Are Air Defense Systems Ready to Confront Drone Swarms?

(Defense News) Seth J. Frantzman - According to the Saudi Defense Ministry, 18 drones and seven cruise missiles were fired at Saudi Arabia's Abqaiq and Khurais oil facilities on Sept. 14. Impeded by radar ranges as well as the speed and angle of the drones and missiles, Saudi air defenses did not engage the drones. "If U.S.-supplied air defenses were not oriented to defend against an attack from Iran, that's incomprehensible. If they were, but they were not engaged, that's incompetent. If they simply weren't up to the task of preventing such precision attacks, that's concerning," said former U.S. ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro, a visiting fellow at Israel's Institute for National Security Studies. "And it would seem to validate Israeli concerns that even effective air and missile defense systems, as Israel has, could be overwhelmed by a sufficient quantity of precision-guidance missiles." IDF Brig.-Gen. Pini Yungman, former air defense commander with the Israel Air Force, noted, "Drones, even drone swarms, are not a strategic threat, even if you take dozens to attack. They carry a very low weight of bomb or ammunition." Uzi Rubin, former director of the Israel Missile Defense Organization, doesn't think what happened in Saudi Arabia could happen in Israel. "We have a smaller area, and that has an advantage in many respects because it is an advantage in controlling our airspace." "When it comes to guarding, the issue is things that can sneak in near the ground," Rubin explained. He said shooting down drone swarms can be accomplished with anti-aircraft guns, noting that Iraq downed several Tomahawk cruise missiles in 1991 after discovering their flight path.

2019-09-27 00:00:00

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