Air Force Looks to Counter Drone Threat

Two Air Force intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets were used to bring down a small ISIS drone earlier this month, the service confirmed. Working together, the aircraft used undisclosed “electronic warfare capabilities” to disable the small unmanned aircraft system near Mosul in less than 15 minutes, service spokeswoman Erika Yepsen told Air Force Magazine on Thursday. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James announced the shoot down Monday, but provided few details. James called for the rapid development of counter-SUAS capabilities in light of the emerging threat. The air staff stood up a working group to address the issue last week, Yepsen said. “The working group cuts across functional areas and commands to integrate the Air Force’s best experts who have been empowered to act rapidly so they can continue to outpace the evolution of the threat and quickly deliver capabilities to the warfighter,” she said in an email. “While our Airmen down range innovate and act to defeat threats as they evolve, this cross-functional working group will build a strategy to anticipate and defend against current and future small unmanned aircraft systems.”

Speaking at an Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International event in Arlington, Va., on Wednesday, Brig. Gen. Brian Killough, the director of strategy, concepts, and assessments, said the Air Force needs to take a close, hard look at counter-SUAS capabilities even if commercially available drones don’t pose a major military threat yet. Killough compared the use of SUASs to Germany’s use of V-1 and V-2 rockets, “which were highly ineffective militarily, but they were incredibly effective psychologically,” during World War II. “So similar to being under mortar attack if you’re on a [forward operating base] or something along those lines, if you’re under attack from a UAS, even if it is militarily insignificant, leads to mission degradation, and so we’re going to have to get after some of those capabilities.”