ISIL ramps up fight with weaponised drones

In the past, ISIL has used drones in Iraq and Syria for general intelligence-gathering, as spotters for mortar firing, and even for filming propaganda videos [John Beck/Al Jazeera]
Mosul, Iraq – As fighting raged in eastern Mosul on a recent afternoon, a black Humvee arrived at an Iraqi army command post with a collection of plastics, electronics and rotor blades lashed to its back.

Soldiers leaped to unload the cargo, which comprised the remnants of the latest tool in ISIL’s armoury: drones.

The haul included a number of small devices of the kind favoured by filmmakers and hobbyists, costing a few hundred dollars apiece. But there were also larger, fixed-wing craft fashioned out of corrugated plastic and duct tape, apparently made by the fighters themselves.

Since mid-2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group has held Mosul, after sweeping through northern Iraq in a shock offensive.

It is now their last urban stronghold in the country, and for more than two months, the Iraqi army’s operation to retake the city has met fierce resistance, including snipers, ambushes and suicide attacks using explosive-laden trucks. Drones have been used for reconnaissance and to relay instructions to suicide bombers, said General Abdul Wahab al-Saadi, a commander with the elite counterterrorism service in eastern Mosul.

“They use them to give directions to suicide car bombs coming towards us, as well as to take pictures of our forces,” Saadi told Al Jazeera.

In the past, ISIL has used drones in Iraq and Syria for general intelligence-gathering, as spotters for mortar firing, and even for filming propaganda videos. Soldiers have regularly spotted these drones over army positions on the outskirts of Mosul, prompting bursts of gunfire skywards.

But there is a fresh threat, Saadi said: ISIL has begun to use the drones themselves as weapons. “They also use a new tactic, where the drone itself has a bomb attached to it,” he explained.

This has already proven lethal. Last October, after Kurdish Peshmerga fighters downed an ISIL drone north of Mosul and began transporting it back to their base for examination, a small amount of explosive material inside the device detonated, killing two Kurdish fighters and injuring two French special forces soldiers with whom they had been working. These were the first reported casualties from one of ISIL’s weaponised drones.

Several of Iraq’s allies, including the United States and the United Kingdom, have long flown drones in the country for both attacks and observation. Even Saadi’s own men use small craft for reconnaissance, he said.

But American forces leading the anti-ISIL coalition have been slow to realise the threat posed by the armed group’s drone use, said PW Singer, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and an expert in robotic warfare. “We’ve known of non-state actors … using drones for years,” he told Al Jazeera. “We’ve also known that the commercial spread of the technology made it possible for anyone to buy [them],” yet the rush towards countermeasures began only recently, he added.

The defence department last July asked Congress for an extra $20m to help tackle the threat posed by ISIL’s use of unmanned aircraft, and Lieutenant General Michael Shields, director of the US Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Organization, told reporters in October that there was “a sense of urgency” in equipping US troops with anti-drone technology.

New countermeasures have been implemented, including Battelle’s Drone Defender, a hand-held directed-energy device that can knock drones out of the sky at a distance of 400 metres. The device has already been deployed with US troops in Iraq.

Saadi, meanwhile, says that his soldiers are usually able to disable ISIL’s drones by using sniper rifles or machine guns.

“We don’t think that it is very dangerous. ISIL collects information about our forces, and we destroy the drones before they come to us,” he said.

Although ISIL’s drone fleet so far appears relatively basic, it could be developed further in the months ahead. Researchers from the UK-based Conflict Armament Research (CAR) group documented an ISIL “drone workshop” in Ramadi last February, where fighters had been attempting to build larger drones with potent explosive payloads crafted from the warheads of anti-aircraft missiles.

This suggests that commercially available drones are not fitting ISIL’s tactical needs, said CAR’s managing director, Marcus Wilson.

“The other models they’re trying to build are predominantly fixed-wing craft, which might allow for increased range or provide the ability to add a payload rather than just surveillance abilities, which is what we’ve observed in [our] report,” Wilson told Al Jazeera.

He said that further development seems likely, especially given ISIL’s history of designing complex components for weapons such as improvised explosive devices and producing them on an industrial scale.

“If they continue along this path, then we should be worried, because they still have a strong research and development capacity, have advanced their production abilities in the past, and still have the workshops capable of building sophisticated devices,” Wilson said.

Still, even with further development, ISIL would likely be unable to produce more than what Singer describes as “small aerial IEDs” – unlikely to cause mass casualties or alter the balance of power.

Source: ISIL ramps up fight with weaponised drones

The US Army is configuring Abrams tanks to be able to control attack drones – Business Insider

The Army is preparing to configure Abrams tank prototypes able to control nearby “robotic” wing-man vehicles which fire weapons, carry ammunition and conduct reconnaissance missions for units on the move in combat, service officials said.

Although still in the early stages of discussion and conceptual development, the notion of manned-unmanned teaming for the Abrams continues to gain traction among Army and General Dynamics Land Systems developers.

Algorithms are progressing to the point wherein they will be able to allow an Abrams tank crew to operate multiple nearby “wing-man” robotic vehicles in a command and control capacity while on the move in combat.

