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Strategic UAV base shifted to Maoist hotspot in Bastar

The strategic technical command centre of the Unnamed Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), operated by the NTRO and the CRPF, has been shifted to the Naxal hotbed of Bastar in Chhattisgarh in order to provide security forces an enhanced aerial surveillance to conduct anti-Maoist operations.

The centre, with about three dozen flying assets of various categories, has been recently moved "lock, stock and barrel" from the steel city of Bhilai in Durg district of the state to Jagdalpur in south Bastar, in vicinity of the worst Naxal violence affected districts like Sukma and Dantewada.

"The UAV base has recently been shifted and activated in the heart of the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh.The idea to shift the technical command centre is to provide quick and long haul aerial reconnaissance to the anti-Naxal operations forces on ground like the CRPF, CoBRA and the state police," a senior security official involved in the operation told PTI.

The base is jointly manned and operated by the officials of the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) and the CRPF and the paramilitary force has been tasked to secure the air strip that is used to launch these 'birds', the official added.

This is the second big strategic shift of assets after the two big and deadly Naxal attacks on the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) men in Sukma district early this year.

The first was, the official said, the shifting of the CRPF central zone from Kolkata to state capital Raipur, soon after 37 CRPF men were ambushed by Maoists in a span of less than two months.

The base is now being expanded to hold more UAVs as the CRPF recently got the government sanction to have at least 300 such flying assets in its establishment, with the majority of them being tasked to conduct surveillance sorties in the Naxal violence hit states.

All varieties of UAVs, be it the 'Heron' or the 'Netra' will operate from this base and a joint command centre created here sometime back receives real-time aerial feed and imagery at the base station in Jagdalpur, the official said.

Security forces deployed for operations in districts of Sukma and Dantewada, he said, are being provided quick and latest updates on the movement of Naxals and they can move out and plan their task in real time.

The UAVs were earlier flying to Bastar region from Bhilai, which is a well about 300 km distance and hence the amount of time taken to travel would defeat the purpose of conducting timely and precise operations.

The UAV base was shifted to Chhattisgarh (Bhilai), from Andhra Pradesh, after the 2013 'Jiram valley' attack where Naxals ambushed and killed at least 25 people including senior leaders of state Congress party.

A special team of NTRO and CRPF experts have now been provided accommodation in Jagdalpur area, along with those of the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the state police, for operations coordination.

The CRPF has deployed about 40,000 troops, including teams of its special guerrilla action force CoBRA, in Chhattisgarh and south Bastar area to conduct anti-Naxal operations.

"The focus of Naxal operations is the Bastar region now.

Recently, one fresh battalion of the CRPF has moved in the area.It is important to provide technical intelligence inputs and information to these units to perform better, without taking casualties on their side.The UAV base exactly does that," the official said.


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