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US Predator Drones Used by India Prone to Hacking, Satellite Data Not Tamper-Proof - Ex-Army Expert

© AP Photo / Kirsty Wigglesworth, FileAn unmanned US Predator drone
An unmanned US Predator drone - Sputnik International
A new report by US-based think tank the Atlantic Council has raised serious doubts over the resilience of American military software, particularly that which is employed in Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter jet. The report cautions US allies about the perils of common defence systems.

A former weapons systems expert with the Indian Army has expressed concern over the integrity of the Indian Navy's recently-leased American Predator drones, pointing out that they are very much "susceptible" to hacking by adversaries.

"The drones come with their own embedded software, much like any other defence system that we may acquire from other countries. America's adversaries have also developed hacking abilities to penetrate into these sophisticated defence systems", states Lieutenant General (retired) A.K.S. Chandele, formerly a radar, missile, and control systems specialist with the Indian Army.

The former Indian Army expert was reacting to a recent news report by Bloomberg which questions the "resilience" of software currently employed by the Pentagon. 

The news report cites a new study, "How Do You Fix a Flying Computer? Seeking Resilience in Software-Intensive Mission Systems", by US-based think tank the Atlantic Council, which claims that American military software is "brittle".

The findings also warn US allies of ramping up their military software abilities, which might be tested by adversaries due to the usage of American weapons platforms.

"The Department of Defense (DoD) must make improving speed of adaptation and development a focus in its transformation toward more resilient mission systems", the report recommends.

"This (the new report) should be a matter of concern to India too", remarks Chandele, as he goes on to note the growing military convergence between New Delhi and Washington in the wake of the two governments concluding the signing of three foundational military pacts in September during Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's visit for the 2+2 Dialogue.

'Satellite Imagery Can be Altered'

The signing of the Basic Exchange of Cooperation Agreement (BECA), a satellite data sharing pact with military applications, was among the major takeaways of Pompeo's New Delhi trip.

Chandele thinks that even the satellite images that India will get from the US could be prone to manipulation. "There is no guarantee that the satellite-related software can't be hacked", cautions the Indian Army veteran.

He also mentions the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA), 2020, passed by the US Congress last week, that designates India's NAVIC satellite as an allied system, on par with the European Union's (EU) Gailileo and Japan's QZSS.

"The convergence of American and Indian satellite systems have a bearing for us, especially in regards to timing and positioning abilities", notes Chandele.

India's indigenously developed NAVIC satellite is a regional navigation system aimed at providing real time and accurate positioning services.

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