Enemy drones piloted by ISIS have complicated the offensive in Mosul. These drones, capable of dropping grenades and small bombs have been used to attack Iraqi tanks with ‘pinpoint accuracy’ according to Pentagon officials.
Once the technology of sophisticated militaries, fairly inexpensive remote-pilot aircraft have recently given militants the ability to project power in the air. The threat has emerged following more than a decade of U.S. and Iraqi air supremacy now eroded by drones—weighing as little as 20 pounds— have taken to the skies.
In January, coalition forces battling the terror group said they had hit drone production sites in both Iraq and Syria, where ISIS was modifying commercial unmanned devices in an effort to cause maximum damage. However forces in the area continue to see ISIS-piloted drones with regular frequency.
ISIS have also used drones for surveillance and guiding vehicles laden with explosives through Mosul’s narrow streets, straight to Iraqi troop positions.
Federal police commander General Ali al Lami said his troops are constantly on the lookout. “A car bomb can destroy a unit,” he said. “A truck bomb can destroy a brigade.”
In effort to combat ISIS’ latest technological advancements, the U.S. Army has field tested vehicle-based lasers to combat the growing threat of enemy eyes in the sky.
Infantry-carrying Stryker vehicles mounted with the Mobile High Energy Laser, a 5-kilowatt beam that scrambles the circuits of drones, took part in demonstrations at the Maneuver Fires Integration Experiment at Fort Sill in Oklahoma, a 10-day exercise in April.
The system includes radar detection and a camera to visually track aircraft on a screen, where an operator targets the drone with the laser. A “hard kill” will disable the drone mid-flight and send it crashing to the ground, the Army said. A “soft kill” occurs when the laser severs the communications link between the drone and its ground control station.
Examining the efficacy of laser technology on the battlefield we see, “Instantaneous effects and perfect accuracy with unlimited magazines completely changing the way we think about munitions in combat,” Says Paul Scharre, director of the Future of Warfare Initiative at the Center for a New American Security.
For now we will count on coalition forces being able to render the armed drones of ISIS ineffective in a combat zone, and hope that this method is never employed in the streets of the West.