Islamic State Using Drones For Psychological Suppression In Battle

first published on February 5, 2018 by

On the battlefield there is a saying: “Movement without fire is suicide.” This is how the Islamic State is changing the game by gaining suppression without firing a single shot. The tactic is simple, and extremely effective. All they require is a few successful bomb drops against an enemy force, and in the future they will gain suppression through nothing more than the auditory queue that indicates a quad-copter drone is in the area.

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It is no secret that the groups on the ground fighting across Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan are under-equipped and under-trained. In these spaces, we often see innovations coming to the battlefield as necessity continuously rears its face and exacts a blood toll. We are seeing a new trend arise from the now-battered Islamic State. As their forces continue to shrink and dwindle, and their supply chains are decimated by larger more effective forces, they have been pushed into developing new tactics. One such tactic we have seen arise will be on the battlefield for as long as there are battlefields in existence.

A retail purchased, or homemade quad copter drone is capable of far more than ever imagined. Designed specifically for the purpose of making aerial photography more accessible to the regular consumer, we have seen them stretched far past those limits. Beyond voyeurism and racing however, these little drones have been fully weaponized, and turned into dangerous tools of destruction. The Islamic State in particular has been using them with great effects, from conducting fly-by hand grenade and mortar attacks, to even using them as key command and control tools that allow them to overtake their enemies with far superior knowledge of the battle space.

On top of this, they have now figured out that they can use the drones to psychologically suppress their enemies and give themselves the freedom of movement that they need in order to maneuver in a heavily contested area of operation. In the video below, we see a drone harassing a group of SDF fighters in Raqqa. The drone has a small payload attached, but it never drops. Instead, it just pursues the SDF fighters and forces them into hard cover. The psychological effect on the SDF fighters is nearly incapacitating as they quickly rush to get themselves to safety. In turn, this suppression probably allows Islamic State fighters to encircle them, and engage them from far superior positions while the drone operator feeds them intelligence.

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There is already a lot of rules and regulations in place concerning drones in the United States and other countries. There are also companies that are working on electronic counter-measures that will drop drones out of the sky at the push of a button. With that said however, it may only be a matter of time until we see retail and homemade drones being used to conduct attacks on soft targets of opportunity in western countries. With the battlefield testing that has already been conducted by terror groups like the Islamic State, how long do we think it will be until some of these plans are pushed to terror cells that are hiding and operating right here in our own countries.

Vehicle attacks, mass shootings and stabbings, acid attacks and muggings, may be the least of our worries moving into the future. Imagine what one of these, if modified and weaponized properly, could do at a sporting event or concert that is not properly protected.