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Pentagon Prepares for Drone Wars of the Future

Pentagon Prepares for Drone Wars of the Future
Several unfinished drones lie in an assembly hall at Airbus Defence and Space in Immenstaad, Germany, Nov. 23 2017. (Felix K'stle/AP)

By    |   Friday, 24 November 2017 10:45 PM

Just as the improvised explosive device (IED) altered fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade, the Pentagon is facing a new challenge in how to counter the use of drones on the battlefield, The Washington Post reported Friday.

Once primarily enjoyed by hobbyists, drones are becoming the "weapon of choice" of terrorists for use as lethal weapons and intelligence-gathering, according to the Post. Their versatility allows them to drop explosives, monitor troops with cameras or even drop toxic gases.

"They're used by basically everyone, and we're seeing terrorists put them to use," said Paul Scharre, director of the technology and national security program at the Center for a New American Security. "Think of them as flying IEDs. And while you haven't seen casualties on the scale of IEDs, IEDs didn't start out as that lethal, either. In 2003, they were largely a nuisance."

Future drone use could include employing them as robot armies. Lt. Gen. Michael Shields, director of the Pentagon's Joint Improvised Threat Defeat Organization (JIDO), described their flexibility as "up to the creativity of the enemy."

Referred to as "unmanned aerial vehicles," the challenge is that they can be as small as an insect or the size of a shoebox, the article explained. Though not yet as deadly as IEDs, as technology improves officials fear they could become more lethal.

To combat the threat posed by drones, JIDO is experimenting on multiple levels, developing lasers and microwaves to halt them before they can be employed.

The emphasis on drones came after the Islamic State began to use them, Shields explained, saying they had become a "regional and a global problem." Their ready availability is also an issue.

"Right now, JIDO is focused on non-state actor use of small drones, but there are certainly other capabilities that are out there — larger, faster and so forth," Shields said.

Private industry is working to develop creative means to fight drones. CACI, an Arlington, Virginia-based defense contractor, has developed a system called SkyTracker using radio frequencies that would force a drone to land once targeted or redirect it to return to its operator, an aid in helping locate enemy targets.

Lockheed Martin has a laser called Athena that fries the tail off of a drone. And Raytheon has a high-energy laser weapon that's mounted on dune buggies to knock them out of the sky.

In addition to their use on the battlefield, in the U.S. drones have interfered with airplanes and have been used to smuggle contraband over prison fences. One interrupted the U.S. Open tennis tournament in 2015, smashing into empty seats, and another flew by Secret Service personnel, crashing on the White House grounds.

Scharre said he believed they will end up benefitting troops by looking around corners or searching buildings, becoming the "eyes and ears" for units as they scour for weapons and explosives.

"It sounds like science fiction, but it doesn't rely on any fundamental technology advances we don't have today," Scharre said.

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Just as the improvised explosive device (IED) altered fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade, the Pentagon is facing a new challenge in how to counter the use of drones on the battlefield, The Washington Post reported Friday.
pentagon, drones, wars
500
2017-45-24
Friday, 24 November 2017 10:45 PM
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