Military and Strategic Journal
Issued by the Directorate of Morale Guidance at the General Command of the Armed Forces
United Arab Emirates
Founded in August 1971

2019-03-01

To Down A Drone

Drone numbers are growing fast in their multitude of different types and uses, from large MALE and HALE systems (Medium Altitude Long Endurance/High Altitude Long Endurance) to tactical UAVs, mini-drones and micro-UAVs. Whether aiding search-and-rescue or capturing a perfect aerial view, drones are simple to make, cheap to buy and available throughout the world.
 
However, as components get smaller, drones can present a serious risk to military forces, with adversaries easily weaponising store-bought drones and striking technical advances anticipated. Recent incidents have shown commercially-available drones flying inside the security perimeters of the critical infrastructure of the White House, government embassies, nuclear power plants and Gatwick airport, where no action was taken to counter the incursions.
 
In response, many countries are now establishing temporary flight restrictions specific to unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Operators who violate the UAS flight restrictions may be subject to enforcement action, including potential civil penalties and criminal charges to which commercial operators should adhere to achieve the full integration of manned and unmanned aircraft in controlled airspace.
 
Let us now look at a few of the major players in the counter-drone sector..
Raytheon’s Counter-Drone Offerings
Without a perfect solution for countering drones, proven technologies still remain to address the threat. From weapons to blast drones out of the sky to RF technology that can take control of a drone and put it on the ground safely, here are some examples.
 
Laser Strike: It’s not viable to eliminate a small drone with a large, expensive missile, but a mobile system with near-infinite firing capacity is well-placed to take out a drone or swarm of drones. 
 
Raytheon offers a high-energy modular laser system operating with radar detection of overhead objects, then sending a contacts of interest list to an advanced variant of Raytheon’s fielded Multi-Spectral Targeting System. This suite of optical sensors determines whether the unmanned aircraft system is a friend or threat and in the latter case, the system's beam director tells the laser where to zap the target. 
 
The laser is fired with an X-Box controller, with the cost-per-shot still the cost of electricity. The system can fit a vehicle or other platform, while the power and thermal systems are based on Raytheon’s Patriot air and missile defence system technology.
 
Last year, Raytheon demonstrated its scalable system at the U.S. Army’s Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment, with the laser weapon system mounted on a small, all-terrain Polaris MRZR vehicle to down 12 airborne Class I and Class II UASs. The system has also engaged targets from an Apache AH-64 helicopter.
 
Microwaves Vs. Drones: A laser can pick off a drone from afar, but a high-powered microwave is needed if there are hundreds of drones closing in to attack. Mounted on a shipping container-like box, PHASER high-powered microwaves then emit radio frequencies from a dish in a conical beam. 
 
When aimed at airborne targets like drones, the directed energy system emits an adjustable energy beam rendering them unable to fly. Acting like a searchlight from a lighthouse, the beam can simultaneously track and move to the next target to address multiple swarms. Raytheon plans to reduce the size of future versions significantly.
 
The Kamikaze Drone: Equipped with an advanced seeker and warhead to identify and eliminate UAV threats, the U.S. Army has selected the Coyote drone for a near-term counter-UAS solution. This UAS can handle reasonably large accelerations during launch which is critical for all tube-launch applications in providing improved surveillance imagery, enhanced targeting capability, near real-time damage assessment and reduced threat to manned aircraft.
 
The Coyote drone has an extra set of battlefield eyes in Raytheon's small, precision radar, KRFS, or Ku-band Radio Frequency System. As a multi-mission radar, tracking small or large drones and cueing different effectors in response; KRFS has now been improved to detect more threats.  
 
The Right Missile: Shoulder-launched or fired from a helicopter or ground-launcher, Raytheon's Stinger missile is equipped with a proximity fuze, enabling it to explode nearby to a drone. The Stinger proximity fuze is thus qualified to move the missile immediately to fielding, operating alongside the AMRAAM air-to-air missile which is also fired from a ground launcher.
 
Hypnotising Drones: In January 2018, Raytheon signed a teaming agreement with Department 13 International in Maryland to develop counter-drone technologies for defence customers. Controlled by a tablet, MESMER manipulates radio signals to stop, redirect or land drones and steer them away from crowds.
 
Employing non-kinetic effects that don’t risk civilian lives, MESMER can be used domestically by law enforcement or government agencies and operated automatically, without operator intervention, to initiate a drone mitigation. It can also white-list friendly drones to avoid interfering with their operation.
 
The Cyber Frontier: Raytheon’s R&D investments have been channelled into command-and-control systems that employ various counter-drone technologies. The Multispectral Targeting System (MTS) combines optical and infrared sensors and direct its laser beam against airborne targets. It has been modified to track the Class-1 drones (under 20 pounds) and Class 2 drones (between 20 and 55 pounds) used by terrorists and insurgents.
 
