The unmanned aerial drone has been a talking point of war for years now, with full-size Predator and Reaper aircraft taking center stage in US conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. But now, the mass availability of small commercial drones is giving insurgent groups a leg up on counter-terror ground forces, which presents a problem.
Radar can track large reconnaissance and attack drone aircraft well, but how do you track a two foot wide quadcopter with a surveillance camera or an IED attached? According to the Marine Corps Times, the corps’ Warfighting Lab is looking to anti-artillery radar as the key.
In keeping development timelines short and production costs low, the lab believes converting existing AN/TPQ-49 light mortar radar systems to track small UAVs presents the best option. The systems can locate and track small mortar projectiles, and also help to pinpoint their point of origin. The later would permit a crucial advantage for ground forces looking to engage drone operators.
The ideal strike weapon is still under development as well. Where machine gun fire has proven to be ineffective in neutralizing smaller UAVs, new ground-based laser weapons could adequately fit the bill. Just recently, Lockheed Martin’s ATHENA laser system punched a hole through the engine block of a pickup truck, and a similar system successfully neutralized small off-shore boats. In the future, the anti-drone battle will likely take place over the airwaves by means of electronic disruption and hacking.
Development of the anti-drone radar system is surely the most pressing issue. Just last month, United States Central Command confirmed that US forces successfully shot down an ISIS drone near Fallujah, noted to be a small, unarmed commercial unit.
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