I read with great interest the articles devoted to the problems of countering unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). A lot of valuable information for reflection and for fruitful discussions.
I fully agree with the authors that the greatest problem for modern air defense systems is mini-, micro and nano-UAVs. Large vehicles are not a problem at all for military air defense because of their relative low speed and dependence in remote control maneuvering. Their ability to more sharp anti-aircraft maneuvers compared with aircraft provides an advantage only when protected from man-portable air defense systems. Such UAVs can be relatively successful for long-range attacks of a obviously technically weak adversary, as in Afghanistan and Yemen. The experience of the Georgian 2008 campaign of the year showed that fighters easily destroy even medium-sized UAVs. And large ones are only interesting as the beginning of the development of unmanned aerial platforms for exotic weapons of the future.
BLA's emerged, developed and improved as typical weapon guerrilla, sabotage and terrorist rebellions. They are conducted by mobile lightly armed units, the purpose of which is not to capture and hold territory, but to inflict maximum damage on the enemy, primarily in humans. In this way, a weaker armed man can achieve exhaustion and demoralization of the enemy. The stronger side is trying to destroy the militants with the least human and material losses for themselves, relying on their military-technical capabilities. It should be noted that the first and most important thing, for which all types of modern UAVs are being created, is reconnaissance in the enemy's position, target designation and fire adjustment. It is precisely these that are the most dangerous now small-sized UAVs, because they allow to deliver the most accurate strikes from long-range, protected and closed positions with minimal ammunition expenditure. Large drone drone - a threat only to those who do not have a full-fledged air defense. True, in recent times there have been opportunities for waging electronic warfare using drones. There are reports that one medium type UAV with EW equipment is capable of suppressing all radio electronics 10 kilometers around it. But such opportunities are hardly applicable in conventional front-line operations, because their own radio communications and radar will be suppressed. So it is more likely for specially planned operations of a front-line or counter-guerrilla nature.
Since the number of various insurrections and wars around the world is growing like an avalanche in our time, governments have quickly appreciated the Israeli experience in the use of UAVs and have begun to actively implement their armed forces in their practice. The Americans widely used drones in Afghanistan and Iraq, the British in the Special Airborne Service, the French equipped the Foreign Legion with these devices. NATO units in Europe are also intensely saturated with various UAVs. They are an indispensable part of the armament of private military companies.
From this point on, I will start arguing with respected experts. Their approaches are that mass armies, which are approximately equal in armament and size, appear in the theater of operations, which create solid fronts and defensive lines. In our time, such events are impossible for many reasons. Therefore, I will confine myself to the remark that if a war would nevertheless follow this scenario, then the use of small UAVs would devalue by itself even without special means of protection against them. Experts themselves said that launch sites and control of such UAVs should be deployed in the front line or on the battlefield. So there is no need to protect themselves from these UAVs. It is enough, noting that the “bird” has flown out, to immediately start the launch pad from artillery or mortars, and there will be no one to control the drone, receive data from it and meet if it returns. But even if he performs his task, the unit, which is thus reconnoitered, must be quickly prepared for the usual fire attack, changing the location of those “items” that the enemy would very much like to eliminate. I do not think that in a platoon or company it is difficult to do.
The experience of confronting mass armies with the large-scale use of small UAVs was only in the last US-Iraq war, when they overthrew Saddam Hussein. The US Armed Forces then quickly seized dominance in the air, large infantrytank enemy groups, his army lost control and demoralized, after which the occupying forces occupied all the cities of the country. But then the Iraqis came to their senses, reorganized and started a guerrilla war in small mobile groups along roads and in cities. And, by the way, there were cases when they successfully used their small drones to control the fire of mortars and small-caliber MLRS on the chassis of high-speed off-road vehicles. And this tactic nullified everything that the American army originally achieved in Iraq.
Now directly on how to deal with small UAVs. In their articles, the authors considered many possibilities and potential technical solutions. I will begin with the analysis of these proposals. I will not consider the methods of electronic warfare against UAVs, because the current capabilities are a double-edged sword, as they can harm not only the enemy, and besides, they are complex and cumbersome.
I fully agree with the authors that it is necessary to intensively develop tools for the timely detection and tracking of UAVs, as well as reliable sights. And all this should be easy and small to miniature. As for the means of destruction of the UAV, then again there is something to argue about.
The authors solve the problem of the destruction of small UAVs in the context of frontal military operations, but do not take into account the multitude of objective difficulties that will fundamentally hinder the use of such UAVs in such situations. This includes the possibility of strong radio interference, placing smoke screens, the danger of fire raids at the UAV control station on the battlefield and in the front-line zone. I repeat that small drones initially paid off for battles with guerrilla units that did not have any way to protect against BLAH, except for quick withdrawal and primitive masking.
