Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?
The Military China Idle

Indian Army Mistook Planets For Spy Drones 143

hackingbear writes "BBC reports that India's army spent six months watching 'Chinese spy drones' violating its air space, only to find out they were actually Jupiter and Venus. Between last August and February, Indian troops had already documented 329 sightings of unidentified objects over a lake in the border region next to China. India accused the objects being Chinese spy drones. The incident even escalated to a military build-up and a stand-off at border between the two countries. Residents of the solar system are glad that India does not possess the capability to shoot down such high altitude objects."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Indian Army Mistook Planets For Spy Drones

Comments Filter:
  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Friday July 26, 2013 @04:27PM (#44394477) Homepage Journal

    in their Potrzebie. They'll need an Axolotl to fix that one...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      At the very least they checked with their astronomers, not astrologists, before they took any further action

      • Thank god they didn't pray to one of their Hindu Monkey Gods [] for answers! What a stupid thing it would be to pray to an invisible friend in the sky looking for answers to a problem on Earth. Or in the solar system at least.
  • Just FYI (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ( 245670 ) on Friday July 26, 2013 @04:32PM (#44394519)

    India has nuclear weapons. Sleep tight.

    • by ackthpt ( 218170 )

      India has nuclear weapons. Sleep tight.

      Sometimes it's really comforting to be in a different hemisphere ... but as in On The Beach, we know it'll eventually find its way. :(

      • 'On The Beach' is fiction and is about as scientifically accurate as the average science story in USA today.

        • Re:Just FYI (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Alioth ( 221270 ) <no@spam> on Saturday July 27, 2013 @05:35AM (#44398013) Journal

          While "On the beach" is not at all scientifically sound, recent simulations with new climate models show that a limited nuclear war at India's latitude (limited to a total exchange of 50 Nagasaki sized devices), if population centres are targeted, would result in a "nuclear autumn" that would affect everyone. The simulation indicated the amount of soot injected into the stratosphere would result in several years without a summer. While it may not kill us all, it would cause problems for agriculture (shortened growing seasons, large increases in food prices, food shortages in 3rd world countries) so even if you're thousands of miles from any nuclear exchange between (say) India and China you're going to suffer some consequences as a result.

      • Re:Just FYI (Score:5, Funny)

        by Arancaytar ( 966377 ) <> on Saturday July 27, 2013 @12:12AM (#44397223) Homepage

        Sometimes it's really comforting to be in a different hemisphere

        Really? After this headline, it wouldn't even be comforting to be on a different planet!

    • Re:Just FYI (Score:5, Funny)

      by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Friday July 26, 2013 @05:12PM (#44394971)

      Sleep tight.

      ...don't let the giant radioactive mutant bedbugs bite.

    • Re:Just FYI (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 26, 2013 @05:22PM (#44395061)

      It's not a big deal. I once emptied a magazine at Canopus before I realized what was going on. We've all been there.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Semi automatic is there for a reason. You think your the first badass to try an take on a galactic civilization?

    • Re:Just FYI (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cold fjord ( 826450 ) on Friday July 26, 2013 @05:23PM (#44395075)

      India has more than nuclear weapons. It has nuclear armed neighbors (Pakistan, China) with designs on its territory. One of those neighbors, Pakistan, has fought several wars against India, and has been both a host and sponsor of terrorism against India. Pakistan is riddled with terrorists and faces an insurgency by Islamists of the Taliban flavor for control of the country, and ultimately its nuclear weapons. India is not far from Afghanistan, long a hot bed of extremist Islam and terrorists. India has fought skirmishes against the Chinese army in the past, and Chinese troops have occupied territory claimed by India. India also has an insurgency in part of the country by Maoist guerillas. (That would be Mao as in Chairman Mao, former leader of the People's Republic of China.) There is little distance separating India from Iran. Iran is a major sponsor of Islamist extremists, and terrorism world wide. Iran also has long range missiles, and has been found to have developed plans for a nuclear warhead that would fit their missiles. Iran is currently refining uranium on a growing number of centrifuges. Another neighbor is Myanmar nee Burma, which was reported to be developing nuclear weapons with cooperation from North Korea (which also isn't that far away).

      Now India as well as China has long range ballistic missiles: Signs of an Asian Arms Buildup in India’s Missile Test []. Pakistan has medium and intermediate range missiles.

      India is developing a missile defense system: India to have shield from missiles of 5,000 km range []

      India, as well as China, is buying and building aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines.

