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Are Drones America’s Most Urgent Emerging National Security Threat?

Posted on Friday, June 14, 2024
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by Ben Solis
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In a development that is sure to evoke chilling memories of the Cold War, a group of Russian naval ships steamed into Cuban waters this week to visit the port of Havana ahead of military exercises in the Caribbean. Although the Cuban government insists none of the ships carried nuclear weapons, one is reportedly equipped with a nonetheless alarming threat – swarms of attack drones.

As drone technology has rapidly advanced in recent years, the military uses of the small aerial devices have also become more apparent. Drones have been used extensively by both Ukraine and Russia in the ongoing conflict between the two nations to shattering effectiveness.

Russia currently deploys nine types of drones against Ukraine, including some that can reach speeds of nearly 190 miles per hour and carry 130 pounds of explosives. In May, more than half of all Russian aerial weapons deployed against Ukraine were drones.

The scale of destruction from these weapons is devastating. In May, Ukrainian civilian deaths rose 31 percent from the previous month to 174, the highest level since June 2023. As the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine reported, Russia is now increasingly concentrating strikes around civilian population centers. According to an analysis of Ukrainian army reports which I reviewed, 90 percent of aerial attacks on Ukrainian civilian targets in recent weeks were carried out using drones.

China has also recently invested more in military drone technology, most notably so-called “drone swarms.” Along with individual drones beefing up intelligence and surveillance capabilities, drone swarms would allow a single operator to deploy hundreds or even thousands of cheap suicide drones to attack a target – potentially something as large as an aircraft carrier.

Dr. Choi Sangwoo, a highly respected retired military strategist and engineer who advised South Korea’s Defense Ministry in the 1990s, cautioned that Russian and Chinese drone platforms “outmatch our defense systems” and said American critical infrastructure and military defenses “lack adequate protection” against them.

The most effective defense against drones are patriot interceptor missiles – each of which costs $4 million. With Russia and China potentially capable of deploying hundreds of drones at once, it would be virtually impossible for the United States or any nation to shoot down every one. Other countermeasures include SAVAGE anti-drone missiles and expensive laser systems that also have some shortcomings.

Moreover, most drones in the United States today are made by Chinese companies, including the ones used by first responders. According to Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, 90 percent of drones operated by U.S. first responders are currently manufactured in China. Dr. Sangwoo told me that these Chinese drones are not immune to remote hijacking. “The implications are clear,” he said. “Our trust in these devices should be limited.”

This poses another major national security threat. Although Congress has taken some action, like passing the Drones for First Responders (DFR) Act, more measures are needed to ensure drones used by Americans are made in America by American companies.

Another area where drones are becoming a serious issue is the U.S.-Mexico border. Although the prospect of Mexican cartels and human traffickers using drones to thwart law enforcement and spread chaos and destruction may seem like a far-fetched action movie, that scenario is now a distinct possibility.

As far back as 2021, according to a report from USA Today, cartels in northern Mexico began using weaponized drones to target police. According to one cartel member who spoke with the outlet, the drones were coming from the United States under the nose of the Biden administration.

Another more recent report from The New York Times called drone attacks a “dark new advance” in the arsenal of the cartels. Some parts of Mexico have been turned into a war zone, with people fleeing their homes amid constant barrages from above, mimicking tactics used by Russia in Ukraine.

Maël Nieri, a retired Swiss physics professor and former advisor to NATO in the 1980s, warned that these cartels could soon turn to attack targets in the United States. “This is no work of science fiction but a genuine possibility,” he stressed, outlining how cartels could attack border towns or even targets hundreds of miles in the interior of the country. “The U.S. government should certainly be considering this scenario,” he said.

Dr. Claus von Joham, a retired mathematics professor from Austria, also told me that allowing drones operated by cartels in or near U.S. airspace could be “far more severe than anticipated.”

“This is not just any security gap, but a serious one that the West faces today,” he said.

As the threats to the United States continue to evolve, the security of the American people will rely on the ability of the country’s leaders to adapt accordingly. While the last Cold War was defined by nuclear and long-range strike capabilities, the next conflict may well be defined by emerging technologies, with drones chief among them.

Ben Solis is the pen name of an international affairs journalist, historian, and researcher.

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Phil
Phil
1 month ago

I am head of security at my synagogue in San Antonio. During holiday survices this week a survey company flew a 6-propeller drone over our building while it was packed witih congregants. Because of the use of attack drones in Israel, panic ensued as we had no idea as to the identity of the operator. My inquiries the following day revealed that the local police had been notified, but we had not. The FAA currently has no rules against deploying drones over sensitive targets, and no other authority has legal jurisdiction. A sign like the one in this article would be invisible to an operator a few hundred yards away, and meaningless to a terrorist. FAA and ATF regulations should be updated to reflect the current status of such drones, which are now commonly used as weapons of mass destruction.

DENNIS
DENNIS
1 month ago

I would have no problem with shooting one down if it came over the airspace around my home.

Avoter
Avoter
1 month ago

Are Drones America’s Most Urgent Emerging National Security Threat?In a word, No. Far more threatening to national security is the liberal left. Primarily because they will do far more ham than any amount of drones can.

Stephen Russell
Stephen Russell
1 month ago

Yes if controlled by cartels & or China etc alone

Robert Zuccaro
Robert Zuccaro
29 days ago

So Russian ships are in Cuba? We patrol the Baltic, the Med, the Bering Straight, and Arctic Ocean! They play their games; we play ours!

Sydney
Sydney
29 days ago

The entire situation between Ukraine and Putin was mis- managed at the outset. The Marxist Left are thoroughly incompetent boobs. Keystone Cops on steroids.

John Shipway
John Shipway
1 month ago

So, Mr. Solis is worried about some Russian vessels parked temporarily at Cuba and that those vessels are armed and about to go through Naval exercises. Makes one wonder how the Russians feel about the tyrannical US establishing permanent bases full of conventional and nuclear weaponry in US puppet states many of which border Russia and this crap has been ongoing for some 30 years going back to the fall of the wall when Russia was promised that NATO would never expand “one inch to the west”.
The collective “we” lied. I can only hope that Russia follows our “great Democracy” and establish scores of military bases all across the Caribbean and Central and South America.,

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