Drones and air defense systems in modern warfare

The basic information of drones and air defense systems has been studied in details on this website, the analysis is available in the section “RMA and new weapons”.

Some recent notes of the usage of drones and air defense systems on the different battlefields in South Caucasus and in the Middle East, open interesting views on the future warfare and reveal some surprising features.

Case 1: Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, autumn 2020

The 44-day war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region began in late September and concluded through a Moscow-brokered truce on November 10, 2020. The results of the war: the deployment of some 2.000 Russian peacekeepers and significant Armenian territorial concessions, Azerbaijan being the clear military victor, with both Russia and Turkey also benefiting politically from the war’s outcome.

This conflict included the heavy use of missiles, drones, and rocket artillery. The range of used equipment was wide from older Soviet-era Scud and Tochka missiles to the newer and more advanced Iskander and the Israeli-made LORA missiles; Russian, Turkish and Israeli drones as well as indigenous designs performed both reconnaissance missions to support artillery use and strike missions. The use of these various weapons provides important information and insights into how modern wars will employ the growing spectrum of missiles, drones and artillery.

Generally taken, Armenia’s missile and rocket arsenal were smaller and older than Azerbaijan’s which became clearly in sight during the conflict. Armenia’s drone fleet consisted of smaller indigenous systems focused on reconnaissance missions. They were generally recognized as less capable than Azerbaijan’s fleet of foreign UAVs. Azerbaijan had purchased an impressive drone arsenal composed of UAVs, like Turkish TB2 and Israeli loitering munitions, also known as “kamikaze” drones, including the Harop, Orbiter, and SkyStriker.

Azerbaijani drones were the center of attention in this war. Azerbaijan took control of the skies and these weapons were game-changing. Azerbaijani drones provided significant advantages in ISR-functions as well as long-range strike capabilities. They enabled Azerbaijani forces to find, fix, track and kill targets with precise strikes far beyond the front lines. Drones contributed to disabling a huge number of Armenian tanks, fighting vehicles, artillery units, and air defense systems. Their penetration of Nagorno-Karabakh’s deep rear also weakened Armenian supply lines and logistics, facilitating later Azerbaijani success in battle.

The Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 in particular demonstrated the versatility of UAV platforms. Turkey previously used these drones to great effect in Syria and Libya. In Nagorno-Karabakh, the TB2 likewise performed well in identifying, targeting and destroying enemy defenses. In addition, the TB2s also carried smart, micro guided munitions to kill targets on their own.

Case 2: Assassination of Soleimani and Iran’s missile attack on US troops in Iraq, January 2020

Soleimani case

In January, 2020, Iran’s most powerful military commander, Gen Qassem Soleimani, was assassinated by the US air strike in Iraq, a strike ordered by US President Donald Trump. The general arrived at the Baghdad International Airport on a flight from Syria early on 3 January 2020 and was leaving the airport with senior officials from Iraqi Shia militias backed by Iran when their convoy was hit by missiles fired by a US drone. In fact, there were two US MQ-9 Reaper attack drones which fired Hellfire missiles that killed Soleimani and the deputy head of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units and eight others. Iran vowed instantly “crushing” revenge, stating that their final aim is to push the US out of the whole Middle East region.

To summarize the short-term Iranian “revenge operations”:

  • On January 8, 2020, only five days after Soleimani’s killing, the Iranians hit two military bases that housed American troops in Iraq with ballistic missiles. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said this move, which resulted in no deaths (but over 100 cases of TBI), was a “partial retaliation.”
  • On March 11, 2020, 18 rockets struck Iraq’s Camp Taji base, located north of Baghdad, killing two US service members and one Brit, and wounding roughly 12 others.
  • On April 15, 2020, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy made a “dangerous and provocative” move by sending 11 of its vessels very close to US Navy and Coast Guard ships in international waters.
  • On June 18, 2020, Iranian-backed Iraqi militias fired rockets that struck the Green Zone in Baghdad, marking the fifth such attack within 10 days.

Iran has benefited from ways in which Soleimani’s killing impacted Iraq’s political environment. The Iraqi parliament and many individual lawmakers have pressured Washington into reducing the US military presence in Iraq.