Thales Counter-UAV Solutions
For military users, Thales’ counter-UAV defence solutions have evolved capabilities in line with airspace surveillance, air traffic control and air defence systems to protect military bases and theatres of operations. 
 
In the civil arena, Thales’ solutions integrate seamlessly with SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems to protect major events or critical infrastructure against small low-flying UAVs. This type of system comprises of sensors, non-lethal (soft-kill) effectors and a central C2 software suite for data correlation.
 
For security services, Thales uses value analysis for simple cost-effective solutions, selecting equipment tailored to different threat scenarios, legal contexts and regulations on radiating sensors and effectors. Tailored solutions can be delivered in just a few months.
 
The future is advanced security solutions to counter fast-evolving threats for high-tech unmanned air systems. Hence, Thales TopShield anti-jamming enables reliable GPS/GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite Systems) navigation in challenging environments for aircraft, helicopters, missiles, UAV, fighters, navy and vehicles. It can be operated with all GNSS receivers, including Galileo, as a standalone unit onboard any military platform.
 
Saab’s Giraffe ELSS
Conventional radar systems usually have problems with detecting and tracking small UAVs operating at slow speeds and, even if detected, distinguishing them from birds and other elements in the surrounding environment. Saab offers the Giraffe ELSS (Enhanced Low, Slow and Small) function, capable of coping with the challenges of the UAV threat. It detects and tracks even small/mini-UAVs with the false alarm rate reduced to an absolute minimum.
 
The Giraffe ELSS function offers state-of-the-art UAV detection performance used for a wide range of applications: monitoring airport flight zones, local protection of own forces while on the move, protection of sea operations, camp protection and UAV surveillance of larger areas. It works in parallel with the main air surveillance mode and the Rocket, Artillery and Mortar shells (RAM) function to fully support simultaneous air surveillance, RAM detection and ELSS surveillance.
 
ELSS is available in the Giraffe 1X, Giraffe AMB or Giraffe 4A land- and sea-based surface surveillance radar systems through land and sea versions. With the ELSS upgrade, the Giraffe Graphical User Interface (GUI) has dedicated LSS functions to optimise sensor performance for requirements while detecting and classifying LSS targets amongst ordinary air targets. The high-stability, clean, radar-based Giraffe ELSS function captures every possible parameter from the UAV radar returns, including track data, kinematic and behaviour data, radar cross-section data, Doppler and Micro Doppler data.
 
Boeing HEL TD
Boeing's Directed Energy expertise extends from the High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL TD) – a laser system that has tracked and destroyed mortar rounds and unmanned aerial vehicles – to paired or stand-alone Compact Laser Weapon Systems on vehicles or ships. Directed Energy systems are powered by a vehicle's or vessel's diesel fuel supply or onboard power to deny and defeat threats with precision. With a low cost per shot and an infinite magazine, Directed Energy systems are effective over land, air and sea.
 
Boeing now has a U.S. Army contract to develop the mobile, solid-state HEL TD laser weapon system to counter rockets, artillery shells, mortars and unmanned aerial vehicles. Under the High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator Phase II contract, Boeing will build, test and evaluate a rugged beam control system on a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck.  
 
Hensoldt’s Xpeller Counter-Drone System
Security and military forces have increasingly to counter the rapidly-emerging threat of small, cheap and commercially available UAVs used for trafficking, industrial espionage, sabotage or even terrorist acts.
 
Xpeller: Fused sensors and countermeasures against small drones to protect sensitive areas against illicit intrusions of small drones, Xpeller uses radars, optical, RF and other sensors to assess its threat potential at ranges from a few hundred meters up to several kilometers. Once the threat has been identified, a jammer interrupts the link between drone and pilot and/or its navigation. The modular system concept relies on the selection of individual devices from the Xpeller tool kit depending on customer requirements and local conditions.
 
Xpeller Gear: The mobile version of Xpeller uses a combination of RF detectors and wearable jammers in one armoured gear for optimum protection against unmanned threats. The RF detector picks up a drone-related signal to alert the RF Jammer to interrupt the link between drone and pilot and/or its navigation. Xpeller Gear thus detects and protects against threats from hostile drones at ranges from a few hundred metres up to several kilometres.
 
Xpeller Rapid: The movable version of Xpeller protects people and sites anytime, anywhere. It uses a combination of radar and electro-optical as well as RF detectors and Jammers, all fused in a common C2 for an optimum of protection against unmanned threats. In order to rapidly deploy a Counter UAV System, Xpeller Rapid can either be integrated into a vehicle (mast solution) or comes in transport boxes and can be easily set-up on tripods. Based on the Xpeller toolkit, the components follow the detect–identify–act workflow. They are thus capable of not only detecting but also successfully defeating hostile drones at ranges up to several kilometres.
 
