This article first appeared in the Fall 2013 issue of Unmanned Tech Solutions.
By George Jagels
If they ever existed, the days of an American monopoly on military unmanned aerial systems (UAS) are surely over. While many countries building new systems are NATO members or longtime U.S. allies, some are not: China, Russia, and Iran produce UAS of varying degrees of sophistication. Much like in the recent past, the Pentagon must deal with both a foreign military challenge—at least 76 states now possess UAVs—and a more asymmetric threat. With growing capabilities of small UAS comes greater access for non-state actors such as terrorist groups and drug cartels. This still-murky asymmetric threat—particularly as U.S. airpower remains unquestioned—presents an interesting challenge for the Pentagon.
Though the services were unable to comment on much of their counter-UAS doctrine and programs, they are developing them. Since 2010, an annual joint exercise called “Black Dart” has tested capabilities on this front. Late last year, the Army held a meeting at Fort Sill, OK, with allied and industry representatives to discuss countering enemy UAVs. The Navy will deploy a laser weapon system designed to destroy missiles and pilotless aircraft to the Persian Gulf next year.