IRGC missile attack

On January 8, 2020, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) launched an estimated 15-22 short-range ballistic missiles against the US troops at two Iraqi bases, Al-Asad Airbase and Irbil Airbase. The strike was a reprisal for the US killing of key IRGC leader Qassem Soleimani. While some of the missiles failed in flight, the majority found their targets with punctual precision. The Iranian strike caused extensive material damages but not direct troop casualties.

Many Western military analysts and think tanks have made study reports of this strike. According to them, the attack showed that Iranian ballistic missile forces, both in technology and operational competency, have the potential to cause major disruption to the US and partner military operations in the Middle East. The attack revealed also that Iran is tolerant of strategic risk and less deterred by the threat of US military action. This new situation may require the US to re-adjust its posture of forward-deployed forces in the region. Iran’s attacks demonstrate the danger that advances in adversary missile capabilities pose to US forces. The US should take action to reinforce the security and deterrent value of its forces by decreasing their vulnerability to air and missile attack. Iran’s new risk-taking ability suggests that the US deterrence in the region has eroded to a new low.

One striking feature in these military analyses seems to be that none of them mentions the exact reason of operative failure in US troops protection. There were several batteries of Patriot missiles (PAC-3 and PAC-2) but none of them reacted against Iranian missile attack. However, the attack was warned by Iran about 90 minutes beforehand. With very good reasons one can ask: Why no active air defense at all?

Case 3: Saudi Arabia, oil facilities at Abqaiq and Khurais, September 2019

In September 2019, drone & missile attack took place on two Saudi Arabian oil facilities at Abqaiq and Khurais but none of the Saudi air defense systems detected this drone and cruise missile attack. The attack on Saudi Aramco facilities occurred in the morning of September 14, 2019, when 18 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and seven cruise missiles were used for the attack on Saudi facilities.

There were three main systems guarding the oil fields and refining plants: the US-supplied Patriot, the Shashine Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) system (France) and Oerlikon’s (Swiss) GDF radar-guided 35mm twin air defense cannons. The sectoral radars were towards north, east, southeast and south but radars were not able to detect either the drones or the cruise missiles from northwest. As many as 88 launchers of MIM-104 Patriot systems, of which 36 were PAC-2 and 52 were PAC-3 modifications, currently protected the northern border of Saudi Arabia. In addition, there were three US Navy destroyers in the Persian Gulf off the coast of the kingdom. The destroyers are armed with Aegis missile defense systems with 100 SM-2 modification missiles.

While the UAV strikes in the Nagorno-Karabakh war were mostly single-shot, discrete events, the strikes in Saudi Arabia were what can be called as swarming attacks. For example, at Abqaiq, nine separator tanks were hit, three of them twice and these strikes all occurred in a period estimated to be about 20 seconds.

The central question raised by the attacks in Saudi Arabia and in Nagorno-Karabakh is why the air defense systems and radars did not detect the incoming drone threats. In the Saudi case, the radars also did not detect even the cruise missiles.

Patriot air defense system, combined with two other European systems, failed to repel the drone attack on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia. How could such a powerful air defense system complex miss dozens of drones and cruise missiles?

Case 4: Russian experiences in Syria and Libya, 2018 – 2020

The Russians have experienced similar-type detection problems in Syria in attacks on the Khmeimim Air Base than the Americans in Saudi Arabia. On multiple occasions, the base was attacked by unmanned drones operating in swarms. The worst attack was in January 2018, when 10 drones rigged with explosive devices hit Russia’s Khmeimim airbase, while three targeted the Russian naval base in Tartus. 

Russia claims it shot down seven of the drones using the Pantsir air defense system and was able to take control and land six others. Russia also said the airbase did not suffer any damage. Was the Pantsir as successful as the Russians claimed? Practical fact is that a number of Pantsir air defense systems have been destroyed by Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drones in Syria and in Libya. In Syria, Israeli fighter jets have also destroyed by missiles some Pantsir units, run by Syrian militias.

While assessing these losses, an important warning must be made: air defense is ultimately a function of capable equipment and properly trained personnel. In the latter category, the operational capabilities of conscript armies or militia groups in failed states such as Libya and Syria must not be compared to those of modern professional militaries. However, Russia’s new system Pantsir-S1 is not yet a game changer in terms of SHORAD capabilities, nor a full-credible defense against large scale UAV operations in contested environments requiring substantial further development.

