DoD Debating Approach To Fighting Enemy Drones

The U.S. Department of Defense, which is ramping up efforts to develop and field equipment to fight hostile unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), is reviewing several operational and policy issues to ensure it gets the most from its counter-UAV activities, according to a DoD official.

One such issue is how to increase coordination among the various agencies that are working to advance technology to detect and defeat UAVs. Those agencies include the Joint Staff, the Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Organization (JIDO), the Joint Rapid Acquisition Cell (JRAC) and the military services.

The popular quadcopter UAV developed by China's DJI. Photo: DJI

The popular quadcopter UAV developed by China's DJI. Photo: DJI

“We’re trying to put a lot of things out in the field,” said Air Force Lt. Gen. John “Jack” Shanahan, DoD’s defense intelligence director for warfighter support. “The most important thing we should do right now is synchronize all the different efforts out there.”

DoD is also considering whether it should put less emphasis on bombing UAV users and more on disrupting the communication networks that enable those UAVs.

“You’re going to put a fairly expensive 500-pound bomb against a $500” UAV, Shanahan said at an AFCEA luncheon in Northern Virginia March 17. “Is that the best answer, or do we go out and go after that network?”

Another matter is determining what counter-UAV equipment to share with Iraqi forces, especially those battling to retake Mosul and being bombed in surprise attacks by Islamic State-operated UAVs.

“It’s abhorrent to think that they’re not getting the capabilities,” Shanahan said. “We’re in the fight with them, but they’re the ones in downtown Mosul right now getting hit by these with no idea that they’re coming.”

DoD is also looking at how to cut off the Islamic State’s supply chain, a task made difficult by the proliferation of UAV sales online. The terrorist group is believed to be using several UAV types, including quadcopters made by China-based DJI. “They’re buying them from somewhere,” he said. “They’re not building these.”

Joint Staff and JRAC representatives recently visited Iraq to assess the UAV threat. They are expected to brief Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work on their findings and recommendations “very soon,” the general said.

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