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How to Defeat Drones?


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We have all seen the writing on the wall in Ukraine. Drones, big and small are playing an increasingly large part. Larger drones or UAV can be taken out by traditional air defences like SAM, anti-aircraft guns, etc. But what of the smaller drones? The store bought drones? The kamikaze disposable drones? The drones that attack en masse. How do you stop them? I believe the Russians are using jamming on the drone frequencies. But how effective is that? Do you use small arms to bring it down? Can conventional SAMs even detect something so small, and is it worth blowing say a Rapier missile on one of these things? Do you use a drone to kill another drone? What anti-drone doctrine is out there, if any?

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Given the small size rifle caliber bullets should suffice in many cases but I'd prefer 20mm because the shells self destruct, bullets don't and that's a problem in friendly territory. 

Detection is probably the biggest problem. The total surface area of a Lancet is (WAG) less than four square meters, it's mostly plastic. Not much of a radar return. And she flies low and slow. Uses an electric motor too, so not much IR either. 

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In fact you probably want timed self-destruct set by a range-finding FCS, because otherwise you'll spray a lot of bullets/shells at a rather small and cheap moving target. Various ammo-FCS combos for 40 mm AGLs are available, like the HK GMG in Kongsberg Protector RCWS with Nammo airburst ammunition ordered by the Bundeswehr (though guidance by a Hensoldt Spexer radar is a rather high-end solution), the Spanish Guardian turret with Mk 19 AGL and the same ammo, or the Turkish Sahin with homegrown ATOM 40 HEDP-AB.

You could probably downsize that to 40 mm LV/MV grenades for individual weapons if you can integrate a range-finding sensor capable of tracking those small moving targets; something like a radar gun, as a laser is probably too focused to be kept on a minidrone with a handheld weapon. So far the solution there seems to be stuff like net grenades, obviously a short-ranged solution.

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2 hours ago, Dawes said:

Go even cheaper - a couple rounds of buckshot (or birdshot) should disable a Wal-Mart sized drone.

But do you want to shoot at something that has explosives in it from such a short range? 

Does a VT shell get enough return signal from a plastic or cardboard drone? And what's the smallest VT shell size? Programmable 30mm exists, so VT should too but has it been shrunk down to 20mm? 

Edited by Markus Becker
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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shrapnel_shell

Programmable or not, especially considering AHEAD and the like are fancy multipurpose programmable Shrapnel shells, that are way too much expensive.

Perhaps bursts of shells with fixed, different timing could do the same as a burst of AHEAD.

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Some sort of directed energy or jamming device to disrupt the drone's electronics may be most practical.  Drones are so small and cheap that projectile systems may not be economical or effective.  How much does even small VT rounds cost, compared to a palm-sized drone carrying a camera?  A jammer while it may be pricier per unit, is far cheaper to operate than a gun and doesn't have to be as precise.

Edited by shep854
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95% problem is detection, not engagement. Even radar equipped vehicles have to use filthers to get rid of specific reflections, otherwise display will get so cluthered to the point of uselessness. That enables drones to sneak in occasionally. Also AD vehicles work at certain sectors of circle, even when in theory capable of 360 engagement, again for both clutter problem and friendly fire reasons.

Commercial drones can be dealt by relatively simple autonomous jammers, that will be eventually applied to all vehicles. Larger (but not MALE like ones) by Bn level AD, mix of jamming and proxy/programmable rounds engagement.

And in the end one would have to accept that drones, just like any other weapon before will be able to inflict casualties, no matter what you do to try to prevent it.

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1 hour ago, bojan said:

95% problem is detection, not engagement. Even radar equipped vehicles have to use filthers to get rid of specific reflections, otherwise display will get so cluthered to the point of uselessness. That enables drones to sneak in occasionally. Also AD vehicles work at certain sectors of circle, even when in theory capable of 360 engagement, again for both clutter problem and friendly fire reasons.

Commercial drones can be dealt by relatively simple autonomous jammers, that will be eventually applied to all vehicles. Larger (but not MALE like ones) by Bn level AD, mix of jamming and proxy/programmable rounds engagement.

And in the end one would have to accept that drones, just like any other weapon before will be able to inflict casualties, no matter what you do to try to prevent it.

 

Jammers being active broadcasters will give away your position. I like what the Algerians are doing with ZSU-23-4, an obsolete vehicle now being used for it's anti-drone capability. 

Edited by TrustMe
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14 hours ago, BansheeOne said:

In fact you probably want timed self-destruct set by a range-finding FCS, because otherwise you'll spray a lot of bullets/shells at a rather small and cheap moving target. Various ammo-FCS combos for 40 mm AGLs are available, like the HK GMG in Kongsberg Protector RCWS with Nammo airburst ammunition ordered by the Bundeswehr (though guidance by a Hensoldt Spexer radar is a rather high-end solution), the Spanish Guardian turret with Mk 19 AGL and the same ammo, or the Turkish Sahin with homegrown ATOM 40 HEDP-AB.

You could probably downsize that to 40 mm LV/MV grenades for individual weapons if you can integrate a range-finding sensor capable of tracking those small moving targets; something like a radar gun, as a laser is probably too focused to be kept on a minidrone with a handheld weapon. So far the solution there seems to be stuff like net grenades, obviously a short-ranged solution.

wiki has a section on SAGM fuses for 40mm AGLs. Developed by ARDEC, they have a sensor that detonates it in an airburst. That should be effective against drones if shooter spots them in time.