Particular events and agreements

Israel – the US agreement: Iron Dome, 2021

An exceptionally interesting news was released by the Israeli Haaretz newspaper in late January 2021 reporting that Israel had agreed to the use of the Israeli Iron Dome missile defense system at US bases in the Persian Gulf.  The article is military-technically important because it illustrates that the US has a very limited domestic capability to protect US bases in the Middle East or elsewhere.

The US deploying Iron Dome in the Middle East

The United States is expected to soon begin deploying Iron Dome missile interceptor batteries in its bases in the Gulf States, according to security officials. Because of the sensitivity of the matter for the Americans, Israeli officials are refusing to reveal in which countries the Iron Dome interceptors will be deployed and deny this was part of the normalization agreements with the Gulf states (UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia). But behind the doors, Israel gave its tacit agreement to the Americans to place the batteries in order to defend its forces from attacks by Iran and its proxies.

As well as the Gulf states, deployments will be also expected in Eastern European countries, out of fear that Russia could endanger American forces, or strategic infrastructure in those countries, the Israeli officials have admitted.

The first two batteries delivered to the US were developed in Israel by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and other partners but in the next few months, Rafael is expected to open a production line along with US defense contractor Raytheon for an American version of the interceptor missiles. This will enable Rafael and Raytheon to export the American version to the US Army and other countries in Europe, the Gulf and East Asia.

The Israeli Defense Ministry and military industries have asked to ease the export restrictions on Israeli weapons systems, including Iron Dome. The defense industries think it is possible to make export versions and sell them to a number of countries to which Israel has so far avoided selling advanced weapons systems. The establishment of a Rafael subsidiary in the United States and its connection with a leading defense firm such as Raytheon could enable Rafael to export the American version of Iron Dome, even to countries that until now were off-limits because of security and diplomatic considerations.

Wide-range geopolitical context

However, there is a wide-range geopolitical context around this event as well. The US decision to deploy the Israeli Iron Dome Missile Interceptor Systems in the Gulf countries where the US Central Command (CENTCOM) operates and has established operational military bases, coincides with the US decision that Israel joins CENTCOM as well.

Iran considers the transfer of Israeli operational activities to CENTCOM an aggressive move allowing Israel to use all US military bases deployed around the Islamic Republic of Iran, which believes the decision to deploy the Israeli Iron Dome could be a step towards a possible preemptive military strike on Iran.

An Israeli attack on selective targets in Iran is possible if the US returns to the nuclear deal unconditionally. Israel could also attack Iran if President Biden slows down a possible return to the nuclear deal and fails to lift all sanctions imposed on Iran. Iran would then respond, first by increasing its uranium enrichment, withdrawing from treaties, preventing inspectors’ access to its nuclear sites and increasing the number and quality of its centrifuges. This expected Iranian move will cross Israel’s red lines. An interesting question can be made: “Is the Middle East headed towards war or are these moves ultimately and solely defensive?”

Russian Pantsir-S “flied” to the US, 2020

British newspaper, The Times, was the first to report about the covert operation, which it said took place in June 2020. A US Air Force C-17A Globemaster III transport aircraft is said to have flown to Zuwarah Airport, situated to the west of Tripoli / Libya, to pick up the Pantsir-S1, which it then flew to Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

The US Military reportedly managed to get a Russian-made Pantsir-S1 air defense system out of Libya, after it was captured from forces aligned with the general Khalifa Haftar and his LNA forces. The operation brought about clear intelligence benefits from obtaining a largely intact example of this system, which Russia operates and has also exported widely. The Times‘ report did not say where exactly the Pantsir-S1 had been captured initially but it said that GNA-aligned forces took possession of it. However, it is very possible that the system in question was one of those versions that were seized in good condition when the LNA was ejected from Al Watiya Air Base to the southwest of Tripoli in May 2020.

What may have happened to the Pantsir-S1 after it arrived at Ramstein is unclear. The C-17A transport aircraft first left Joint Base Charleston in South Carolina for Ramstein just days after the GNA captured Al Watiya in May 2020 and finally returned to Charleston on June 7, 2020.

Russian officials have said they are aware of this Pantsir-move but suggested its capture would be of limited intelligence value, since the US would have the opportunity to study the same system in the UAE. Export versions, such as the one captured in Libya, are supposedly stripped of a carefully guarded “identification friend or foe database” with the transponder codes for all Russian air force jets.

