An IED-protected vehicle developed by Ashok Leyland, one of the many such offerings on display at the Defexpo 2010 in New Delhi in Feb 2010.
By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 2nd July 10
India is deploying cutting-edge technology to defeat a simple insurgent weapon that J&K militants and Naxals are using to lethal effect: the Improvised Explosive Device, or IED. Swedish company, Saab, has offered to partner India’s Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) in fitting Saab’s CARABAS radar on India’s Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), which would allow the scanning of wide swathes of territory to detect IEDs well before they can be exploded.
Naxal IEDs --- explosives that are detonated with a timer, or with signals from a mobile phone, to blow up jawans or vehicles --- are blamed for over 60% of all casualties caused by the Maoist group. In only the most recent example, on 17th May, a Naxal IED, buried inside a metalled road, blew up a civilian bus in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh killing 36 people, including 12 Special Police Officers. Any movement of security forces in Naxal areas must be preceded by a painstaking manual search for IEDs. Many casualties have been caused during these search operations.
In the new system being evaluated, a Saab CARABAS radar, fitted in a Dhruv helicopter, does an aerial scan of the area in which security forces will be operating. The CARABAS radar is specially designed to detect metallic components of an IED, even when it is buried 5-6 metres below the ground. A computer quickly compares the image of each flight with the images of the previous flight over that area; any new metallic objects are highlighted, and their exact location mapped. Armed with that information, a bomb disposal team is sent to defuse the IED harmlessly.
Best of all, the exceptionally low frequency waves from the CARABAS radar ignores vegetation, reflecting only off man-made objects. This is especially useful in jungle terrain, where the dense foliage provides both visual and electro-magnetic cover. Naxal IED tactics involve burying IEDs several feet deep, sometimes under tarmac roads; such a system would detect even the deep-buried IEDs, which conventional, hand-held scanners, and even sniffer dogs, often cannot pick up.
“We have provided a radar at the request of the DRDO”, says Inderjit Sial, the India head of Saab International India AB. “The DRDO will integrate it on the Dhruv ALH and then evaluation trials will be conducted. There is also a lighter version of the radar which can be flown on a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle).”
The helicopter-mounted CARABAS radar weighs about 150 kg. The smaller version of the radar, which has been developed for UAVs, weighs just 50 kg.
Saab believes that this surveillance platform has a very high potential in India. The company has indicated that, if India chooses to deploy the CARABAS/Dhruv platform, Saab would set up its global manufacturing hub for the radar in India.
The DRDO, is carefully evaluating Saab’s offer. Confirming to Business Standard that it is evaluating a foreign foliage penetration radar, the DRDO spokesperson stated, “We are seeking foreign collaboration in this field. Talks are actively on… but we have not yet made a final decision.”
A key challenge the DRDO faces in integrating the CARABAS low-frequency radar on a UAV, or on the Dhruv helicopter, is the unusual shape and large size of the radar antennae, which look like two long poles. A place on the flying platform will have to be found for these antennae.