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26 February 2017

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Ghostship

ISIS have attack drones - they may be rudimentary but they are effective.

"Pinpoint ISIS drone strike obliterates Iraqi Army humvee near Mosul"
https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/video-pinpoint-isis-drone-strike-obliterates-iraqi-army-humvee-near-mosul/

ISL

Dear Colonel,

I agree these are a game changer particularly against softer forces (e.g., IS vs Iraqi recruits):

http://www.militarytimes.com/articles/isis-using-armed-drones

however, the current US approach of jamming them will not leave the US with a technical advantage for long as one could survey with a micro-drone at very low altitude and then easily program a followup several armed UAV with GPS coordinates to take over. (technology of a 14 year old in the US)

I suspect at some point, the defensive approach will be to fly a small swarm of attacker drone killers over US troops. Not SOFA as drones are noisy.

http://www.popsci.com/booby-trapped-isis-drone-kills-kurdish-soldiers-french-commandos

They also could allow for example, Yemeni's to attack in border areas of Saudi Arabia more effectively.

A key question then is how far they can be controlled from. I suspect if you are launching from a mountain, tens of kilometers.

Jonathan

Unmanned boats with only two axes of freedom are thus child's play to anyone with the most rudimentary knowledge of model radio control and marine steering systems.
Defense News had a recent article in which an obvious technical ignoramus sagely intoned that the recently reported "drone boat" attack on that Saudi frigate "must have been planned with the help of Iran". The tragedy is that many people with little technical background seem to believe that if they themselves couldn't do it, then there's no way a "mere Arab" could.

Pundita

A GoPro drone crashed through a Manhattan woman’s 27th-floor window and landed just feet from her as she sat in her living room enjoying a quiet evening at home, police sources said Sunday.

The 66-year-old resident was working on her computer inside the East River high-rise when the hobby craft smashed through the window at around 5:45 p.m., according to the sources.

The 1-by-1-foot device — which has a 10-inch propeller and a camera — landed on the floor just 4 feet away from her, cops said.

“Poor lady. She’s lucky she wasn’t killed,” said Stephanie Bowden, 23, who was visiting her boyfriend’s apartment 11 floors below at the time.

Police on Sunday were investigating who owns the drone, a remote-controlled 2.2-pound GoPro Karma Quadcopter model, and where it came from.

[...]

http://nypost.com/2017/02/26/drone-smashes-through-womans-apartment-window/

The Twisted Genius

The ones who have the most to fear from these drones are the forces who have never had to fear a threat from the air. We have no memory of having to operate under threat of air attack or air reconnaissance. We have much to learn.

I recommend "Daemon" and "Freedom™" by Daniel Suarez for some entertaining reading about drones and some other wild aspects of cyberwar.

charly

A programmed gps route can be limitless or you could use a relay system with a drone plane every 100 miles or so

Pundita

Extensive report from Wall Street Journal today (2/26) re IS drone warfare in Iraq, which is also being used to terrorize civilians and aid workers.

Quote:" Aid groups have said drones make it nearly impossible to set up distribution stations as they are easily targeted." This can have devastating consequences for people trapped in Mosul.

Report includes pix of 2 Iraqi special forces shooting at a drone and an IS drone that was shot down. I've posted the entire text of report, below. The report, posted at 5:11 pm EST, had already picked up 93 comments as of 9:57 PM, none of which I've reviewed.

Drones in IS hands is far more advanced and serious than I'd realized before reading the WSJ report. Everyone is scrambling in the attempt to get anti-drone technology....

"Islamic State Drones Terrorize Iraqi Forces as Mosul Battle Rages"
Militant group uses increasingly sophisticated drone technology to target troops, civilians
By BEN KESLING in Mosul, Iraq, and GHASSAN ADNAN in Baghdad
Updated Feb. 26, 2017 5:11 p.m. ET
WSJ

As they advance into Islamic State’s remaining urban stronghold of west Mosul, Iraqi forces are struggling to counter the terror caused by the militant group’s drones.

Iraqi forces have grown accustomed to enemy drones flying over the battlefield since Islamic State seized swaths of the country in 2014. They have used rifle fire and high-tech gadgets to counter them, and even have drones of their own.

But the militants have fine-tuned their drone technology. What were once improvised, remote-controlled aircraft resembling model planes are now commercially available quadcopters—drones with four helicopter-like blades—that have been retrofitted to carry grenades that can be dropped over targets.

