By Evan Stewart
In a recent speech to an audience at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Global Force Symposium, General David Perkins, commander of the U.S. Army Training Doctrine Command, recounted how a $3,000,000 Patriot missile was used to shoot down a small $200 quadcopter consumer drone purchased off of Amazon.
Gen. Perkins reported that a close U.S. ally carried out the attack, stating “A very close ally of ours was dealing with an adversary that was using the small quadcopter UASes and they shot it down with a Patriot missile. Now, that worked, they got it…that quadcopter that cost $200 from Amazon.com did not stand a chance against a Patriot.”
The prominent question at hand is the economic practicality of using such a highly priced weapon to take out such an inexpensive device. Gen. Perkins commented that there are much more cost-effective ways of dealing with threats such as these, stating, “There’s ways to get at this with electronic warfare, with cyber.” He went on to say what would stop the enemy from buying up enough of these affordable devices and take out the entire supply of Patriot missiles. Research experts have also reported that it is much easier and cost-effective to use jamming devices to prevent these types of drones from entering restricted areas as opposed to shooting them down.
Patriot missiles are radar-guided missiles specifically designed to take down fast-moving targets such as enemy aircraft and ballistic missiles. Perkins referred to the action as an “enormous overkill,” making the comparison using a shotgun to kill a fly as opposed to a fly swatter.
With the increase in availability of consumer drones, a real threat does exist. These types of drones have been rigged with explosives and used by ISIS fighters to attack their enemies. They have also been used as devices that can collect intelligence by spying on enemies. It is important for militaries to come up with solutions to protect their people and countries against these threats; however, it is also important to first determine the scale of the threat and take the appropriate steps to neutralize it without wasting unnecessary resources.