It is worth recalling that small UAVs can be detected by modern means only at distances that do not allow current anti-aircraft systems to be quickly prepared for effective shooting at such targets, but even if they succeed in firing targeted fire in time, the current UAVs are very bad at small UAVs. To solve this problem, it is proposed to create an entire air defense subsystem to combat small UAVs, equipped with many types of weapons specifically designed for this purpose. According to experts, for reliable destruction of micro and nano-UAVs, it is required to design weapons based on new physical principles (laser, beam, electromagnetic, etc.), to increase the detection range, you need to use towers, aerostats and helicopters with special radars. It is proposed to dramatically increase the density of anti-aircraft artillery fire, to develop projectiles with increased destructive ability, so that they would break apart near the UAV and create clouds of threads, needles, small fragments, use oculometric sensors, so that the anti-aircraft gun could directly control the fire of the gun ... It is said about electromagnetic guns and Missiles with powerful emitters, laser weapons. What can you say? On the one hand, it can be recalled that among other valuable qualities of small UAVs there is such as low cost in manufacturing and operation. That is, they can not particularly regret, quickly recovering losses. But the means of dealing with them are encouraged to develop, as if it is a strategic weapon. The application of all of the above will be at least an order of magnitude more expensive than those UAVs that must be destroyed. In addition, the development of all these tools takes an unknown amount of time and a lot of money. And when all the same it will do, you get something complex and cumbersome, immobile, with poor maintainability. Wouldn't it be better to follow the example of the NATO members, who for now are not at all concerned with the creation of separate subsystems for dealing with small UAVs.
I think that now we should solve the problem of saturating the Russian troops with domestic UAVs with the performance characteristics that are not inferior to the NATO models, creating opportunities for their continuous modernization and improvement. And the task of combating them should be solved without haste, based not on the theoretical needs of frontal operations on an army scale, but on the specific needs of mobile tactical groups, airborne units and special forces.
During the Anglo-Boer War in South Africa, the Boers successfully used their guns against the British to hunt elephants and rhinos. These heavy muzzle-loading smooth-bore guns were loaded with canister and, when fired, they successfully hit small enemy clusters at a distance from 700 to 1500 steps, that is, to 750 meters. The maximum altitude of the flight of the nano-UAV - 300, micro - 1000, mini - 5000 meters. In addition, all these UAVs can only work in clear, windless weather and are terribly vulnerable.
Birds in flight, as you know, beat fraction. Why not create a smooth-bore shotgun capable of sighting and heaping and launching a shot sheaf at a range of about 400 meters. Technically it can be solved. The barrel, of course, will be long, its channel should be narrowed accordingly to the barrel for accuracy and firing range. Required and ammunition of appropriate power. So that the “instrument” does not come out heavy, it is worthwhile to apply modern composites in its manufacture. So that the recoil when firing does not tear the shoulder and do not knock down, try to design a spring butt or make the barrel move like a gun on a gun carriage.
Now about aiming. Small UAVs are visually detected when looking towards 200 – 400, and from the side, 500 – 700 meters, and at an optical viewfinder - at 2 – 3 kilometers. It is quite enough to make a gun and capture the target. True, the shooting will be a sniper type, besides an optical-electronic sight, you will need a ballistic computer for speed corrections and other interference. In general, a gun with a big stretch will fit only for hunting nano-UAVs, and others only if they descend to the appropriate heights. But all these shortcomings are easily removed, if by the same principles to create multi-barreled anti-aircraft automatic guns for firing shot. Here and ammunition will be more powerful, and the trunks are longer. Sights and calculators - by itself. And installations can turn out light, compact, they can be put on SUVs or carts carried by pack animals. It is not necessary to do anti-aircraft guns, beating on kilometers. 400 – 500 meters sighting range is enough. And helicopters that correspond to them in speed, altitude and maneuverability let them hunt UAVs with greater flight altitude. And they shoot these UAVs from the same automatic shotguns as in ground anti-aircraft installations. This will be an adequate response to the problem of small UAVs.
There is information that work on a hummingbird-sized nano-UAV is underway in Israel. They are intended to detect and target high-precision weapons on very small groups and even single snipers and terrorists in Zelenka, buildings or terrain folds. Such "hummingbirds" should detect and even pursue their objects before they are destroyed. But there is a pattern: the smaller the UAV, the lower the ceiling with which it can operate effectively, the less its speed and mobility. I believe that the usual shotgun-shotgun, which many armies are already armed for close combat, will fit for hunting such “hummingbirds”. Only it is necessary to supply it not with framing, but shotgun ammunition for better striking.
The satirist Mikhail Zadornov has a reprise of how unlucky Americans spent a lot of time, money and effort to create a ballpoint pen for working in weightlessness, while our cosmonauts wrote without problems with pencils. It seems that in the issue of combat drones, we have changed places. Now from the American Agency for Advanced Study DARPA comes information on the development of smart bullets for 50-caliber sniper rifles. These ammunition are designed to hit small UAVs at long distances. To hit the target, simply capture it into the appropriate aiming device and shoot, and then the bullet will do everything itself. Such ammunition, of course, cost money, but it is much cheaper than drones.