L3T’s Drone Guardian
Drone Guardian provides a flexible and scalable system to counter an ever-growing threat from the illegal and hostile use of both commercial and military drones. The L3 Drone Guardian is hardware-agnostic and scalable with base system sensors including radar, camera and RF detection, while existing sensors and effectors can be readily integrated to suit a specific threat profile.
 
Drone Guardian provides a flexible and scalable C-UAS to meet the ever-growing threat from the illegal and hostile use of both commercial and military drones. Based on core L3 technology and developed over 25 years to provide air and missile defense applications for the integration and fusion of multiple sensors, Drone Guardian provides a cost-effective system that can be configured and optimised for the most demanding operational environments. Thanks to integration with L3’s combat-proven jamming capabilities and other effectors, the Drone Guardian provides a highly assured means to disrupt and defeat hostile drones in the most time-critical and challenging scenarios.
 
C-UAS systems are often configured around a central platform, with all sensors and effectors based at a central location and with inherent susceptibility to target obscuration and hostile action. L3’s Drone Guardian system can be configured to overcome these limitations through the careful placement of distributed radar, radio frequency and electro-optical sensors, and by integration of customers’ existing sensor assets. 
 
The data obtained from these sensors is fused to create alerts and engagement-quality tracks that can be shared and exploited by decision-makers and subsystems alike. The Drone Guardian’s capability can then be delivered through a range of business models, including for multi-use government and commercial applications under L3’s “Drone Detection as a Service” construct.
 
For example, the command and control software at the heart of the Drone Guardian system is provided by the Communication Systems business segment and can accept data from a wide variety of L3 sensors and subsystems, such as the high-resolution cameras from the Sensor Systems business segment. Similarly, the BROADSHIELD High-Power Compact System (HCS) active jammer system from the Sensor Systems segment has been successfully integrated into the Drone Guardian architecture to provide world-class defeat options. In turn, the Drone Guardian is easily integrated into other force protection and air defence capabilities, including airborne ISR and intelligence assets.
 
Lockheed “Detects. Identifies. Defeats.”
To eliminate drone threats, Lockheed Martin relies on three steps: Detect, Identify, Defeat.
 
Detect:  First, a radar like the Q-53 system will detect the threat and communicate that data through a battle management system, which then triggers a ‘kill chain’ to begin its execution.
 
Identify: Then, as part of the kill chain, operators can monitor the progress of the targets and identify whether they are friendly or unfriendly.
 
Defeat: Finally, to overcome the threats designated as ‘unfriendly’, troops will activate the laser weapon system or choose to use a cyber system like ICARUS to take down the threat.
Lockheed Martin engineers are now collaborating with customers and academia to research, develop and implement the technology that will detect and defeat swarms. Their system relies on many modular fiber lasers, while it is easily scalable to meet different levels of power. 
 
With this parallel approach, there is no single point of failure that will compromise the laser’s power and functionality so long as power exists. The laser weapon system can fire over and over, essentially creating an unlimited magazine of ‘bullets’.
 
Contrary to popular belief, the laser is invisible to the naked eye. However, once it starts up, it is sent steadily through a beam control system to ensure that it can aim, target and destroy the threat accurately and at the speed of light.
 
This high-power laser approach operates with an efficiency that generates less heat and can be contained in smaller packages than previous laser technology, which means it can serve onboard multiple platforms. In addition to laser weapon systems, a team of engineers has developed a cyber solution to defeat small drone threats, led by Mike Panczenko, Director of Engineering for Lockheed Martin’s Cyber Solutions business.
 
Built from internal investments, the ICARUS system can identify and intercept commercially available drones. Its multi-spectral sensor system detects and characterises incoming drones within seconds, before using cyber electromagnetic activity to disable it or allowing the operator to take control of the drone and move it to a safe area.
 
Through internal research and development, Lockheed Martin engineers have developed the Area Defence Anti-Munitions (or ADAM prototype) which has successfully defeated small boats and rockets. In addition, the Advanced Test High Energy Asset (or ATHENA system) has stopped drones and a truck in their tracks.
 
Today, U.S. forces are making initial efforts to integrate laser weapon systems into their platforms and weapon arsenals. This year, Lockheed Martin will supply the U.S. Army with a 60-kilowatt laser to mount on a large modified truck. The ground-based laser weapon system will be used to destroy rockets, artillery, cruise missiles, drones and other trucks or ground vehicles.
 
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