American Anti-Drone Rifle Deployed In Iraq

Tactical cyberwar against ISIS

Battelle's DroneDefender

Battelle's DroneDefender

This is a gun-shaped antenna designed to send drones crashing to the ground.Screenshot by author, from YouTube

War always changes. The deep, unyielding nature of human conflict, maybe that too, but the technology of war? That stuff is always changing. With the advent of cheap, modern camera-carrying and video-streaming commercially available drones, it was only a matter of time before people would try to use them on the battlefield. Russian-backed rebels in Ukraine use cheap drones, as does ISIS in Syria and Iraq. With new drones in enemy hands, new anti-drone weapons were inevitable too.

Submitted to Popular Science Eastern Arsenal blogger and New America senior fellow Peter W. Singer by a battlefield correspondent, the Battelle Drone Defender is an anti-drone rifle that's made its way to an American firebase in Iraq.

Also pictured is “Ghost Fleet,” the future-war book Singer co-authored with August Cole.

The system has the ability to disrupt the user’s control link to their drone as well as its ability to sync with a GPS network. It is unclear what type of frequency the rifle uses to attack its target, but the size of the dual front-mounted antennas suggest that the disruption pulse is distributed across multiple radio frequency bands. The rifle has a range of roughly 400 yards, will hit a drone in a 30-degree cone and can be ready to use and fire in less than a second, according to the site. Aside from the antennas and the attached battery pack, the anti-drone rifle appears to be very similar to the M-16/M-4 series of rifles carried by U.S. troops, including a similar stock and attachment system for accessories such as scopes and flashlights.

We saw West Point cadets train with a cyber rifle earlier this summer to prepare for situations like this. That rifle only worked on one specific type of drone, but in the training scenario it was clear why troops would want it: a drone can spot attackers easily if not knocked out of the sky, and no one wants to be standing where an artillery strike was just called in.

Unlike the West Point demonstration rifle, the Battelle Drone Defender appears designed for use in battle. We don’t know much more, yet, about what it’s doing in Iraq, but the picture shows one clear modification: a rugged plastic cover for the rifle’s antennas, to keep them safe from the desert’s dust.