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The so-called ‘Islamic State’ is suffering losses and losing positions in Iraq, including the key city of Mosul. The rapid onset of the Iraqi army, among other things, helped to learn more about the structure and arsenals of this terrorist organization. And the world saw an unpleasant fact — Islamists, indeed, have their own unmanned airpower, which is handicraft and dangerous. What can the West counterpose to hybrid squadrons and how does Belarus fit in?
Already 10 years ago, an unmanned aerial vehicle — or a drone — was a symbol of the superpowers. Today, drones are launched even by jihadists under siege. In the retaken Mosul, the Iraqi army found at least six aircraft workshops with abandoned spare parts and receipts for electronics. Drones were produced here in bulk to later guide artillery and suicide bomber cars.
“The terrorists have used drones to monitor the enemy — which means us — as well as to monitor and coordinate suicide bomber cars. They simply used radios to send bombers to our units,” Haider Fadhil, Brigadier General, Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service, says.
ISIS combat drones are game changers in a hybrid war. Mini helicopters, like the ones that our children play with, are used in Iraq to drop charges of automatic grenade launchers on people. In addition to causing death and injuries, quadcopters have a strong psychological effect, both on the battlefield and on the Internet.
“The goal of this video is to show some new capabilities, new combat means that they have, to show that the so-called Islamic State is not some backward organization, it uses technical innovations. Also, it is to scare opponents, such as the Kurdish forces, into believing that they can get attacked from an unexpected direction,” Andrzej Hładij, a Polish security expert at Defence24.pl, stresses.
But the effect of suicide bomber cars and terror aviation is already waning.
“Successful use of these tools was mostly due to armies not being ready to them, that is, the surprise effect,” Yury Tsaryk, an expert of the Minsk-based Center for Strategic and Foreign Policy Studies, believes.
And what about the West? How ready is it to unmanned attacks? Four years ago, in Dresden, the Pirate Party activist landed a drone on the stage where Angela Merkel and the ministers were speaking. Everyone laughed, except for the security staff. And in Poland a drone flew over a military transport base near Krakow and dropped a so-called flair — aviation heat trap. No one was injured.
“Security services have a growing interest in anti-drone devices. We see this trend in the security market. The number of anti-drone systems is growing, they are more and more effective. These systems may have different functions: from threat exposing to destruction. It can be done, for example, using electromagnetic waves,” says.
Belarus armed forces are actively engaged in both making drones and developing radio-electronic warfare devices.
“The experience that the so-called Islamic State has today is, of course, important, but the military conflict experience from the territory of Ukraine is even more important for us,” Yury Tsaryk says.
In Ukraine, Russian hybrid troops use both specialized military drones and quadcopters from online stores. So far, they have been used only for reconnaissance, guidance and propaganda.
“This is a drone that has just filmed the positions of Ukrainian forces. Now we know where they live, where their cars are, where they dug trenches.” ‘Alkhon’, a Russian military expert working for separatists in Donetsk, admitted.
Russian specialists have checked Belarus’ defense.
“In 2015, there was an incident on the eastern border of the Republic of Belarus, in the Mstislaul area, when a UAV was forcefully landed. It was, apparently, a Russian unit, which was making an unauthorized flight over the territory of Belarus with ISR objectives,” Yury Tsaryk recalls.
According to our analysts, Belarus is well prepared for a small air war. The only question is what exactly the potential adversary would fly in the Belarusian sky.
Yaraslau Stseshyk, Belsat