      Nearly all European nations resist nuclear weapons. Many Europeans and Americans resist missile defense. Europe's defenses have been shrinking massively since the end of the Cold War. The next century may be very interesting indeed. Some may find it humbling.

      • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 )
        And yet, somehow, the US still outspends the next biggest spender almost 3 fold, and more than the next 10 biggest spenders. It also is the only country with a missile shield technology that has been deployed and used, several iterations in fact. So where did you get your data from?
        • Re:Just FYI (Score:4, Informative)

          by jkflying ( 2190798 ) on Friday July 26, 2013 @05:48PM (#44395229)

          When you spend $300 for a "hexiform rotational compression device" (AKA 'nut') spending more than everybody else isn't that difficult.

          • Re:Just FYI (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Bigbutt ( 65939 ) on Friday July 26, 2013 @06:17PM (#44395375) Homepage Journal

            When you spend $300 for a "hexiform rotational compression device" that conforms to MILSPEC-93-5475-32-J which include requirements of max torque of 132 ft/lbs for 5,000 hours of usage in temperatures ranging from -40F to +130F or be fined $10,000 per failure (AKA 'nut') spending more than everybody else isn't that difficult.

            Fixed that for you. Anyone can go to Ace and buy a nut. But if I don't want to get fined $10,000 per failure, I'll hire metallurgists and engineers to make sure the 'nut' I supply exceeds the required specs.


            • Re:Just FYI (Score:5, Interesting)

              by smaddox ( 928261 ) on Friday July 26, 2013 @08:52PM (#44396331)

              Those are actually pretty lax specs. Any stainless steel nut should do.

              Perhaps the $300 nuts are just rediculously large? Like aircraft carrier anchor line large?

              • by Alioth ( 221270 )

                It's probably like aviation. The nut doesn't just have to comply with the specs, it needs a paper trail back to the mine where the ore was dug up. The nut itself is cheap. The paper trail and its preservation is what costs a fortune.

              • by Bigbutt ( 65939 )

                Just making up numbers to prove a point. It's not the nut that's the problem. It's the government requirements. Having a critical nut fail in a helicopter can cause it to crash likely seriously injuring or even killing the crew. There are expectations that the nut will hold during the combat or SAR mission and so there are requirements to make sure the nut follows the ranges expected for that piece of hardware.


      • Please, Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003. It was only done on paper too and there's no evidence for anything else.
        Taliban will not win the war, they do guerrilla warfare on their territory and I don't quite see how they can invade the rest of the country but if they did the US is ready to intervene, seize the nuclear weapons and get them out of the country.

        You sound like some nut like Netanyahu, some concerns are real but beware of parroting lies made for domestic Israeli or US consumption.

        • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

          they dont ahve to invade. they just ahve to make life miserable in that area, and show the government to be powerless to stop them, while showing themselves capable of maintaining order (under their rules, but if life goes on, most people are satisfied), and they win.

    • India has nuclear weapons. Sleep tight.

      It's worse than you feared. India announced just a few weeks ago the development of what they call their "Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator." Word is that they can destroy an entire planet with that thing.

    • Re:Just FYI (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 26, 2013 @06:08PM (#44395339)

      So has 'MERICA. About 77 TIMES those of India. And more active ones than the rest of the world COMBINED.

      Plus is LOADED with crazy religious extremist lunatics. (Basically, a majority of the population is gravely mentally ill with extroverted schizophrenia and other illnesses.)

      PLUS the most heartless dog-eat-dog law-of-the-jungle-glorifying society on the planet. And that has be scientifically shown. It's not just a statement of mine. (My own country was number 3, by the way. But we don't have religion nor nukes.)

      Sleep tighter. Glow brighter.

      • Hey, a fellow Canadian!

      • Presumably NORAD knows the difference between planets orbiting the sun, satellites orbiting the earth, and ballistics orbiting nothing...

      • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

        Only on /. could such an obvious troll post get +5 insightful for making such complete bullsmurf statements simply by bashing the USA, religion, and the citizens in general.

        So has 'MERICA. About 77 TIMES those of India. And more active ones than the rest of the world COMBINED.

        And yet somehow me manage to not mistake planets for spy drones, and threaten a neighboring country over a the ignorance of a lowly Private on sentry duty in the hinterlands.

        Plus is LOADED with crazy religious extremist lunatics. (Basically, a majority of the population is gravely mentally ill with extroverted schizophrenia and other illnesses.).