The US Tomahawk missile and JASSM ER “flied” to Moscow, 2018

The US, UK and France announced their air forces and navies fired 105 missiles, targeting three key sites in Syria, in April 2018. The strikes took place on 14 April, a week after a suspected chemical attack on the then-rebel-held town of Douma, which opposition activists, medics and rescue workers say killed more than 40 people. President Bashar al-Assad’s government has denied ever using chemical weapons and its key ally Russia says it has evidence the Douma incident was “staged”.

An official statement of Russia’s defense ministry said that an unexploded Tomahawk cruise missile and one high accuracy air-launched missile that the US and its allies used in their last airstrike in Syria on April 14 has been brought to Moscow. The chief of the Russian General Staff’s main operations directorate, Colonel-General Sergey Rudskoy, told in news briefing that Russian military specialists were already studying the missiles.

According to reports in the immediate aftermath of the attack, the strikes involved the first combat use of the JASSM advanced missile, reportedly fired from US B1-B Lancer heavy bombers. The stealthy cruise missiles, which have a range of 230 miles (370km), can carry a 450kg warhead and use infrared sensors to guide themselves towards their targets. Each B1 can carry four missiles. The use of the JASSM ER – which first version came into use nine years ago – would fit with Donald Trump’s tweet in the same week warning Russia the US would respond with a “new” and “smart” missile.

If this event is true, as it seems to be according to all declassified details available, it means highly likely the missiles in question (Tomahawk, JASSM ER) have been brought down by Russian electronic jamming, not by Syrian old air defense missiles, and they are really valuable assets in that “triangle game”, great powers have been playing all the time.

United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) published GAO Report to the Committee on Armed Services, U.S. Senate, October 2018

GAO was asked to review the state of DOD (the US department of defense) weapon systems cybersecurity. This report addresses:

(1) factors that contribute to the current state of DOD weapon systems’ cybersecurity,

(2) vulnerabilities in weapons that are under development and

(3) steps DOD is taking to develop more cyber resilient weapon systems.

In an investigation that began in July 2017 and concluded in October 2018, GAO testers discovered some shocking security problems.  According to this GAO Report, many of the US military’s newest weapons have major cyber vulnerabilities. In many cases, the weapons and systems still used default passwords; in others, unauthorized access could be obtained with “relatively simple tools” which in one case took only nine seconds.

Testers achieved access with simple tools, default passwords and found long lists of known-yet-unfixed vulnerabilities. Many US-weapons have “mission-critical cyber vulnerabilities,” including some currently under development and some whose flaws were first identified years ago, according to a new report from GAO. The testers also looked for previously reported vulnerabilities. In one instance, only one in 20 had been fixed. The problems that the testers found were not small ones. In some cases, scanning the weapon caused it to shut down. In another, the test had to be halted for safety concerns.

The corresponding investigations, regarding Chinese and Russian weapon systems, would be interesting but are not available, at least in public, declassified versions. By and large, the US weapons development can be characterized by “high degree of hi-tech features and finesses” whereas Russian and Chinese arms developments aim to simple, practical functionality and straightforward effectivity.

Prime lessons from the above stories

Lessons of Nagorno-Karabakh

While drones played a large role in this conflict, their capabilities ought not be exaggerated. These platforms are very vulnerable to air defenses that are designed to counter them. The primary lesson from the air war over Nagorno-Karabakh is the importance of full-spectrum, multilayered air defense.

Both Armenia and Azerbaijan’s short-range air defense (SHORAD) arsenals were limited in size and quality. Azerbaijan was able to exploit this gap with its large fleet of sophisticated offensive drones.

Great powers like the United States, China and Russia have developed / developing and deploying their own drone countermeasures, including kinetic interceptors, electronic jammers and even counter-drone drones. While these technologies exist today, there are difficulties in developing them at an affordable rate to provide defense at multiple echelons, including the tactical level. Armor and other heavy ground units will likely remain vulnerable until mobile SHORAD systems improve and proliferate further.

The conflict also provides yet another reminder about the importance of passive air defense. In an age of highly proliferated sensors and shooters, militaries will need to consider new ways to camouflage and harden their forces. Ground force tactics on dispersal and deception ought to be reinvigorated. Soldiers should train to limit their electronic and thermal signatures for longer distances and times.

