Tanks Are Vulnerable Against Drones. Congress Wants a Fix, Stat.

  • Congress desires the Army to guard armored vehicles from drones.

  • Drones have rapidly turn out to be a battlefield staple, and their small dimension and maneuverability means they’re uniquely harmful to tanks and related automobiles.

  • The Army must provide you with a technique to kill swarms of drones shifting quick towards armored automobile columns.

House lawmakers are asking the U.S. Army for particulars on the way it plans to guard armored automobiles from drone assaults. Specifically, the Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee desires to know the way the service will deploy Vehicle Protection Systems (VPS) that might hold automobile crews secure from drones, per its July 28 markup of the defense authorization bill for fiscal 12 months 2022.

Currently, the Army’s fleets of tanks, infantry combating automobiles, Strykers, and different armored automobiles lack particular defenses towards uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs). UAVs have rapidly turn out to be regulars on the battlefield, as guerrillas and different teams have adopted hobbyist drones and used them to assault automobiles as giant as primary battle tanks.

Photo credit score: ARIS MESSINIS – Getty Images

The drone risk towards armored automobiles is comparatively new. In the 2010s, armies used drones in Ukraine, Libya, Iraq, and Syria to drop primitive explosive payloads or to ship bomb fees Kamikaze-style. In 2017, a drone assault towards a Ukrainian ammunition dump destroyed an estimated $1 billion in munitions. Also in 2017, an ISIS drone dropped a small explosive device on an unsuspecting Iraqi Army tank, killing the commander as he stood uncovered exterior of his hatch. In January 2018, Russia’s Khmeimim airbase in northwest Syria was simultaneously attacked by a swarm of 13 fixed-wing drones.

Drones are quick and maneuverable, and because the ISIS assault illustrates, they do not should destroy the automobile to trigger crippling injury. Just a few ounces of explosives, delivered on the proper time and the correct place, can destroy an armored automobile a whole lot of occasions heavier than the drone itself.

To make issues worse, drone assault know-how is quickly evolving. Four years in the past, the state-of-the-art in assault drones was a hobbyist quadcopter, or a selfmade fixed-wing drone, rigged to drop a hand grenade or a mortar spherical. By 2020, Libyan forces had been utilizing autonomous drones to hunt down human targets, and the Israeli army used a drone swarm to assault militants within the Gaza Strip earlier this 12 months.

All of this makes anti-drone protection an more and more complicated job, placing present know-how in peril of falling behind—defenses launched simply 4 years in the past are already on the verge of obsolescence. A small caliber cannon, like the one on the new Stryker air defense vehicle, may kill a handful of drones, however fail to cease a full-on drone swarm, as an illustration. And then there are handheld and vehicle-mounted radio jammers, which might interrupt the command sign between a drone and its operator, however new autonomous drones do not even require a wi-fi hyperlink to assault their targets.

Photo credit: Georgios Moumoulidis/DVIDS

Photo credit score: Georgios Moumoulidis/DVIDS

That all provides as much as a dismal actuality: the U.S. Army is falling behind in coping with the drone risk. Although Stryker models are receiving the brand new Stryker air protection automobile (pictured above), heavier forces using Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles lack a devoted resolution. Meanwhile, the service has been fixated on including lively safety techniques (APS) to its armored automobile fleets as a result of they insulate towards anti-tank rockets and missiles. But that effort has not gone nicely, with solely Abrams tanks carrying any form of anti-missile safety.

The ultimate Army protection is likely to be a microwave weapon that may cowl a broad arc, taking down a number of drones directly—principally, an electromagnetic model of a flamethrower. Or one thing extra kinetic, like a long-range, rapid-fire shotgun. Nearby pleasant troops wouldn’t welcome both resolution, nevertheless, as each stray birdshots or microwave radiation might hit them.

For now, the simplest approach for American tanks to counter drones is to roll up on the bottom controlling them and stage it. Drone drawback = solved.

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