March 30, 2017 / 3:47 PM / in 7 months

Islamic State’s drone fleet

For the past decade, unmanned aerial vehicles have been a cornerstone of America’s campaign against Islamic insurgents in the Greater Middle East. Predator and Reaper drones crisscross the globe firing hellfire missiles on U.S. enemies. Other countries have operational drone fleets, but few match the might and ubiquity of America’s.

Civilians carrying their goods walk along a street in an area controlled by Iraqi forces in Mosul, Iraq, March 30, 2017. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares

But journalists on the front lines in Iraq have seen a disturbing new trend - Islamic State using retail quadcopters to drop their own munitions with surprising accuracy. Mosul is the frontline in the fight against ISIS as well as the frontline in a new arm’s race. One that pits the tiny drones of the Islamic State against the budding anti-drone technology of the West.

To be clear, Islamic State’s commercial quadcopters rigged with grenades and manufactured missiles is nothing compared to the power of a Predator firing off hellfire missiles with pinpoint accuracy. But that’s cold comfort to a civilian killed by a handmade explosive dropped by a quadcopter over the streets of Mosul.

This week on War College, Wall Street Journal reporter Ben Kesling walks us through the drones of Islamic State. He’s back from the fighting in Mosul and saw his share of quadcopters as well as the innovative solutions coalition and Iraqi forces are using to fight against them.

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The views expressed in this article are not those of Reuters News.

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