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Are Maoists Turning Tech-Savvy? CRPF Tries to Unravel Mystery After 35 Walkie-talkies Go Silent

Thirty-five wireless sets of soldiers went silent during an active operation on November 18, last year. Officials said that the Maoists could have got hold of a technology that allows them to disable radio sets.

Suhas Munshi | News18.com

Updated:March 19, 2019, 9:34 AM IST
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Are Maoists Turning Tech-Savvy? CRPF Tries to Unravel Mystery After 35 Walkie-talkies Go Silent
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New Delhi: A mysterious silence has taken over three dozen wireless sets of CRPF soldiers posted in Bastar in a first-of-its-kind incident. Nobody has a clue how or why.

According to sources in the MHA, 35 wireless sets carried by soldiers of the Cobra 204 battalion suddenly went silent during an active operation on November 18, last year. This happened while the soldiers were carrying out area domination exercise in the jungles of Bijapur, just before Chhattisgarh assembly elections.

Officials speculated on various technical problems that could arise in the sets but they couldn't bring the sets back to life no matter what they tried.

A high-level inquiry was conducted by Motorola and the MHA to understand why the sets had suddenly stopped responding. The inquiry, closed recently, was termed 'inconclusive'.

Senior MHA officials say that the sets seem to have been "killed". How or by what means, no one knows yet. The possibility that Maoists could have got hold of some technology that allows them to disable radio sets isn't being ruled out.

The possibility of the sets being disabled by tech operators back in the base camp was also explored, officials say. The official added that the option to 'kill' a wireless set so far was only available with CRPF tech operators.

"There is an option to 'kill' a wireless set if we know that it has fallen into enemy's hands. But it can't be triggered by accident. It is a five-stage process that requires coordination of multiple officials at different stages," an official said.

"What we know so far is that there were around 200 soldiers on duty near Tippapuram, near Bijapur Sukma border, when suddenly the sets were killed," the official added.

A CRPF spokesperson, when contacted for this story, said, "We will look into the facts and let you know."

Several mails were sent to Motorola wireless for the story, but we are yet to receive a reply. The story will be updated once the company responds.

What we do know so far is that the technology required to carry out such a communication attack on the forces does exist.

Technology to disable radio sets does exist. Powerful radio frequencies have been successfully employed in demonstrations to disable drones and other tech hardware. A simpler and basic version of such frequency capturing tech could theoretically be used to disable radio frequencies.

Raytheon in 2013 tested a technology known as 'Phaser', which is a high-powered microwave cannon that can scramble a drone’s avionics. It uses high powered microwaves to fry the circuitry of equipment.

CACI, based in Virginia's Arlington, has developed a technology called Sky Tracker which can find and track drones using radio frequencies, and take over control of the drone forcing it to land or send it back to its operator, helping the law-enforcement agencies in tracking the owner.

Lockheed Martin possess technology called Athena that fires up to 30-kilowatts of laser at a drone, frying its hardware and thereby disabling it.

| Edited by: Sumedha Kirti
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