A shoulder-fired weapon that zaps drones with radio waves and looks like something out of a sci-fi movie has been spotted at a U.S. military base in Iraq.
The author and futurist Peter Singer recently tweeted a picture that appears to show the weapon, known as the DroneDefender and made by Battelle, sitting in a corner of the Kara Soar Counter Fire Complex in northern Iraq next to a backpack and a copy of his book, "Ghost Fleet," with the caption: "The Things They Carried Into War: Scene from Fire Base Bell in Iraq."
The tweet was subsequently cited in an article by Thomas Gibbons-Neff, a reporter for The Washington Post, who reported the weapon is probably being used by American troops to target small reconnaissance drones operated by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.
The weapon, which the company makes clear isn't authorized by the Federal Communications Commission and thus isn't available for sale in the U.S., uses radio waves to cut the link between the drone and its controller.
As my colleague Matthew Cox reported in January at Military.com, the Army over the past year tested multiple anti-drone products and determined the DroneDefender performed the best:
Conventional small arms, everything from shotguns to machine guns, failed to bring down drones armed with explosives in an early evaluation last January, according to an Army source not authorized to speak on the effort. The small, fast-moving drones were difficult to hit but also very durable. Detecting their location before they got too close to their intended target also proved very challenging, the source said.
The Army then invited companies to Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, in September to participate in demonstrations of technology designed to detect, classify and potentially defeat drones.
DroneDefender has a range of "several hundred meters," but it's made much more effective when it is teamed with an Israeli-made radar, the Army source said. The radar system consists of two, 40-pound components and can be carried in two mountain rucksacks. When assembled, it provides 360-degree radar, detecting drones from "several kilometers" away, the source said.
Battelle's DroneDefender system, which utilizes a non-kinetic solution to defend airspace up to 400 meters against UAS, such as quadcopters and hexacopters, without compromising safety or risking collateral damage. (Photo courtesy Battelle)
The base in Iraq -- renamed from Fire Base Bell shortly after it was established to highlight its mission to conduct defensive operations -- has come under sporadic, though deadly, attack. Marine Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin was killed and eight others were wounded at the base in a March 19 attack by ISIS rocket fire. Cardin, of Temecula, California, was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, based at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.