Steve Aftergood: Defending Against (Swarm) Drones

Drones & UAVs, Military
Steven Aftergood
Steven Aftergood

DEFENDING U.S. FORCES AGAINST ENEMY DRONES

Enemy use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) is a growing threat to U.S. forces because of their low cost, versatility, and ease of use, according to a recent U.S. Army doctrinal publication. “The UAS is the most challenging and prevalent threat platform to combined arms forces and therefore, a logical choice for enemy use.” See Techniques for Combined Arms for Air Defense, Army Techniques Publication (ATP) 3-01.8, July 29, 2016.

As is the case with U.S.-operated drones, enemy UAS can be used to perform a range of functions from battlefield surveillance and targeting to precision strike, the Army document said. “The enemy will use UAS to fulfill multiple attack roles.” The drone may deliver a weapon or be used as a weapon itself. “As an indirect attack platform, the UAS has the ability to carry the improvised explosive device or become the improvised explosive device.” “Perhaps the most dangerous COA [course of action]… is the Swarm” in which “clusters of UAS” are used by an adversary simultaneously for surveillance, indirect attack and direct attack. What to do about this? The answer is not fully articulated in the Army manual.


“Proper planning by leaders will ensure that units employ adequate force protection measures to counter the UAS threat. Units must develop tactics, techniques and procedures to counter this threat in their respective areas of operation.”

Simply destroying the enemy drone is not necessarily the right move, the manual said.

“Defeat does not equate [to] kinetic means; however, it is an option. Other defeat solutions could be limiting a surveillance threat from gaining information or following the air path of the UAS to the operator.”

Islamic State forces have used drones bearing explosive devices, the New York Times reported this month. See “Pentagon Confronts a New Threat From ISIS: Exploding Drones” by Michael S. Schmidt and Eric Schmitt, October 11.

Just last week, the U.S. Air Force detected and destroyed a drone “in the vicinity” of U.S. forces, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said yesterday. See “Air Force: Small, weaponized drones a growing combat problem” by Jacqueline Klimas, Washington Examiner, October 24.