Islamic State’s increased drone usage comes as army officials said Sunday they had retaken their first neighborhood west of the Tigris River, raising the Iraqi flag there. The battle for the west is the final step in the offensive to drive the militant group from Iraq’s second-largest city.

The military last week seized the northern city’s sprawling international airport, giving it a foothold into Mosul’s densely packed western neighborhoods. Over the weekend, troops pushed deeper into those areas, led by special-forces units. The army also said it had seized control of Mosul’s main power station.

Islamic State drones have regularly flown over west Mosul during the fight, sending troops running for cover.

Though the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq says Islamic State’s increased drone capability won’t have a major impact on the state of the battle for Mosul, it allows the group to target civilians and aid workers in east Mosul, giving Islamic State the ability to terrorize people no longer living under its rule and hampering the area’s return to normal life.

“The drone issue is worrying,” said Iraqi military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool. “There is no technical way to [entirely] stop these drones.”

While the strikes don’t always hit their targets with precision, militants are perfecting their technique.

“There are so many videos and images of bombs being dropped with a surprising degree of accuracy that I believe there are skilled operators who can hit with a consistent degree of accuracy,” said Nick Waters, an analyst at research firm Bellingcat, which focuses on open-source information, much of it from social media.

Islamic State typically loads its drones with conventional grenades that detonate on impact, dropping them by remote control as they hover over a target, according to a report this month from Bellingcat.

They often affix plastic tail fins to the grenade to increase its stability and accuracy, the report said. Some bombs employ munitions that Islamic State manufactures itself.

The bombs can be dropped with accuracy from a height of up to 1,000 feet, Bellingcat estimated. Such strikes have also been used by militants to create diversions during suicide attacks, it added.

To counter the drones, Iraq’s army is using high-tech gadgets that can target them using radio waves. But devices available to the military are scarce. Troops are often forced to resort to shooting at the small, nearly noiseless drones with rifles.

At at least one remote base near Mosul last fall, U.S. Army sentries manned their posts armed with machine guns and a device called DroneDefender manufactured by Ohio-based research-and-development outfit Battelle Memorial Institute. The U.S. military is supporting Iraqi forces from the air and ground in the fight against Islamic State.

DroneDefenders are rifle-shaped and feature thick antennas that when pointed at drones can scramble GPS or remote-control units up to a quarter of a mile away, causing the drones to fall.

A spokeswoman for Battelle said it had sold more than 100 units to the U.S. Departments of Defense and Homeland Security.

“We have the DroneDefender and it works,” said Lt. Col. Arkan Fadhil of the elite Iraqi special forces. He said few were available to Iraqi forces, without elaborating why.

Iraqi and American defense officials said Iraqi forces have such technology but declined to give further details, citing security concerns.

Exporting battlefield supplies from the U.S. to certain countries, like Iraq, requires special licenses.

Devices that emit radio frequencies can be subject to international regulations and red tape.

The Battelle spokeswoman said an export control license is required to ship products to foreign governments, but it doesn’t have such a license to export to Iraq. She said the company has recently seen increased interest in the device around the world.

Last week, the U.S. Air Force announced a $15 million contract with ELTA North America Inc., a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries, for 21 counter-drone systems to be delivered in the next few months.

Further details weren’t available. The Defense Department didn’t respond to request for comment. An ELTA spokeswoman said the company doesn’t discuss specific clients. But it recently touted a counter-drone system made expressly to down quadcopter-type machines.

At least one Popular Mobilization Unit, a militia allied with Iraq’s army, says it has received counter-drone technology from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

Iran backs a number of Iraq’s Shiite Muslim militias and recently developed numerous anti-drone technologies, including a drone-jamming antenna unveiled in December, according to semiofficial Iranian news agencies. Iranian officials haven’t said whether these technologies are in use in Iraq.

“Either we get such tactical weapons directly from the Islamic Republic or we make them locally here, but in consultation with our brothers in revolutionary guards,” said Jaffar al-Hussaini, spokesman of Hezbollah Battalions, a large militia operating west of Mosul.

Iraqi forces have also been using their own commercial drones for reconnaissance and to help identify Islamic State fighters posing as civilians.

On a recent day in west Mosul, Lt. Col. Fadhil was at an aid station near the front, his foot bandaged after being struck by a drone grenade.

“It’s annoying, with someone always tossing a grenade on you,” he said.