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Agree with the posts that mention detection is the hardest issue. Very small radar returns at speeds AD radars traditionally filter out, with many other objects potentially able to generate false positives. EO/IR also difficult. A fair amount of computing power and multiple sensors will probably ultimately be necessary. I think every armored vehicle will have to play a role in detection in the future. It seems likely that AI will be developed to ID targets from the EO/IR sensors on future vehicles; UAV detection would be part of that suite. Those vehicles that use a radar for an active protection system will also have to time share it as a UAV detection system. Secondary remote weapons stations will need to have some kind of basic short ranged engagement capability against very small low speed airborne targets. At higher formation levels, dedicated anti UAV vehicles will have to provide longer ranged cover to formations via soft and hard kill (for instance something like MSHORADS or DE-MSHORADS). Higher echelons will have dedicated area jamming systems.

Engagement isn't all that difficult if you have a target track, be it conventional canon or some kind of directed energy. The latter has a lot more up front costs but can engage large numbers of targets for extended periods of time. Jamming of the communications like is also necessary, though those jammers have to be mobile to survive. Perhaps the most cost effective surveillance and engagement method will be using your own drones. The US already has developed both kinetic kill drones and HPM emitters. Much like conventional AD, there isn't a once size fits all solution - it will be a combination of detection, hardkill, and softkill techniques. And no system is perfect.

Edited by Josh
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On 9/29/2023 at 4:33 PM, Ssnake said:

HELs will be part of the mix, but weather dependency is a concern.

I think it will be a while before FPV and other low-end drones will be of any use in weather that would impede HELs, bearing in mind that rain screws with comms ranges quite well, and with the view through the cameras too.

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Manual drone watches should be emphasized.  Eyeballs and ears can pick up a lot that may slip past other detection methods.  They are also quite prolific!

Edited by shep854
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It's going to take a tiered approach, and the problem is if you miss any one part, it will be exploited by competent foes over the span of a Ukraine length conflict. Detection is the most difficult part; once found, hard or soft killing them is a little easier.  The sword and shield battle of countermeasures and counter countermeasures is easy to play out in your mind.

Let's skip ahead a little, beyond what we're seeing in Ukraine -- the punchline is this...

1. Eventually every vehicle you don't want destroyed will have to have some sort of counter-drone system with both active and passive autonomous detection, as well as soft and hard kill capability, including both man in the loop and automatic engagement functionality.  Nothing less will do, and this includes soft skinned vehicles, trucks, everything.  Formation coverage by SPAA is useful, but inadequate on its own.  You simply can't protect friendly vehicles in close, channelized terrain (tree canyons, MOUT, etc) using area systems against pop up threats, the vehicles need their own point defenses.  You can probably count on one hand the amount of countries that will actually be able to accomplish this given the costs involved.

2. Light infantry operating away from vehicles are going to struggle the most, and will need their own counter-drone systems.   Throwing them a space rifle 2.4/5.8 jammer with yagi antenna ain't going to cut it  You're looking at a dedicated operator for the counter drone stuff due to weight and energy requirements of the detector and jammer (think backpack with mobile Aeroscope and staring EO suite for presence detection and direction finding, along with omnidirectional Thor III like jammer), and most likely you will start seeing some sort of mini-interceptor drones that will automatically intercept the detected threats since they're not going to be able to carry a whole RWS around with them. SOF might have dedicated MALE with broad spectrum jamming supporting their operation to keep the low-tech threats away.

3. We will also start seeing brilliant area attack and denial systems that are immune to soft-kill countermeasures.  Imagine a ground or air delivered CBU-97 like critter, but instead of skeet submunitions, the cargo is a bunch of autonomous drones with multi-spectral cooperative seek, identify and destroy function.  You can sanitize an entire grid square, with the sub-munitions flying for 10 minutes or more seeking targets with DPICM sized HEDP warhead, and since these would function entirely autonomously they are not susceptible to soft kill countermeasures like jamming. They can coordinate without communicating by using AI to recognize vehicles that have already been struck and are burning or destroyed, armed vs unarmed individuals, whether that heat signature is a corpse or a hiding person.  This is possible right now, with today's technology.  Slip phantomworks or skunk works a couple hundred million and you'll have them in a year or two. 
Launch some at airfields via tomahawk, ground launched ATACMs payload, air delivered cluster munitions, etc. Counter-drone mode for an RWS like CROWS is nice and will still be useful, but it can only engage one thing at a time. Eventually you're going to need mini-interceptor drone dispensers (think chaff/flare dispensers) linked to your active protection system on vehicles to deal with threats like these, or wide beam directed energy microwave weapons on dedicated platforms.

4. Even in a heavy EW environment, drones with long zoom cameras will still be a major threat.  Ie, somewhere in this background clutter a little tethered drone is sticking it's little top-mounted gopro sized pecker up over one of these manmade obstacles and directing artillery on you, and there's not shit you can do to interrupt that part of the killchain except try not to be seen.

 

Edited by Burncycle360
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