The recent weaponization of drones has seen its share of inventiveness. But now, militants in Yemen are foregoing clever hacks and add-ons for a far more blunt approach: ramming drones into anti-missile systems, to keep them from knocking ballistic missiles out of the sky.
The use of relatively cheap drones to blind multi-million dollar anti-ballistic missile systems isnt just an expensive battlefield annoyance. It shows how militant groups and smaller military forces in the Middle East are exploiting gaps in the air defenses of better-equipped forces by using drones in new and unexpected ways, increasing demand for counter-drone technologies in the process.
The United Arab Emirates, as part of a Saudi-led coalition, has been trying to oust the Houthi Ansar Allah movement in Yemen since Houthi militants seized control of the country from then-President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi in 2015. Recently, according to a report from weapons-tracking research organization Conflict Armament Research, the UAE picked up seven drones, used by the Houthi militia to render the coalitions Patriot ballistic missile defense systems unable to intercept missiles fired from Yemen into Saudi territory.
“They do so by crashing the UAVs into the systems radar sets (specifically the circular main phased arrays) directing the UAVs by programming their systems with open-source GPS coordinates of the Patriots positions,” according to the report.
That approach varies greatly from other weaponized drones in the region. In Iraq, the Islamic State uses commercial quadrotor drones as miniature bombers, raining grenade-sized munitions on Iraqi forces. Other militant groups, like Hezbollah and Jund al-Aqsa in Syria, have shown off their own munitions-dropping commercial drones, and Iraqi Federal Police have recently begun to turn the tactic against ISIS in Iraq. But the drones being used by Houthi militants are larger and capable of flying farther and faster than their converted hobbycraft cousins in the Middle East.
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