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SOFIC 2017: Quadcopters and air superiority

17th May 2017 - 13:02 by Scott Gourley in Tampa, Florida

SOFIC 2017: Quadcopters and air superiority

Commercially available small quadcopter technologies, combined with adaptive enemy tactics, techniques and procedures, are prompting new definitions of ‘air superiority.’

The situation was highlighted at this week’s SOFIC gathering by Gen Raymond Thomas, Commander of USSOCOM.

Referring to the growing battlefield threat posed by near peer adversaries, Thomas added, ‘Even less capable, but no less determined foes are presenting nuanced and deadly new tactics, techniques and procedures, exploiting readily available technology.’

‘I recently returned from Syria and Iraq, where this last year’s most daunting problem was an adaptive enemy who, for a while, enjoyed tactical superiority in the airspace under our superior conventional air superiority, in the form of commercially available drones and field expedient weapon systems,’ he said, adding that the only initial response available ‘was small arms fire.’

He elaborated on the scenario later in his presentation, identifying the location as ‘near Mosul’ and offering, ’Fresh off the battlefield were a couple of our operators who had just an off the shelf - $2000 a copy – quad copter that had a 40mm weapons device that had been attached to it. This is how adaptive the enemy was.’

Referring vaguely to ‘a day that the Iraqi effort almost came to a screeching halt,’ Thomas said, ‘literally in the span of 24 hours there were up to 70 drones in the air – at one time 12 “killer bees” if you will overhead and underneath our air superiority. So that was kind of the crux. We dominated the airspace, but inside that you had off the shelf technology dropping 40mm nuggets on you.’

‘So it was an immediate challenge representing an adaptive enemy, he summarised. ‘But over time folks have come up with a full array of things to address both the problem and the network.’

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