The Islamic State group’s burgeoning use of armed, commercially available drones to attack U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq posed one of the biggest threats on the battlefield last year, according to Gen. Raymond Thomas, current commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, or SOCOM.
“This last year’s most daunting problem was an adaptive enemy who, for a time, enjoyed tactical superiority in the airspace under our conventional air superiority in the form of commercially available drones and fuel-expedient weapons systems, and our only available response was small arms fire,” he said Tuesday at a SOCOM conference, as reported by Defense News.
His point was that Islamic State group militants have been adapting to U.S. tactics and strengths by taking advantage of anything at that their disposal, including drones.
“About five or six months ago, there was a day when the Iraqi effort nearly came to a screeching halt, where literally over 24 hours there were 70 drones in the air,” the general continued. “At one point there were 12 ‘killer bees,’ if you will, right overhead and underneath our air superiority.”
According to a report from The Boston Globe published two months ago, this year the threat could grow even more deadly, as drones could potentially be used to carry out “autonomous suicide” attacks.
When used for a conventional attack, a drone must be operated via radio signals that can easily be detected by military forces. Were a drone to be pre-programmed beforehand to carry out a suicide machine, those signals wouldn’t be necessary, making the drones much harder to detect.
“Right now, the best way of detecting that there is an unmanned airplane is by listening for that radio signal,” said J.C. Ledé, an official at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency overseeing a program to stop such threats. “Once they stop emitting that radio signal, they’re going to get a lot harder to find.”
An even more chilling report published in May by Inverse magazine referenced a new Islamic State group propaganda video “showing off a number of weapons, including several remote-controlled unmanned vehicles (dubbed ‘suicide drones’) capable of delivering explosives to a target.”
Islamic State ‘suicide drone’ used in Mosul. Largest drone produced by the Islamic State so far. pic.twitter.com/jOG9XhCVQj
— Oryx (@oryxspioenkop) May 17, 2017
While electing a true leader to office has no doubt helped America in its war against radical Islam, it’s clear many more steps must still be completed before this threat is fully neutralized.
“It’s not defeated yet,” Gen. Thomas reiterated during his speech Tuesday. “I would not go to sleep on this enemy ever.”
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