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Articles

Fortifying Borders:

Sub Title : NATO’s innovative ‘Drone Wall’ strategy

Issues Details : Vol 18 Issue 2 May – Jun 2024

Author : Col Ashwani Sharma

Page No. : 51

Category : Military Technology

: June 5, 2024

In an era marked by rapid technological evolution and shifting global threats, the demand for innovative military solutions has led to significant advancements in defence technologies. As countries grapple with complex security challenges, the transition from traditional mechanical systems to sophisticated electrical platforms represents a critical shift in military strategy.

Six NATO countries—Finland, Norway, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—are planning to build a coordinated drone defence system because of increased security worries and tensions along their borders with Russia. The goal of this project, which is often called the “drone wall,” is to make the border safer from possible threats like military provocations and drug trafficking. This innovative defence mechanism is aimed at enhancing border security and deterring potential provocations from Russia.

The idea for the drone wall came about during ongoing wars, like the one in Ukraine, and claims that Russia was using “hybrid warfare” tactics. Hybrid warfare uses both traditional military force and non-military tactics, like cyberattacks and spreading false information. This makes it hard to directly blame a state for the actions. The need for this kind of defence has been made clear by repeated cases of GPS jamming, sabotage, and other unfriendly actions that NATO believes are Russian attempts to make neighbouring countries less stable.

Here’s a detailed look at what the drone wall entails, its expected effectiveness, the reasons behind its proposal, and the challenges it might face.

Drone Wall Tech and Hardware

The “drone wall” will be constructed using a combination of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and advanced surveillance technologies. Participating countries—Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Finland, and Norway—will deploy these drones along their respective borders with Russia.  “This is a completely new thing — a drone wall stretching from Norway to Poland — and the goal is to use drones and other technologies to protect our borders against provocations from unfriendly countries and to prevent smuggling,” Lithuania’s interior minister Agnė Bilotaitė told the Baltic News Service, according to Financial Times.

Strategic use of drones and counter-drone systems is seen as important for staying ahead of possible attackers in terms of technology. Drone technology is changing the way wars are fought, which was especially clear in the conflict in Ukraine. These technologies are meant to improve defences as well as protect against non-traditional forms of fighting and protect sovereignty.

The drones will be equipped with various sensors and cameras to monitor border activities continuously. Additionally, anti-drone systems will be installed to counter any hostile drones that may be used for smuggling or other provocations.

Objectives of the Drone Wall

Deterrence: NATO’s enhancement of surveillance and border security is strategically designed to deter possible Russian aggression. There is a prevailing belief among many NATO members that Russia could challenge NATO’s borders in the upcoming five to ten years, a concern supported by intelligence findings of potential sabotage operations on their territories.

Response to Provocations: Recent times have seen NATO countries at the receiving end of what are termed hybrid attacks by Russia, characterized by their non-military nature and plausible deniability. Such provocations, including increased drone and airspace violations, have necessitated the implementation of more stringent defensive measures.

Preventing Smuggling and Illegal Activities: The implementation of the drone wall is anticipated to mitigate smuggling and other illegal activities that could exploit vulnerabilities along the borders. Discussions among ministers from the involved countries have led to plans for a unified drone system along their borders with Russia, aimed at enhancing defence capabilities and preventing any further provocations.

These countries have expressed their commitment to investing in the necessary technologies and systems to ensure the successful implementation of the drone wall.

Alignment and Implementation. All NATO countries that border Russia will be covered by the planned drone wall system, which will go from Norway to Poland. After talking with her peers from the other countries involved, Lithuanian Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite brought up the plan. It is planned that security drones and technologies that stop drones will work together in the system to keep the borders safe. People think these steps will allow for real-time tracking and a quick response to any threats.

Imperatives for Effectiveness

  • Technological sophistication: The drones and anti-drone systems need to be advanced enough to detect and neutralise threats effectively.
  • Integration and coordination: Seamless integration between the drones operated by different countries and their border security systems is crucial for comprehensive surveillance.
  • Funding and maintenance: Adequate funding for the procurement, deployment, and maintenance of these systems will be essential for their sustained effectiveness.

Challenges

While the drone wall presents a modern solution to border security, its real-world effectiveness will only be proven once operational. Initial trials and phased implementations will likely provide insights into necessary adjustments and improvements. Several challenges could impede the successful implementation of the drone wall. These are:-

  • Technological integration: Achieving seamless integration of various national systems and technologies can be complex and requires significant coordination.
  • Financial constraints: The cost of acquiring, deploying, and maintaining drones and anti-drone systems could be substantial. Securing adequate funding, potentially from the European Union, will be vital.
  • Geographical and environmental factors: The diverse terrains and weather conditions along the extensive borders might pose operational challenges for drone surveillance.
  • Political and diplomatic hurdles: Coordinating such a large-scale project among multiple nations with different political landscapes and priorities could be challenging.

While the concept of a “drone wall” is relatively novel, there are precedents for using technology to enhance border security. For instance, the United States has employed drones for surveillance along its southern border to combat illegal immigration and smuggling. Israel, too, has implemented advanced surveillance systems, including drones, along its borders to monitor and prevent incursions.