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Pakistan Showed Off A Bunch Of New Drones

March 26, 2019


This year’s military parade to mark Pakistan Day, which is held every March 23, offered few surprises and subscribed to the usual format, albeit impeccably performed. But a few details from the immense convoy that represented the army’s various units deserve serious attention. Towards the end of the parade, where the various road mobile ballistic missiles that serve as a deterrent against India are shown off, several small trucks rolled by carrying UAVs. Two of them mounted the familiar Burraq, able to carry to missiles, and the Shahpar reconnaissance drone derived from the Chinese CH-3. But a Mercedes Benz truck pulling a trailer had four models that have avoided public scrutiny so far.

Rather than a guarded secret, it turns out these smaller drones are manufactured by Global Industrial & Defense Solutions (GIDS), a massive state-owned enterprise controlled by the military and responsible for mass-producing parts for air, land, and naval weapon systems. The drones from the March 23 parade included the GIDS’ twin-boom Uqab and Huma that each operate at low altitudes and have limited flight times not exceeding four hours. The two smaller drones on the Mercedes Benz’ trailer are more exotic. The quadcopter is called the Scout 1 and its counterpart, a small handheld propeller plane, is the Scout 2.

There’s little public information about the smaller models but GIDS’ online catalog does have an entry for a “Scout Mini” that looks like the predecessor of the Scout 2. The original Scout Mini was handheld and meant for infantry units who needed better navigation aids while deploying on foot. Its flight time clocks in at an hour and a single operator pilots the drone from a portable terminal. The quadcopter identified as the Scout 1 is a revelation, however. If the March 23 parade was supposed to advertise Pakistan’s successful efforts at manufacturing various types of drones, then the Scout 1 is a remarkable feat of self-reliance. Rather than import quadcopters from China in bulk, it looks like GIDS has gone ahead and developed its own.

No longer just a favorite among hobbyists, quadcopters have been embraced by militaries around the world as a convenient tool for observing nearby terrain. The major conflicts that erupted this decade led to the weaponization of quadcopters as guided bombs, a phenomenon that endangered countless Iraqi soldiers fighting ISIS. In 2018 at least two armed quadcopters were used in an assassination attempt on President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela although both failed to reach their target.

For Pakistan’s army to deploy quadcopters with its infantry units is a fitting response in light of its preoccupation with battling separatists, terrorists, and the Indian army along the Line of Control (LoC). Having quadcopters in the hands of its jawans means time consuming aerial reconnaissance by helicopter or plane is not needed–the same objectives can be viewed using a nimble drone.

Unfortunately, specifications for the Scout 1 are unavailable for now but it wouldn’t be too surprising if some of its parts are sourced from China. The existence of the Scout 1/2 and other drones at the March 23 parade is undeniable proof of the technological capabilities Pakistan’s military can harness. Its a feat that almost puts it on the same footing as Iran, whose IRGC boasts of having the Middle East’s first successful jet-powered UAV. (Copied from a US model, anyway.) To have an armed UAV, several surveillance UAVs, and small models available to its troops is an impressive achievement considering how some NATO armies are still deprived of their own drones.

Of course, in an almost unmentionable context, even India’s aerospace sector hasn’t rolled out an indigenous armed UAV yet despite the resources at its disposal.

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