus, due to lack of coordination, the whole intelligence analysis work goes in vain, sources said.
The ability of the Israeli drones is under question as the electro-optical thermal radar censors mounted atop Heron-1 drones cannot penetrate the thick jungle cover and are unable to differentiate between Naxals and local villagers. However, the DRDO is taking the help of a Swedish firm to make these Israeli drones more accurate.