The year of Victory is the Year of the Tiger which began this month with the United States Army in combat. On January 3, 2022, in Baghdad, Iraq, the US Army shot down multiple drones with its counter rocket artillery and mortars system and newly developed Joint Staff Counter Unmanned Aircraft System (CUAS) sensing and kinetic capabilities. Rapidly evolving adversaries, Iran, China, Russia, and North Korea require the US military, its allies, and partners to develop and field new, more efficient, and more capable technology to win against the pace of the threat. Doing so changes the game of the battlefield and the weapon systems used, highlighting the innovative capacity of the US Army which has responded with rapid acquisition and rapid deployment of new joint capabilities for land-based missile, rocket, UAV, drone, and mortar defense.
On December 14, 2021, a Royal Air Force (RAF) Typhoon FGR4 fighter jet shot down a hostile drone flying over the US-LED coalition base of At Tanf, a ground logistics crossing site in Southwestern Syria. Equipped with MBDA Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (ASRAAM) with a cost of million dollars a missile, the Typhoon fighter successfully engaged and destroyed the drone which cost approximately thirty thousand dollars prior to ordinance release which could have resulted in American and coalition casualties and destruction of critical infrastructure. This vivid and important example illustrates the cost curve of drone warfare and that it is not the best way to use highly capable, expensive, and valuable combat forces to defeat a low cost inexpensive, and unsophisticated threat. This is the losing end of the cost curve and cannot be sustained over time.
In this new year of 2022, the US Army has adopted and brought forth cost-effective and capable solutions, that have shot down multiple UASs across multiple Middle Eastern countries. This is the dominant, winning side of the cost curve. On January 3, 2022, two explosive-laden drones were identified and destroyed while flying over a military base near Baghdad International Airport. The following day, January 4, 2022, another pair of explosive-laden drones were identified and destroyed near the Ain Al Asad Air Base in Iraq, the same site Iran targeted with ballistic missiles in 2020. These incidents have been successfully foiled by the use of the highly effective CUAS Systems – one of them being the Centurion Counter-Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar, or C-RAM, which deploys its rockets at a cost of 26 dollars per round.
What started off as low-level harassment and antiquated capabilities by Iran has turned into brazen and complex military assaults against US forces, allies, and partners in the Middle East.
Iran continues to use missiles, UAVs, and drones as their weapon of choice which they mass produce to project power with their organic forces and proxies across the Middle East. From Iraq, to the Strait of Hormuz to the south, to Gaza to the East, to Afghanistan, to Yemen and Sudan, to the Persian Gulf, to Syria, and to Lebanon, Iran has demonstrated a cost curve that can inexpensively mass-produce drone missiles that continually pose direct threats to the US, its allies, and its partners.
Responding to this threat requires a shift of the cost curve. A defensive system of C2, effectors and sensors driven by a joint and combined review of current counter-unmanned aerial systems is needed to maintain the pace of the continuous evolution of drone technology. The US Joint Staff’s CUAS office has accomplished this. Combined with the advent of the ARMY’S M-SHORAD system, which is set to be deployed in the coming years, as well as other services’ capabilities such as the USMC’s Marine Air Defense Integrated System (MADIS) and the Air Force’s tactical high-power operational responder (THOR), these innovations will provide the US with the winning cost curve necessary for a short-range air defense artillery capability against future UAS attacks.
To face the threats of the future, the US must continue the testing and experimentation of directed energy defense systems by being the most cost-effective per shot the world has ever known. Directed energy is the future of defense munitions and the US must be prepared.
It’s the eye of the tiger
It’s the thrill of the fight
Rising up to the challenge of our rival
It’s the year of the Tiger
It’s the year of victory