        Officially sanctioned /. hate speech.

        PLUS the most heartless dog-eat-dog law-of-the-jungle-glorifying society on the planet. .

        Several comments:
        -Funny, I dont recall reading about multiple incidents of woman tourists being gang raped by local men every mo

    • by rossdee ( 243626 )

      Don't worry, it'll take more than a few nukes to shoot down Jupiter.

  • by Gothmolly ( 148874 ) on Friday July 26, 2013 @04:33PM (#44394529)

    They can just request the drone to do the needful and reboot itself into safe mode.

  • Except to say, goverments want us to trust them? How? They are SO stupid!
    • by ackthpt ( 218170 )

      Except to say, goverments want us to trust them? How? They are SO stupid!

      Exactly when are Kang and Kodos going to get here? I don't know how much longer I can wait to welcome our new alien overlords.

    • by ZombieBraintrust ( 1685608 ) on Friday July 26, 2013 @05:03PM (#44394867)
      Technically the goverment got it correct. Army officers reported unidentified objects they believed to be drones. A branch of the goverment checked and discovered they were planets. So +1 for goverments versus stupid individuals.
      • by Beeftopia ( 1846720 ) on Friday July 26, 2013 @05:18PM (#44395035)

        I have to say, I was impressed people didn't get slaughtered over the border dispute they had with China recently. Both countries avoided people getting slaughtered over literally a few hundred yards of frozen ground. Something humans thought was normal until quite recently.

        So, that's real progress.

        But yeah, they have nukes too.

      • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

        wasnt even officers from what i gather. its a few low ranking sentries that dont have direct oversight (ie, out in teh boonies by themselves) that reported it in.

    • by gmuslera ( 3436 )
      If they got in that position then the ones that elected them shouldn't be very bright neither.
    • Well in this case it was the military. They are quite well know to howl at the moon.
      Let me put it to you this way. They require you to follow orders and respect the chain of command. On the other hand the Nuremberg Defense is a thing and will land you in real hot water unless you stick to the party line and get to be tried in a military court. So you are required to follow orders and you will be in trouble if you follow orders which in hindsight prove not to be popular. Which in turn implies to require a c
  • by asmkm22 ( 1902712 ) on Friday July 26, 2013 @04:34PM (#44394545)

    This is what happens when your society tries to leapfrog technological advancements without understanding the stuff that preceded them.

    • by ackthpt ( 218170 )

      This is what happens when your society tries to leapfrog technological advancements without understanding the stuff that preceded them.

      But nothing is half so dangerous as a madman with The Bomb.

      Time to watch Dr. Strangelove again and take copious notes...

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      well they did at one point know what planets are..

      how did they come to the conclusion that they were in their airspace though, since obviously they had no fucking clue about where they actually were.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I'd imagine it was similar to the time an airline pilot took evasive action to avoid Venus.

        The planets look like lights in the sky, which is also basicly what aircraft look like at night.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 26, 2013 @05:06PM (#44394893)

      This is what happens when your society tries to leapfrog technological advancements without understanding the stuff that preceded them.

      Yeah...I guess they just lucked into developing perfectly functional nuclear weapons and long range ballistic missiles. Obviously those third world idiots don't actually understand science. /sarcasm

      WTF slashdot moderators. How the hell does such an idiotic comment get a +5 for being Insightful. Are all of you so goddamn ignorant of other countries / cultures?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I thought that he was talking about when 17th century Europeans _finally_ got their hands on Calculus and figured out how to design effective cannons, resulting in endless wars

        my bad

        • I thought that he was talking about when 17th century Europeans _finally_ got their hands on Calculus and figured out how to design effective cannons, resulting in endless wars

          my bad

          Yeah, cause there wasn't endless war before that.

      • Are all of you so goddamn ignorant of other countries / cultures?

        Nope, only most of us.

      • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

        those weapons werent developed by the relatively ignorant and uneducated persons living miles up in the himalayas scraping by on a subsistence existence.

    • by slew ( 2918 ) on Friday July 26, 2013 @05:09PM (#44394921)

      People in the society (e.g., India) understand, but of course some people (e.g., messr Singh) was a bit less informed... From the original article...

      Army lance naik [] Sheminderpal Singh — a regular observer at Point 4715 — told the astronomers that he had noticed a delay of four minutes in the appearance of one of the objects each consecutive day. Singh also told them that the object seemed to be the brightest light in the sky and always appeared to move with respect to the stars.

