Indian Army Shows Off Birds of Prey Trained to Destroy Armed Drones

A military drone is seen near the site of gun-battle in Checkpora area of Budgam district
Faisal Khan/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The armed forces of India published videos this week showing the nation’s soldiers ordering birds of prey known as “kites” to seize and destroy small drones mid-air.

The videos are from ongoing military exercises in Uttarakhand, near the border with India, in which Indian forces are training alongside Americans to improve cooperation and teamwork in the event of having to fight together. Deep in the Himalayas, the exercises also prepare soldiers to fight in harsh mountainous conditions and train to protect themselves from extreme cold and minimal oxygen in high-altitude conditions.

The exercises, Yudh Abhyas, occur annually, but last year’s war games took place in Alaska.

The Chinese government expressed annoyance with the exercises on Wednesday – about 60 miles from China – claiming they do not inspire Beijing to trust New Delhi.

China and India have been enduring a particularly tense diplomatic time since summer 2020, when they fought a military battle along their mutual border, known as the “Line of Actual Control” (LAC). China and India both agree that the LAC is wrong but dispute where India ends and China begins. On that occasion, Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers crossed into Indian territory in the Ladakh region and erected tents; when confronted by Indian border troops, the Chinese attacked.

China claims only four deaths in what is now known as the Galwan Valley incident to this day, while India has admitted to about 20 deaths. Indian officials also claimed that China is lying and actually lost about 40 soldiers, or about twice the number India lost. India attributed its success largely to the lack of training the PLA soldiers appeared to have in high-altitude, cold conditions. Many of the reported deaths occurred as a result of hypothermia or falling off of cliffs, rather than deliberate killings.

India’s Times Now News shared the videos of the Indian military’s war birds, identifying them as trained eagles who can spot small drones and snatch them out of the sky. Rather than naming India, however, Times Now claimed that birds could be used to spot “drones that smuggle drugs and weapons from Pakistan to Indian territory.” India and Pakistan are bitter political enemies, enduring their own decades-long border dispute, and Pakistan is a close ally of China’s.


“The soldiers also displayed the use of assault dogs for counter-terrorist operations,” Times Now added.

India announced the joint U.S. exercises in Uttarakhand state in August, eliciting grumbles from the Chinese government. The exercises are one of several such events alongside other friendly militaries. The Hindu listed exercises with five other nations currently either underway or culminating at press time:

Other ongoing exercises are ‘Ex Austra Hind’ with Australia at Mahajan field firing ranges in Rajasthan from November 28 to December 11 and ‘Ex Agni Warrior’ with Singapore at Deolali from November 13 to December 3. The outgoing exercises are ‘Ex Harimau Shakti’ with Malaysia from November 28 to December 12 and ‘Ex Garuda Shakti’ with Indonesia, between Special Forces began on November 21. ‘Ex KazInd’ with Kazakhstan is scheduled in mid-December.

The Indian Army’s Central Command published images throughout the past week of Indian and American soldiers cooperating on military exercises and engaging in training together, not all of them explicitly military. In one exercise, for example, Indian and American soldiers cooperated to scale the Kuari Pass “through uncharted trails invoking extreme survival techniques and medical evacuation procedures,” according to Central Command. Charted trails through the pass are popular with international hikers.

The Hindu noted that the Indians agreed to host an unprecedented American military promotion ceremony in the Himalayas, honoring for officers identified as “Capt. Cerruti, Lt. Russell, Lt. Brown and Lt. Hack.”

Central Command also revealed the Americans and Indians trained in “unarmed combat, rock craft, trap shooting & logistic procedures.”

Unarmed combat was of special importance to the Indians in their 2020 battle with the Chinese as, at the time, the rules of engagement for both armies did not allow the use of firearms. The Galwan Valley battle was fought with barbed wire wrapped around stick, iron bar, clubs, and other rudimentary weapons.

China’s Foreign Ministry expressed reserved disapproval of the joint exercises when asked on Wednesday.

“The joint military exercise held by India and the US near the Line of Actual Control (LAC) violated the spirit of relevant agreements signed by China and India in 1993 and 1996, and does not help build bilateral trust,” spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters. “China has expressed concerns to the Indian side over the military exercise.”

China and India regularly accuse each other of violating the sovereignty of either nation and breaking a series of agreements they have attempted to adhere to in the past four decades to avoid conflict. Most recently, Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar accused China in August of lacking “respect” for India’s borders.

“We have agreements with China going back to the 1990s which prohibits bringing mass troops in the border area. They have disregarded that,” Jaishankar said at the time. “You know what happened in the Galwan Valley. That problem has not been resolved and that has been clearly casting a shadow.”

“They are our neighbors. Everybody wants to get along with their neighbor. In personal life and country-wise as well,” he continued. “But everybody wants to get along with on reasonable terms. I must respect you. You must respect me.”

Early this year, in January, the Chinese Communist Party announced that it had renamed 15 locations in Arunachal Pradesh, an Indian border region, with Han Mandarin names.

“It is a legitimate move and China’s sovereign right to give them standardized names. More standardized place names in the region will be announced in the future,” a Chinese “expert” told the state-run Global Times.

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