In the past week, terrorists using drones have targeted United States and coalition military personnel. Two different bases in Iraq defended themselves against attempted suicide-drone attacks.
Terrorists Using Drones Isn’t New
The proliferation of small unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly referred to as drones is a rising concern for the military. The Air Force has placed significant emphasis in the last several years on developing counter-Small Unmanned Aerial Systems, or c-sUAS. There have been multiple instances of terrorists using drones since 2014.
The two most recent attacks were executed on Monday and Tuesday respectively. Both attacks utilized a fixed wing commercial drone laden with explosives. The target of Monday’s attack was a structure at Baghdad Airport housing US troops. Tuesday’s following attack aimed the drone at Ain al-Asad Airbase, located in western Al-Anbar province. Ain al-Asad, or al-Asad for short, was also the target of a known Iranian rocket attack following the successful targeted strike against Iranian general and Quds Forces leader Qassem Soleimani. Installation surface to air defenses foiled both Monday and Tuesday’s attempted attacks.
Possible Links to Iran
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks on coalition forces. However, the first attack did take place exactly on the two year anniversary of Soleimani’s killing. Following the second attack, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi released a statement. The statement calls for former President Trump former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to face trial in “[A] fair court for the criminal act of assassinating General Soleimani, Muslims will take our martyr’s revenge. The aggressor, murderer and main culprit — the then president of the United States — must be tried and judged under the [Islamic] law of retribution, and God’s ruling must be carried out against him.”
US Troops Remain in Iraq
Although the combat mission in Iraq officially ended in December of 2021, US and coalition forces remain in the country. The goal of the ongoing mission in Iraq is providing support to Iraqi partner forces in their ongoing fight against the remnants of the Islamic State. US and Iraqi forces must also content with attacks from Iranian-backed militia groups, which want all Western and allied forces out of Iraq.
The Future of C-sUAS in Warfare
Unfortunately, it looks like terrorists using drones is going to continue into the future. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan saw IED technology evolve to become more lethal. The ready available of sUAS coupled with the institutional knowledge of IEDs means that these attacks will likely become more and more common. As mentioned, the Air Force’s commitment to developing C-sUAS threats is significant. In 2021 alone, the Air Force awarded an $82 million contract for developing C-sUAS solutions. While the Air Force is leading the way on fighting these threats, all the branches are developing solutions as well.