      The IIAP team told the Indian Army to use an instrument called a theodolite [] to record the horizontal angle and vertical elevation of the two objects. Army personnel performed these observations between February 17 and 22 and submitted the data to the IIAP.

      The astronomers have concluded that the object observed from Point 4715 is Jupiter as the observations coincide with the planet’s diurnal motion [] and the apparent motion of the object due to the rotation of the Earth.

      The description of the second unidentified object that appeared early in the morning suggests that it is Venus, which is currently moving behind the Sun and will in the coming months appear as an evening object.

      The IIAP team said stars and planets over the horizon in Ladakh appear very bright because of increased atmospheric transparency at the high altitude and both Jupiter and Venus at the time were the brightest planets in the sky.

      The astronomers also clarified that objects that rise in the east may appear to be moving across the LAC [] and approaching the Indian side.

      Of course venus and jupiter get mistaken for UFOs by many folks [] from time to time, but inflating the mistakes of an individual, to the group to which they are a member makes for a better tagline...

      • by cusco ( 717999 ) <> on Friday July 26, 2013 @06:47PM (#44395547)
        In all fairness, if Mr. Singh was from a low altitude and this was his first high altitude posting it's somewhat understandable that he wouldn't recognize the planets for what they were. Jupiter and Venus are really bright at altitude, brighter than he would ever have seen anything that wasn't human in origin. That he noticed a delay of four minutes each day is surprising, and really quite commendable.
    • Keep talking like that, and they'll take their concept of the number zero and go home. Then we'll be in big trouble.

    • Some of them even sadly crashed. Confusing venus for an UFO is not so rare apparentely. The difference ? Pilot doingn the confusion in the middle of the US will not create an incident with their neighbor (canada/mexic). But doing this in India will do.

      Before poo-pooing India for the confusion, realize that even the USA pilot did also get the same confusion.
  • Shoot them down!
  • Venus has always been suspicious. []

    I personally find Pluto suspect.

    You can understand why the Indian Army might be jumpy. []

    To See the Unseen []

  • by RileyBryan ( 1475681 ) on Friday July 26, 2013 @04:45PM (#44394645) Journal
    Thats no planet, thats a battle station!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    they program for America's offshoring to India.
  • by gestalt_n_pepper ( 991155 ) on Friday July 26, 2013 @04:48PM (#44394677)

    Was their analysis open and shut? Did they decide to probe further?

  • by kaka.mala.vachva ( 1164605 ) on Friday July 26, 2013 @04:52PM (#44394735)
    Since most won't RTFA - the confrontation didn't happen or escalate over the sightings. That was because the Chinese army setup camp in Indian territory. During that time soldiers reported these sightings, and the army (responsibly) went to the Indian Institute of Astrophysics for confirmation. This won't stop the India bashing of course, but hopefully someone will read this post or TFA.
  • by CheeseTroll ( 696413 ) on Friday July 26, 2013 @04:53PM (#44394745)

    It's a moon!

  • This is how Marvin the Martian started out

  • That's no moon!
    Oh wait, yes it is.


  • Ironically (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wcrowe ( 94389 ) on Friday July 26, 2013 @05:06PM (#44394889)

    ...from a nation that practically invented astronomy.

  • by abalacha ( 56157 ) on Friday July 26, 2013 @05:13PM (#44394977) Journal

    I am an Indian - so let me try to fill in the possible missing pieces in the story and the cultural perspective.

    First of all the China-India border, especially in Ladakh is very tense with China occupying a border region called Aksai Chin for many decades. The Indian Army soldiers, who are most likely from the plains and who have never seen the sky in all its high altitude glory (we are talking about 15,000 - 20,000 ft altitude here) were likely tasked with looking out at the night sky and see anything 'interesting' - the officer who issued the order must have meant Chinese drones, but by the time the order got to the lookout guy from the officer via the JCO through the sergeant, it must have read look out for something 'bright'. The soldiers were seeing the brightest planets in their lives and obviously had plenty to write in their reports.

    Then the sighting reports started pouring in and the officer in charge probably got suspicious and looked out and concluded that the objects were likely celestial. But just to make sure that he is right, he must have ringed up the battalion HQ to get some astronomy duded flown in to get a confirmation. That is probably why the request went straight to Indian Institute of Astrophysics. The astro-dudes flew in, confirmed that they are looking at planets and on their way back talked to a journalist about the incident and how stuuuuuuupid the army guys were.