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict also illustrates that while individual weapons systems will not revolutionize the nature of warfare, the synchronization of new weapons makes the modern battlefield more lethal. Azerbaijan’s combination of drones and artillery effectively targeted Armenia’s high-value military assets, most notably in attacks on tanks and air defenses.

The lessons here are not new. The importance of both full-spectrum air defense and passive defenses have been shown in battles across the Middle East. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict provides a small but important case study in the character of modern air and missile warfare.

Prime lessons of Abqaiq & Khurais and Iraq

The US air defense systems

As to the US air defense technology, one can notice that the US armed forces are poorly protected from air threats. THAAD (incl. Aegis and others in this category) is good only for ballistic missile defense, not for general air defense. Patriot PAC-3 is destined to counter tactical ballistic and to small extent cruise missiles. It has very limited capability against aircrafts. Majority of aircraft-capable Patriot PAC-1 and PAC-2 versions are either upgraded to the PAC-3 variant or sold abroad. Patriot air defense system has low combat efficiency especially when it comes to counteraction to small-sized air targets like drones and cruise missiles.

There is nothing left but short-range shoulder-fired portable Stingers, with a range of 8 km and a maximum altitude of 4 km. This is a very serious drawback to make the army troops extremely vulnerable to airstrikes on the battlefield.

It seems quite obvious that Patriot (and Aegis) air defense systems, do not correspond to their stated specifications. They have low combat efficiency when it comes to counteraction to small-sized air targets and cruise missiles. These air defense systems are simply not fully capable to repel enemy’s air attacks of drones and cruise missiles in a real combat situation.

The reason for this situation is quite obvious, there has been no need in the American military-industrial complex to develop new highly capable air defense systems because the US Military has been able to utilize of and rely on the superior offensive power and total air superiority so far. All the wars during last 30-40 years have been waged with militarily inferior countries, compared with the US, and not until now when the scope has turned to great power military competition, the shortcomings and deficiencies have come forth.

In Russia, the overall air defense has been always the primary key national development object since the end of WWII. China has relied to a large extent on Russian air defense technology so far, although is today developing also their own technology. Russia’s multilayered air defense system has been analyzed and presented on this website earlier here.

Therefore, it was quite understandable to notice the news of the recent Israel-US agreement of the use of the Israeli Iron Dome missile defense system at US bases in the Persian Gulf.  The article is military-technically important because it illustrates the US has admitted the fact that they have very limited domestic capability to protect US bases from air threats in the Middle East or elsewhere.

In the first place, the Americans are deploying now the batteries in order to defend its Middle East forces from attacks by Iran and its proxies. The agreement between Israeli Rafael and the US Raytheon will open new options and commercial possibilities in this important branch.

General lessons of the use of modern drones and air defense systems

Radars and drones

The main question is the capability of conventional radars to detect drones. Israel has specialized in going after quite small rockets (Qassams) fired principally by Hamas in Gaza. Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system usually intercepts them. Almost all these rockets have been hit while in flight and once their engines are burning, they fly only at relatively low altitudes in an arc trajectory. 

UAVs, on the contrary, do not have hot, burning rocket engines, they are typically powered by small internal combustion engines run under battery power and many UAVs are constructed of plastic or composites, some home-built from wood such as balsam, so the only metal parts are the engines, which are typically quite small or not visible at all.

Turkish Bayraktar TB2 is made of composites and Kevlar, not metal. It uses a small Austrian internal combustion engine which is inside the fuselage and in the rear where it drives a pusher prop, also made of composite. Although it is large, it hardly has an IR signature and its radar signature is quite small, perhaps too small for easy detection.

Conventional air defense systems, whether US, European or Russian, do not reliably detect drones or cruise missiles. In particular, the weakness of the US Patriot system and failure cases of Russian S-300 and Pantsir suggest that all of them have to be augmented by a new generation of air defense systems for the battlefield and for infrastructure protection. 

Radars and other detecting tools

There are new radars that can detect small drones but most conventional air defense systems do not have them. Such new radars work differently than conventional radars – they have very high-resolution scanning and they have computer algorithms that have signature data on different drone threats. When there is enough radar imagery to run through the computer database, a drone sighting can be confirmed by the radar system and it can continue to track the object. The range is typically about one and half km.