Meanwhile, in the east, citizens freed from Islamic State occupation now fear their drones. Near the ruins of Mosul University, Mohammed Yasin worked at a falafel stand.

“Every two to three days there’s a drone attack,” he said, and the army recently stationed a machine gun on the street to fire at the next one.

Aid groups have said drones make it nearly impossible to set up distribution stations as they are easily targeted.

—Asa Fitch, Awadh Altaie and Majd Helobi contributed to this article.

Write to Ben Kesling at benjamin.kesling@wsj.com

[END REPORT]

Pundita

Whoops forgot to add link to WSJ drone report

https://www.wsj.com/articles/islamic-state-drones-terrorize-iraqi-forces-as-mosul-battle-rages-1488032643

b

Small drones will be a menace for many coming years. They are difficult to defend against. Autonomous drones make any electronic interference useless. My current camera drone has a "come home" feature that flies back to the starting point when contact is lost. That could easily be changed to a "continue mission" profile.
Machine guns help but they put up lots of ammunition in the air that will come down some place, probably a friendly one with ones own forces.
To keep attack drones in the air 24/7 as a defense is for most units prohibitively costly. The energy storage needed on board is exhausted too fast. Small local radar on no-stealth frequencies (UHF?) with very small precise SAM will likely be the best way to medium sized drones down. But a swarm attack will overwhelm nearly any defensive systems.

The armies will have to relearn some rudimentary lessons of camouflaging against air observations/attacks. I have yet to see one vehicle in Iraq with camouflage netting etc that is not run by ISIS. ISIS fighters actually do hide and do active camouflaging of their vehicles and use mock-ups to deceive enemy reconnaissance.

BTW: Allegedly the Al-Qaeda no 2 in Syria, al-Masri, was killed in a drone attack yesterday. The missile used did not explode but was purely kinetic. It was also an extremely precise one going right through a car roof onto the back seat where al-Masri was sitting. It is the first time I have seen evidence of such ammunition. Is there any non-classified information of what this actually is?

Tyler

I find the turn towards turboprop and UAV to be one of interest. The Archangel planes (heavily modified air tractors) look like an amazing trend.

Green Zone Café

There will be some shocking bombings and assassination attempts from these in the future.

In addition to direct control (which the Iraqis are now jamming), I'm sure they can be programmed to fire and forget at some GPS coordinates.

b

The "Yemeni" drones are, of course, sourced from elsewhere.

The first is a Chinese or Iranian copy of the RQ-11 Raven. Iran captured two of those in 2011/12. Lebanon operates a dozen of them so Hizbullah might have made a copy too. Hizb trained some Houthi on intelligence issues.
The third one in the picture is by FPV Models - it cost $170.
http://www.fpvmodel.com/latest-version-skywalker-black-x8-flying-wing_g632.html
The fourth one is a copy? of one shown at an Iranian exhibition but could also be of Chinese origin. It has to my knowledge never been seen in the wild and may not be operational.

New types come up weekly now from various toy manufacturers in Asia. The "military grade" drones by now only differ in their (more or less) secured communication channel added for exorbitant prices.

ISIS buys off the shelf 4 prop heli drones, puts in slightly stronger motors (also off the shelf) and attaches a short plastic tubing from which it releases 40mmm grenade launcher ammunition via radio control. A few test flights to adjust the point of impact with the center of the drone's camera picture and one has a ready made, precise assassination tool. As various pictures published by ISIS show these are quite effective weapons against soft targets.

Mark Gaughan

I just watched a drone racing competition on TV last night.
Some links:
http://dronenationals.com/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSZmSNL_0r8

turcopolier

b

the point is that these machines are readily available and will be a major factor for reconnaissance and to a lesser extent for strike operations. pl

turcopolier

b

For irregular forces using UAVs the line of sight problem with UHF is yet to be solved. I have seen it suggested that one drone could be used to relay signals to another. Perhaps the GPS system is a short term fix. pl

sillybill

Using machine guns against them seems a little crazy. Why not 10 or 12 gauge goose guns?, make them semiauto with hi-cap magazines, experiment with loads, chokes, sights, and tactics a little to find whats most effective.

William R. Cumming

What existing DRONE defensive doctrines exist? Any Army pubs unclassified?

William R. Cumming

According to my latest information no published opinions have been issued by DoJ/OLC on targeted killings (offensive drone strikes by U.S. forces) or defensive actions against drones.