    That, I guess what would have happened.

    • by cusco ( 717999 )
      Thanks for that. You're not kidding at how different the sky looks at altitude. I grew up 1000 feet above sea level, and the first time I saw a black night sky at 14,000 feet altitude I was stunned. I had not imagined that it would be so different. I incidentally also got to see the 1987 supernova that night, but that was just luck.
    • Do they own binoculars? Even modest binoculars can resolve the disk of a planet.
    • Thanks for giving an Indian perspective, but that's a lot of speculation there with the all the words like "likely," "unlikely," and the multiple uses of "probably." What really jumped out at me was not that they made the mistake but that it took about six months for them to discover that they were looking at planets. In any case, I know that the Indian military does not have near the resources (be it equipment, cool technology, or funding) that their Western counterparts take for granted, but that seems li
  • Sound like an Indian outsourcing type mess up.

  • I know Americans are pretty dumb as it is. But when hicks from the sticks mistake a planet for a drone or a UFO, it's understandable. But I tend to think we would have figured it out before it became a military operation. This is pretty ridiculous.

  • Once again, that "military-intelligence" is an oxymoron.
  • by Trax3001BBS ( 2368736 ) on Friday July 26, 2013 @07:04PM (#44395643) Homepage Journal

    When the U.S. installed one of the first Radar stations to catch Russian missiles as they came over the hemisphere. The Moon set off one of the first alerts, was a tad too sensitive.

    Best cite I can come up with; but a common snicker when I was growing up. []
    "The rising moon was misinterpreted as a missile attack during the early days of long-range radar."

    • by Anonymous Coward

      "The rising moon was misinterpreted as a missile attack during the early days of long-range radar."

      That must a been a very long range radar (as in 200000 miles)!

  • by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Friday July 26, 2013 @09:22PM (#44396525)

    I know most of us probably haven't taken a good, long look at the night sky. Most because of light pollution, or from just not bothering to look up.

    I've seen planets before. With the naked eye, you know what they look like? Little dots of light, about the size of a star, or a high-altitude aircraft. Saturn is the farthest planet that can be seen with the naked eye, and also the hardest.

    Without a telescope, you don't see the rings. Or much else - it's a dot in the sky, like the billions and billions of other dots in the sky. The only easy way to tell the difference between planets and aircraft, from the ground with the naked eye, is by movement - planets move far, far slower. Unless, of course, the aircraft is circling, or even just of a type that can hover (either a aerostat, or a helicopter design).

    So yeah, I can totally believe that a squad of soldiers, most of whom were likely born in cities and never grew up with a good view of the night sky, and none of whom are trained astronomers, would find Saturn suspicious enough to report as an "unidentified object".

    And, contrary to the headlines, they didn't "mistake it for a drone". A team of military observers observed something, made some requests to see if it was something benign, or a potential threat. The scientists sent back some requests for better information, just to be sure (after all, placing a drone around where a planet would be sounds like a decent idea for camouflage), then reported back "yep, that's Saturn".

    Same goes for Venus. Easy to see in the night sky, sometimes even in the day, but not easy to identify unless you were specifically looking for planets. It's commonly seen, but misidentified - our own President Carter did so, for instance.

    Planets also *move*. They're not in fixed positions from night to night - they move through the sky. So it's not like spotting constellations, where you just need a point of reference. Knowing where those planets will be takes some pretty complex calculations - figuring out how to do that drove many advances in math.

    So yeah. Stop acting like they're morons for not instantly recognizing a planet. I'd wager money that you all wouldn't even spot them in the sky, much less know exactly what they are.

  • It's open source and comes for Windows, Mac and Linux. Surely someone in the Indian Army has a laptop and an Internet connection.

  • Some of the comments on here by Americans mocking the Indians are pretty rich coming from a country that fought the Battle of Los Angeles []
  • I'd hate having Jupiter and/or Venus crash land in my backyard ... ;-) ...
  • "If you wish to keep slaves, you must have all kinds of guards. The cheapest way to have guards is to have the slaves pay taxes to finance their own guards. To fool the slaves, you tell them that they are not slaves and that they have Freedom. You tell them they need Law and Order to protect them against bad slaves. Then you tell them to elect a Government. Give them Freedom to vote and they will vote for their own guards and pay their salary. They will then believe they are Free persons. Then give them mon

I was playing poker the other night... with Tarot cards. I got a full house and 4 people died. -- Steven Wright