Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

FoW (23): The biggest growth industry in defense should be counter-drone systems

By Capt. Adam Thomas, USMC Best Defense future of war entry There have been a lot of conversation as of late regarding the rise of unmanned systems (UxS) and how they are going to play a large role in future warfare. The proliferation of these future systems is not only going to be used by ...

ASGHAR ACHAKZAI/AFP/Getty Images
ASGHAR ACHAKZAI/AFP/Getty Images
ASGHAR ACHAKZAI/AFP/Getty Images

By Capt. Adam Thomas, USMC
Best Defense future of war entry

There have been a lot of conversation as of late regarding the rise of unmanned systems (UxS) and how they are going to play a large role in future warfare. The proliferation of these future systems is not only going to be used by states but also non-state actors. This is an obvious fact but raises the question, how do we counter such unmanned systems that can be acquired and weaponized by almost anyone? 

With all new technologies there is usually a double-edged sword when it comes to its utility. A basic search on the Internet can allow anyone to find, purchase, and outfit an unmanned system, whether it is an aircraft or ground system, and employ it using their own creative devices. So, back to the original question: How do we combat this proliferating technological capability? There are multiple methods to examine. It depends on whether you want to kill, disable, deny, or take control of the UxS. Future warfare development will have to focus on how to counter these systems because there is no Department of Defense (DOD) monopoly on this technology.

By Capt. Adam Thomas, USMC
Best Defense future of war entry

There have been a lot of conversation as of late regarding the rise of unmanned systems (UxS) and how they are going to play a large role in future warfare. The proliferation of these future systems is not only going to be used by states but also non-state actors. This is an obvious fact but raises the question, how do we counter such unmanned systems that can be acquired and weaponized by almost anyone? 

With all new technologies there is usually a double-edged sword when it comes to its utility. A basic search on the Internet can allow anyone to find, purchase, and outfit an unmanned system, whether it is an aircraft or ground system, and employ it using their own creative devices. So, back to the original question: How do we combat this proliferating technological capability? There are multiple methods to examine. It depends on whether you want to kill, disable, deny, or take control of the UxS. Future warfare development will have to focus on how to counter these systems because there is no Department of Defense (DOD) monopoly on this technology.

Future adversaries will be capable of utilizing the Internet and mass media to gain visibility and control the message they want the world to see. Due to commercial technologies, they will be highly networked, which will allow them to shape the battlefield quicker than U.S. forces, and they will be able to exploit our own rules of engagement to gain decisive advantages and mass and engage our military on their own terms. Using their own UxS, they will have access to real time intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance that will prove lethal if we don’t find a way to counter this capability. Research and development within private industry and the DOD has to be seriously focused on a counter-UxS effort if we are to maintain our predominance on future battlefields. 

Capt. Adam Thomas, USMC, is a helicopter pilot who works on counter-unmanned systems projects at the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab. The views in this post are those of the author alone and do not reflect the views of the Department of Defense or the U.S. Marine Corps.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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