Andrew Liptak | The Verge | Source URL
On Thursday, a US Navy ship in the Persian Gulf reportedly used a new, anti-drone system to take down an Iranian drone that came within a thousand yards, according to Military.com.
In a statement, the Department of Defense confirmed that the USS Boxer was moving through the Strait of Hormuz when it was approached by a fixed-wing drone which “closed within a threatening range,” which prompted the ship’s crew to take “defensive action.” Iran has denied the allegation.
According to C4ISRNET, the Marines aboard the USS Boxer used a new system called a MRZR LMADIS — a Light Marine Air Defense Integrated System. The system is mounted on a Polaris MRZR vehicle, which has appeared in DoD photos of the ship. USNI News says that it’s the “first known kill by a new generation of electronic warfare and directed energy weapons” by the US.
.@DeptofDefense photos of the USS Boxer's inbound transit through the Strait of Hormuz today. During the transit, Marines on board destroyed an Iranian drone that "closed within a threatening range" using counter-drone jamming equipment. pic.twitter.com/Fe0PEtPXFw
— Elizabeth McLaughlin (@Elizabeth_McLau) July 18, 2019
The system is comprised of two vehicles — one a “command node,” and the other a “sensor node.” The vehicles are outfitted with radar sensors, cameras, and radio frequency detectors and jammers. Once the crew is able to detect a threat, they use the jammer to disrupt the signals from the drone. While the system has been tested out on land by ground forces, Military.com reports that the Navy and Marines began testing the system on ships earlier this year.
The incident comes a month after the Iranian military shot down a US spy drone in the same region. The US military has begun to take the threats posed by drones more seriously in recent years as cheap commercial devices have made their way onto the market, and as foreign militaries invest more in the technology.
As USNI News points out, a jamming system is a cost-effective means of defense. A couple of years ago, a US ally used a $3 million Patriot missile to take down a $200 drone — an expensive proposition. In this instance, the USS Boxer had defensive missile systems in place, which it could have used to take down the UAV, or the 5-inch guns that are part of its Phalanx Close-in Weapons Systems. But those systems aren’t always effective: guns and missiles can miss. But directed-energy weapons are cheaper to operate and are a bit more effective, as this particular drone discovered.
The US military has launched numerous experiments when it comes to using directed-energy weapons against drones and missiles. The US Air Force unveiled a new system called THOR (Tactical High Power Microwave Operational Responder) in June, designed to take down swarms of drones, while the US Army began investing in high-powered microwave cannons to take down drones last year.