China is expanding its drone network along the border, officials say

Intelligence, surveillance and target acquisition and reconnaissance capabilities are essential tasks

Intelligence, surveillance and target acquisition and reconnaissance capabilities are essential tasks

China continues to expand its network of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and its use in areas near the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

There is a significant increase in their use for a variety of tasks ranging from intelligence, surveillance and target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) and logistical support capabilities, official sources said citing intelligence reports. . This follows a growing trend of deployment of UAVs by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Tibet and along the LAC since the start of the standoff in eastern Ladakh in May 2020.

“We learn that airborne sorties are coordinated from a unified command center and are closely monitored for further improvements. Efforts are being made to cover all important locations, UAV network places for better patrol and other related activities,” an official source said citing contributions. China is also increasingly deploying its advanced drones in Tibet near the LAC, another official said.

Additionally, drones have been used to deliver vaccines in border areas for effective last mile coverage in several locations and especially opposite Arunachal Pradesh. As the Indian and Chinese armies prepared for winters in the high-altitude region, China released videos of swarms of quadcopter drones being used to deliver rations and other essentials to personnel deployed near the border.

With this in mind, PLA UAV units regularly conducted exercises to refine their employment. One such exercise took place in February according to reports in which drones were filled with food, water and medicine to be delivered to troops in remote areas.

Indigenous satellite communications

China is also trying to reduce its reliance on foreign-made satellite communications and is promoting the use of the locally-built Tiantong satellite communications system, officials said. Testing and use of the Tiantong system was noticed in several places along the northern borders and the latest being areas opposite Arunachal, according to the entries.

As the stalemate continues, satellite images from October last year showed the deployment of drones and fighter jets by the Chinese air force at Ngari Gunsa air base in the Ngari prefecture and about 200 km from Pangong Lake. Satellite images posted to Twitter by open-source intelligence manager @detrasfa_ showed what the CH-4 armed drones are likely to be.

This is part of the massive expansion of infrastructure and trails, construction of habitats and support facilities that has continued over the past two years, even as the two sides were engaged in talks with the senior military commander for disengagement and de-escalation in eastern Ladakh. the dead end.

Acknowledging that there is definitely an increase in Chinese drone activity along the LAC, military sources said they are watching them closely.

To counter it, the Army and Air Force are also bolstering their own UAV fleets and upgrading existing ones in inventory. Additional purchases are also underway, including a proposal for 30 armed Predator drones, 10 for each service, from the United States.

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