A key problem for designers is that at present the range of high-definition radars needed for identifying UAVs and small cruise missiles is limited. This means that many such systems are needed to defend borders, bases and high-value infrastructure. New technological breakthrough is needed to significantly extend the range. Today’s drones that are low powered and made of plastic or composites are naturally radar-evading. Optical scanning combined with thermal imaging offers a potentially better range than high-resolution radar and is a promising technology for future systems.

Looking beyond radars, there are other ways to detect a drone. It is possible to detect transmissions from a drone and locate it that way, through triangulation. In some cases, a drone can be detected by sophisticated optical sensors. And if the drone makes enough noise it can be tracked acoustically.  A modern drone detection system probably uses all these methods in combination and has elegant software to merge together all the information in near real-time to reach a solution on its track and how to eliminate the drone as a threat.

There has been, so far, one such new system in active combat test in Nagorno-Karabakh that was brought in by the Russian Special Forces in late days of the war. The Russians used their Krasukha jamming system to counter both armed drones such as the Bayraktar TB2 and suicide drones like the Israel-made loitering munition known as Harop. Officially, the Krasukha jamming system was brought in to protect a Russian base near Yerevan. The Russians claim they knocked out 9 Bayraktar drones, if verified it means that almost all Azeri TB2 drones were brought down. This may explain why Turkey was so willing to stop the conflict in early November and start truce negotiations, run by a Russian mediator.

Drone control systems

While Nagorno-Karabakh war showed accurate drone hits on targets, all the drones were controlled remotely (“man in the loop operator”), both the attack and suicide drones as well as surveillance drones. The operation is functioning so that surveillance drones could pick out and track lucrative targets and the information would be used to call in the nearest attack drone, which makes the actual missile firing. This feature is seen in many of the videos that the Azeri defense ministry supplied online.

In the Saudi-case the situation was quite different. As the pictures of the hits show, the attacks were extremely accurate.  The known communications range of the drones and cruise missiles that were used in the Saudi attack were such that similar remotely controlling (“loop operator”) was not possible. There are four possibilities to carry out this operation: (1) completely autonomous drone operations, (2) satellite links, (3) a communications localizer located somewhere on Saudi Arabian territory or nearby, (4) or a more powerful onboard communications system.

Iran showed off a new missile called Mobin in August 2019, operating autonomously and being stealthy in design. According to the Iranian information, Mobin is equipped with a scene matching artificial intelligence capability (TERCOM-type). 

Therefore, Israel is convinced that Iran now has an autonomous system (number 1 above) for its drones and cruise missiles, a system that is similar to “the scene matching TERCOM” that has long been part of the US Tomahawk cruise missile. In fact, the Israelis are concerned that the Iranians are supplying Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria with these new generation missiles, which is why Israel has been aggressively trying to destroy them in Syria and Lebanon. 

A second possibility is a satellite link for the UAV. This would require a satellite transmitter and receiver. None of the recovered cruise missiles or UAVs show a satellite link transmitter-receiver. A third possibility is a communications localizer of some kind. None has been found. Finally, a more powerful onboard transmitter-receiver is a possibility, but again there is not any evidence of one.

If there was a TERCOM-enabled autonomous capability in the drones and cruise missiles used in the Saudi Arabian attacks, then it is probable that surveillance drones were used some time ahead of the actual attack to carefully map the targets. That mapping information, including imagery, would then be loaded into the onboard TERCOM system. At a minimum, the Iranian attack must have involved a long run-up to establish the targets and carry out the necessary weapon’s programming.

The rise of autonomous drones takes away one of the tools to defeat drones – namely communications jamming. While it still might be possible to blind a TERCOM system (for example with lasers), radio jamming of communications won’t work. However, unless drones are equipped with accurate inertial guidance systems, the drones will need to rely on GPS. Efficient ways either to jam GPS or broadcast false parameters is a tool that has a future in combating drone attacks.

Closing words

Development of drones causes the progress of anti-drone devices and the measures. This is typically a measure – counter-measure spiral to be evolved into automatic, self-feeding vicious circle. When considering all this in the heating context of great power competition, the prospect of great power relations seems not particular peaceful.