US Security Against Drone Warfare

Published: April 26, 2019

DEFENSEDefense & AerospaceHomeland SecurityInformation TechnologyInformation TechnologyResearch & DevelopmentResearch and DevelopmentUnmanned Systems

Drones have been an important part of the US Military’s arsenal since its invention. It is widely used for surveillance and precision strikes on enemy targets and has shown promising potential with a high rate of success. Since the turn of the century, the US Military has conducted numerous drone missions in countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Somalia, and Yemen. 

Based on a report by the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College, spending for drones in Fiscal Year 2019 is as follows: anticipated expenditure for ground drones was set at $429 million, $982 million is expected for naval drones, and a massive $6.05 billion is planned for aerial drones.

However, the use of drones is not exclusive to the United States alone. Other countries like Israel, China, Iran, Italy, India, Pakistan, Russia, Turkey, and Poland are known to have or currently manufacture operational unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAV) aside from the United States as of 2019.

It is not a far-fetched possibility that one day a US Military drone may be shot down or captured by a terrorist group. As drones are basically flying computers they can be hacked and their technology replicated. Placed in the wrong hands, this could have devastating results.

As drone technology becomes more common and accessible, the functionality will become easier to manufacture. As a matter of fact, commercial drones has been part of our everyday life as they are now commonly used by regular civilians for photography, delivery, and even for leisure. It is not hard to imagine that even commercial drones can be weaponized and used in a terrorist attack.

          An academic who studies drone warfare, James Rogers stated, "There is a big debate out there at the moment about what the best way is to counter these small UAVs, whether they are used by hobbyists causing a bit of a nuisance or in a more sinister manner by a terrorist actor."

          Fortunately, the United States Government is always on the move to secure the country’s safety and protect its people and interests in case of such attacks. Based on an article by Ian Duncan of The Baltimore Sun, “Much of the U.S. military's research into fighting drones is secret. But contracting and budget documents show that officials are exploring a range of approaches, from the tried and true — machine guns — to cutting-edge technology that includes electronic jamming and laser cannons. Maryland, with its complex of military installations, defense contractors and research universities, is in the thick of the fight. The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel is working with the Navy on drone defense. Naval Air Station Patuxent River and the University of Maryland conduct research on unmanned systems, and the Maryland test site is being used to figure out ways to identify drones.

In regards to drone defense, Deltek has been tracking efforts aimed at strengthening the U.S. Military’s drone defense capability.


          This requirement aims to provide defense against low altitude attacks. According to the Sources Sought Notice, “The U.S. Marine Corps Program Executive Officer Land Systems (PEO LS), Program Manager Ground Based Air Defense (PM GBAD) has a requirement to integrate and deliver a drone kinetic defeat system onto a Marine Corps vehicle platform to meet defeat requirements for the Future Weapons Systems Increment 1 (FWS Inc. 1) – Marine Air Defense Integrated System (MADIS) program of record.  This RFI is focused on the existing commercially available drone kinetic defeat technology that is Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 8/9 with the capability to meet production and fielding requirements of the MADIS Program FY21 through FY25. “

          The contractor shall “integrate and deliver a drone kinetic defeat system with the capability to defeat the range of threats under Low Altitude Air Defense (LAAD) area of responsibility, at the halt or on the move.”

          This effort is currently in the Pre-RFP stage.


          This requirement aims to upgrade, modernize, and support the Air Force’s weapon testing and evaluation on aerial targets. According to the Request For information issued, this requirement shall support critical mission capabilities that include:

  • Track & control of unmanned aerial targets (full scale and subscale)
  • Track of other assigned mission participants (to include shooters, missiles, beacons, master/relay/slave sites, range support aircraft, and radio frequency (RF) relay platforms)
  • Safety destruct of errant Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM)
  • Safety destruct of errant full scale aerial targets
  • Safety flight termination of errant subscale aerial targets

          This effort is currently in the Forecast Phase as Deltek does not anticipate the RFP to be issued until 2022.

Govwin ID 166700 PMA 208 C BAND TRANSPONDER 17007:

          This effort aims to improve radar tracking capability specifically precision tracking of aircraft, sounding rockets, space-launch vehicles, missiles, and target drones, both sea and airborne and is used primarily to support range safety functions.

          According to the RFP, the contractor shall “Design, build, and test, first article and production C-Band Radar Tracking Transponders which meet the requirements of Performance Specification PMA208-C-Band Radar Tracking Transponder -7007, and are in accordance with RCC 262-14 (June 2014) as tailored by Performance Specification PMA208-C-Band Transponder-17007 (08 Mar 2018).”

          The Solicitation for this requirement was issued on April 1, 2019. Proposals are due no later than 2:00 PM on May 14, 2019.

For today, it is safe to say the United States is ahead in terms of drone technology as it enjoys an almost exclusive use of armed drones for Military operations. However, it is only a matter of time before the rest of the world catches up and threatens it with the very same weaponized pilotless aircraft it uses so effectively and efficiently against its enemies. If the United States wants to stay a step ahead in drone technology, for attack and defense purposes, it will have to rely not just in millions of dollars in spending. The US Government will have to come up with policies and regulations that will prevent enemies from obtaining and using weaponized drones.