HLS.Today – The United States Department of Defense coordinates and supervises all federal agencies and functions for its national security and armed forces. The US armed forces consist of six service branches; The Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, and Coast Guard. The military forces led by the Joint Counter Small Unmanned Aerial Systems Office (JCO) have been tasked to deploy long-term budgets, plans and measures to mitigate and protect its assets from unmanned aircraft systems and unmanned aerial vehicle attacks.
The targeted attacks from small UAS against military bases, facilities and installations pose a major threat to ground forces nationally and internationally. The goal is to protect the three operating environments, Homeland, Host nations, and Contingency locations. The most recent attacks brought to light in the mainstream media and online social media are from attacks in war zones like Syria and Iraq targeting US military forces. Much to be learned from the current use of UAS and C-UAS in the Russia-Ukraine war.
These headline news stories indicate a substantial increase in small drone attacks and their efficiency and abilities to reach their targets and cause damage to military infrastructures successfully. To name a few, the enemy uses such drones for intelligence gathering, engaging ground forces, and investigating bomb damage assessment.
The UAS sophistication of enemy forces grows rapidly and increasingly able to reach ground forces and breach installations. The following counter-drone systems have been chosen by the army forces to detect, track, identify, and destroy enemy UAS.
The DoD, the DOT&E (Director, Operational Test & Evaluation), in collaboration with the Combatant Commands, Service representatives, and the JDAT (Joint Deployable Analysis Team), assessed all C-sUAS (counter small unmanned aircraft systems) and approved three main categories of C-sUAS listed below.
|C-sUAS Category||Detection Methods||Defeat Methods||Service|
|Fixed or Semi-Fixed Systems||RF, Radar, Camera, EO/IR||RF, GPS, Ballistic round||Army, Air Force, Marine Corps|
|Mounted or Mobile Systems||RF, Radar, Camera, EO/IR||RF, GPS, UAS||Army, Marine Corps|
|Handheld or Soldier-Worn Systems||RF, Visual||RF, GPS||Army, Navy|
The C-sUAS category table indicates as well the various methods of detection and defeating threatening drones. They are designed to detect, track, identify, defeat, and disable small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS). Considering only single and multiple UAS threats from Group 1 type of off-the-shelf sUAS at under 20 pounds. Radars, radio frequency scanners, and electro-optical and infrared cameras are the most common detection methods. The most common way to disable communication of a malicious drone is by jamming the RF control and video link back to the drone’s operator. Jamming or spoofing the drone’s GNSS GPS coordinates. Disabling the UAS can be done by laser, projectile or in-flight interception.
Ground forces engaging in a C-UAS mission will detect, track and identify the proximity of a UAS and provide the command and control with relevant information to take action and complete the mission to reduce the threat or neutralise the danger.
Fixed or semi-fixed systems are large defense systems in a military base environment and are mostly used as an additional tool to an overall facility defense strategy.
Mounted or Mobile Systems are easily deployed and adaptable to specific environments. Such a platform can be positioned at will when and where ground forces need it.
Handheld or Soldier-Worn Systems are used for short-range missions independently or as part of a larger fixed-site system.
The US Army’s strategic objectives require all departments to work together to achieve an overall plan to provide the tools, training and capacity to handle any UAS threats in all three operating environments.
Empower all forces through practical training and deployment to protect all personnel, assets, and facilities. Partner with solution providers to develop internal processes to securely execute assigned missions and counter enemy attempts to disrupt our objectives. Increase allies’ relationships and partners to protect the nation’s interest.
In May 2022, the US Congressional research service published the yearly budget of the Department of Defense, which plans to spend at least $668 million on counter-UAS (C-UAS) research and development and about $78 million on C-UAS procurement.
The fiscal year 2021 allocated $33.1 million and in 2022 $34.7 million for test centers to provide cUAS capabilities to detect, track, identify and collect data on hostile UAS. Command, Control, Communications, and Computers Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance facilities support and data management tools.
The DoD has empowered the Army to continuously develop and deploy counter-UAS capabilities. The integration of high-power microwaves is one of the planned implementations in the counter-drone swarm force. The Army-led Joint Counter Small Unmanned Aircraft Office (JCO) is creating a ‘low-collateral effects interceptor’ to face counter-sUAS systems. A prototype will be available from the third quarter of 2023. The Army in coordination with the Air Force are together committed to reach laser capabilities of 100 kW and reach up to 250-300 kW. These tools are of a vital importance given the recent events affecting the military forces nationally and internationally. Current testing, research and development on various innovations shows a promising future in terms of tools efficiency and accuracy. Improving current technologies and emphasizing on emerging technologies are of the essence.
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