IMO extraterritorial killing of any U.S. citizen (known by U.S. authorities is a Constitutional violation.

PD 63 issued in 1998 was an effort of the Clinton Administration to respond to the now almost 30 years old (September 1997) report of the PCCIP based on statutory mandates. PCCIP=President' Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection which analyzed CIP as involving physical security and Cyber Security. Former U.S. Senators Bennett (decease) and Kyle introduced the Commission mandate.

Creation of DHS in December 2001 was premised on three principle objectives:
(1)upgrading WMD anti-proliferation and protection efforts; and response and recovery to employment and actual use of WMD; (2) upgrading CIP and in particular cyber security; and (3) upgrading domestic intelligence, including collection, analysis, and dissemination. None of this has happened.

Immigration policy failed miserably in DoJ for 40 years before its transfer by reorganization to DHS.

A significant effort by President George W. Bush and Secretary DHS Michael Chertoff in 2006 and 2007 was defeated by Senate Republicans.

President Trump has decided to try and enforce existing law and overturn unfunded prior Presidential mandates.

There seems to be little understanding anywhere on the FACT that there are civil provisions and regulations to immigration policy and criminal provisions in Title 18 of the U.S. Code and elsewhere in the Code (which has 50 Titles).

Federal civil statutes often have implementing regulations but federal criminal statutes do not.

Babak Makkinejad

Keeping the drones indefinitely in the air is possible:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stationary_High_Altitude_Relay_Platform

Old Microbiologist

They aren't just difficult but in reality impossible. It isn't too hard to imagine home building a swarm of 10 or so autonomous drones which have cheap control boards with facial recognition (any android phone can be adapted) which loiter on the roof of a building waiting for a target say a golfer or Air Force One. The former can be attacked en masse with the swarm which flies an irregular pattern and all plastic parts can be made from rigid plastic explosive which can also be made at home. Each quadcopter drone could easily carry over 1 kg of cargo. For attacking a taxiing aircraft they could easily attach by suction to the underwing and explode later after takeoff. The Same thing could be true for office buildings and they can park on windows and wait for the target to arrive. A snake drone (they exist) can easily slither its way into a resteraunt and take out the entire place. As all of these are autonomous and can be protected by using faraday wire wrap, and they don't need to communicate with the user at all once released making the "drone guns" useless as they are designed to interrupt communications. At a cost of a couple hundred dollars each this is easily accomplished and there is no way to protect against it.

So we are just seeing the beginning of a new method for remote assassination and attacks.

Old Microbiologist

Drone machine gun.

https://youtu.be/SNPJMk2fgJU

turcopolier

OMB & WRC

You both are focused on the present use of drones for individual or point target attacks. That will remain but what I am more interested in is a larger mission for UAVs for reconnaissance, screening a flank, maintaining surveillance over infiltration routes, etc. BTW I agree with Babak that drones can be made in-flight refuel able, thus greatly extending their range. Shotguns as a defense? The things we are talking about are not the little pieces of plastic junk that your kids want you to buy. pl

The Twisted Genius

These reconnaissance drones made a big difference in Ukraine where the DNR and LNR used them in their "reconnaissance-strike complex" to spot and adjust artillery fires onto Ukie positions. This was a cheap, effective solution.

As for increasing dwell time, the drones don't have to remain airborne constantly if they are of the VTOL type. they could be landed in an overwatching position on a rise or building or even a tree with cameras and/or sensors still active. Colonel Lang, weren't remote motion sensors used in Viet Nam?

To defend against drones, I'm reminded of our training on the Big Island of Hawaii where we practiced shooting down rockets known as BATS with small arms fire. The platoon's two machine guns would converge their fire on the BAT and the rest of the platoon would uses the tracer fire to guide their fire on the BAT. We were often able to knock the BATS out of the sky. I doubt that technique has been taught to the infantry for years.

dsrcwt

Col., I thought this article on the sort of technology available at the hobbyist level might be of interest to the committee. It is amazing to me what is available, and presently unregulated, off the shelf. It seems that a good knowledge of local topography can stretch line of sight quite a long way:

https://flitetest.com/articles/8-2-mile-long-range-navigation-project

Origin

A simple mesh network should be a simple solution. That makes all flying drones part of the same routable computer network that can be increasingly omnipresent as the number of drones aloft increases.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wireless_mesh_network

Of course, there are always jamming and spoofing issue.

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