A quarterly reminder that tracking and engaging UAVs is not a simple or easy task. These videos release by an Azeri YouTube outlet show what are supposedly Baryaktar TB2 strikes against Armenia:
A lot of the targets shown are short range air defence assets, notionally designed to protect a forces against low flying aircraft and helos. Some limited ability to engage missiles could be present too.
Why does this keep happening? Drones being used to smash air defences and other vehicles seemingly at will? Well, first off, locating and tracking UAVs is hard. They can be built largely from composites or plastic as opposed to metals like large aircraft.
They don’t have to fly as fast, or keep a human in the air so this is acceptable. But, it means they have a reduced radar cross section, and even larger UAVs like the TB2 could be hard to locate and identify using radar alone.
It’s widely accepted that radar should be paired with an optical means of locating and engaging UAVs. However, they often have a low thermal signature, which means advanced thermals may not pick them up against the background air temperature.
A third method for detection is ELINT, which requires some good pervasive EW. Not always available and often scarce, these resources are needed for lots of things. Arguably air defence should be a high priority, but there are many threats to handle.
A final method of detection is sound, and Telegram reports from Russian journos in Syria indicate the TB2 can certainly be heard, but this just acts as an indication that something is there.
Targeting may be further complicated by tactics; apparently TB2s were used in pairs in Syria, one to designate and one to engage. Of locating and tracking is difficult, so is target prioritisation. The attacking drone could also be a few km away, adding further challenges.
There are many things to consider as always. Warfare isn’t straightforward. But hopefully this will give some insights into the current UAV paradigm. It doesn’t mean that the GBAD units being hit are poor, or that the vehicles themselves are not fit for purpose.
It means that air defence is still an imperfect solution to a very difficult situation. It has never been perfect, and never exhibited a high success rate in combat.
Ultimately, it is partly about forcing your enemy to
fight differently, in the hope that they might surrender the initiative by doing so. And partly about protecting your troops among other things. There are few if any systems that offer a complete solution to UAVs.
An effective defence would need multiple sensors, multiple effectors, and if possible - your own tanks on the enemy’s airfields.
You can follow @Sam_Cranny.
Tip: mention @twtextapp on a Twitter thread with the keyword “unroll” to get a link to it.

Latest Threads Unrolled: