Explosives-laden drones crash into IAF station at Jammu airport as militancy moves into high-tech orbit

Two explosives-laden drones crashed into the Indian Air Force station at Jammu airport in the early hours of Sunday, perhaps the first time that suspected Pakistan-based terrorists have used unmanned aerial vehicles in an attack, officials said.

Two Indian Air Force personnel were injured in the explosions that took place around 1.40 am within six minutes of each other. The first blast ripped off the roof of a single-storey building at the high security technical area of the airport manned by the IAF. The second one was detonated on the ground, the officials said.

"The attack at the IAF station in Jammu is a terror attack," Jammu and Kashmir police chief Dilbag Singh told PTI.

It was not immediately clear from where the drones had taken off and investigations were on to ascertain their flight path, officials said. The aerial distance from the Jammu airport to the international border is 14 km.

Though the low-intensity drone attacks on Jammu airport claimed no lives, the militancy in Kashmir seems to have acquired a new dimension with this attack, moving into the orbit of high technology.

What makes these weapons particularly lethal is the fact that they fly very low, making them undetectable on radar and leaving little by way of response time once detected.

While officials were investigating the drone attack, another major strike was averted when a person, probably owing allegiance to the banned Lashker-e-Taiba, was arrested along with an improvised explosive device weighing around six kg, the director general of police said. He was tasked with triggering the IED in a crowded place. "The suspect has been detained and is being interrogated. More suspects are likely to be picked up in this foiled IED blast attempt," Singh said.

NIA sources said the drones that deposited the low-intensity payload were pre-programmed to do so at an exact GPS coordinate. In other words, it was a relatively crude device, which was not guided by a remote operator. Experts told a news channel that the installation of GPS jammers across all sensitive installations would ensure that such drones fly off their path due to jammed GPS signals.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh's office said he spoke to Vice Air Chief, Air Marshal H S Arora, about the airport incident. The flights to and from Jammu airport are operating as per schedule, officials said.

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