Army researchers, engineers and weapons developers are preparing to prototype some of these possibilities for future Abrams tanks, Maj. Gen. David Bassett, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Scout warrior in an interview.“As I look to the future and I think about game-changing technologies, manned-unmanned teaming is a big part of that.

There’s a set of things that we think could be really transformational,” Bassett said.This kind of dynamic could quickly change the nature of landwar. Autonomous or semi-autonomous robotic vehicles flanking tanks in combat, quite naturally, could bring a wide range of combat-enhancing possibilities. Ammunition-carrying robotic vehicles could increase the fire-power of tanks while in combat more easily; unmanned platforms could also carry crucial Soldier and combat supplies, allowing an Abrams tank to carry a larger payload of key combat supplies.

Also, perhaps of greatest significance, an unmanned vehicle controlled by an Abrams tank could fire weapons at an enemy while allowing the tank to operate at a safer, more risk-reducing stand-off range.

                    … KEEP READING AT …

The US Army is configuring Abrams tanks to be able to control attack drones – Business Insider

Islamic State: The British ISIS jihadis who could be next on Cameron’s drone ‘hit list’ | UK | News | Daily Express

Following yesterday¹s announcement from Prime Minister David Cameron that two British nationals fighting with the Islamic State (ISIS) terror group had been killed by unmanned RAF aircraft, it today emerged a number of other extremists might soon be the target of an airstrike.Defence Secretary Michael Fallon refused to deny the existence of a list of extremists known to British security forces that will be taken out by a missile strike if they are located in Syria.He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The list is the other way round. There is a group of people who have lists of targets in this country, who are planning armed attacks on our streets and who are planning to disrupt major public events in this country.”Our job, together with the security agencies, is to keep us safe, to identify who they are and to track them down.”If there’s no other way of preventing these attacks then we¹ll authorise strikes like we did.”

More at: Islamic State: The British ISIS jihadis who could be next on Cameron’s drone ‘hit list’ | UK | News | Daily Express

Drone Lands Inside White House Grounds

Drone Lands Inside White House Grounds

NEW DELHI, India — A drone landed inside the White House grounds early Monday, a federal law enforcement official told NBC News.

The official gave no further details about the unmanned aerial vehicle, other than to say it landed in a tree at 3 a.m. ET. The Secret Service responded and determined the drone did not pose a threat, the official said.

Keep reading at: Drone Lands Inside White House Grounds.

UCAV, A New Way of War?


Every day, somewhere, in some office, there is a discussion on the use of UCAVs.

Meanwhile the public opinion keep raising doubts on the use of these tactical systems (good both for surveillance and attack), all nations are running on the development of new and better UCAV (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle)  and UCTV (Unmanned Combat Terrestrial Vehicle) systems’.  

There is no doubt that they are for several reason better than any other past and actual systems:  it is, in fact, enough to affirm that UCAVs has the only limitation in their real autonomy (fuel consumption etc) and not in Human limitations’.  Since are remotely controlled (also by the use of satellites, which expand their use to a worldwide area), pilots, have no problem of sleep deprivation, or fear or any other “Human concerns” etc., therefore are considered “better soldiers”.

As Former Special Forces, I have some doubts on their future use and developments… we Human know that the war is not only shooting here or there, launching bombs etc, war is matter of killing people, create devastations, defend innocents, etc. … but the idea behind the future development of these UCAV and UCTV (Unmanned Combat Terrestrial Vehicle) stand in the research and development of system able to operate in the complete absence of Human control… in the future (not far in my opinion) we will probably have to just set the target or task in the computer and lunch the system… it will accomplish the mission, no matter what, when, where etc etc … very good if considering only the tactical and strategical tasks… but what about when Human are victim of failure systems?

what about in the hand of terroristic groups'?

My other big concern stand in the fact that, if we can create, develop and use such systems, also our enemies can!  this means that terroristic groups, weak nations etc (that before needed anyway a huge effort in oder to create a real treat) tomorrow (or already today) could need a small effort to gain a huge result…

we always need to remember that what can be achieved by the “good guys” with a huge effort, can be achieved by the “bad guys” with half of the same effort. In fact, meanwhile we are wondering whether these systems should be used or not, and how and when etc. , the bad guys have only the problem to gain some!

I leave you with the following article, which explain in short how UACVs gain power on the tactical scene, and what concerns are now showing up!

A New Way of War | Remote Control Project.

Drones & Autonomous Weapons FAQS

In the linked article three easy and common questions about Drones: What, Why, and Concerns.

Enjoy your read.

Drones & Autonomous Weapons | Remote Control Project.

A new Way of War … Remote Control Project

Nowadays the discussion on the use of Drone and any “remote-controlled tools” is undergoing in many groups, such as Political, civilian or “Pacifists”.

If in one hand, drones are seen as an effective and valuable tool to control and even attack possible “enemies”, in the other hand are seen as the “devil”.

One thing is sure; This technology is designed to excel in all actual and future conflict.

Moreover, the “apparent” low cost, the easier friendliness, and the real effectiveness,  make it easy and suitable for the use not only of Law Enforcement forces during the daily territorial control activities’, but also by whom wants to use this technology as “instrument of mass control”!

If you are interested in such discussion, please leave a comment. I will use them in order to better develop the subject in my future Articles.

READ MORE Remote Control Project.