Professional Readings

Reading #138

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  • Monday, April 10, 2017

Countering the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Threat

Acting Director Major General Robert “Bo” Dyess’ Comments:


One hundred years ago this week, on April 6, 1917, the United States Congress voted to formally enter World War I. As with most wars, WWI would prove to be fertile ground for accelerated innovation. This innovation accelerated through numerous series of actions, reactions, and counter-actions as adversaries rushed to gain and regain the overmatch necessary to maintain differential advantages against one another. In this rush, WWI would showcase developments that included machine guns, tanks, tactical air support, poison gas, flame throwers, tracer bullets, depth charges, and aircraft carriers. WWI would also see the introduction of the first unmanned aerial system (UAS). The Hewitt-Sperry Automatic Airplane, developed by the U.S. Navy in 1916 and 1917, was originally designed as an unmanned aerial bomb. It proved at the time, however, too imprecise to be useful against ships during the war (1).

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(Caption) The Hewitt-Sperry Automatic Airplane was a project undertaken during World War I to develop an aerial torpedo, also called a flying bomb or pilotless aircraft, capable of carrying explosives to its target. Its first flew in September of 1917.

One hundred years later, the weaponization of UAS is front page news. As the Army Operating Concept (AOC) warns, potential enemies will continue to invest in technologies to obtain a differential advantage and undermine U.S. ability to achieve overmatch and unmanned aerial systems are one of these technologies. A recent Washington Post article highlighted the Islamic State’s use of weaponized UAS, more commonly referred to as drones. The article states that “two years after the Islamic State first used commercially purchased drones to conduct surveillance, the militants are showing a growing ambition to use the technology to kill enemies (2).” The article offers that the Islamic State’s use of lightweight and relatively inexpensive drones shows they can be effective on the battlefield and pose a serious threat to Soldiers and civilians, both physically and psychologically. The article further emphasizes that the Islamic State is only the latest in a long line of militant organizations that have acquired drones and attempted to modify them for their own purposes. When recently asked about the growing use of commercial drones by U.S. adversaries, Lieutenant General Michael Nagata, Director of Strategic and Operational Planning at the National Counterterrorism Center, stated, “I believe that is only a harbinger of what is coming as this technology grows in both capability, availability and costs continue to drop. The question is no longer will somebody be able to do such things some day? Or how do we stop this from happening in the future? I would argue this is something we need to be asking ourselves right now (3).”

In this week’s Professional Reading “Countering the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Threat”, Colonel Matthew Tedesco provides support to Lieutenant General Nagata’s concerns arguing “the U.S. military has been slow to acknowledge the UAS threat and has only recently started to examine the basic requirements to address the challenges associated with UAS defense.” In his article, Colonel Tedesco offers recommendations for improving the overall Department of Defense capabilities to counter the UAS threat. Consistent with the AOC, Tedesco’s recommendations stress that to retain overmatch and overcome the UAS threat, the Joint Force will have to combine technologies and integrate efforts across multiple domains. His recommendations require working with joint, interorganizational, and multinational (JIM) partners to evaluate trends; identifying doctrine, organizations, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel, facilities, and policy (DOTMLPF-P) gaps, opportunities, and solutions; and delivering integrated solutions to the force. Specifically, Tedesco recommends:

  • The Department of Defense should designate a service or an organization as the proponent for all categories of countering unmanned aircraft systems.
  • A joint solution is required to address the challenges of detection and identification in order to improve defeat mechanisms.
  • Timely detection is the critical requirement that leads to identification and classification.
  • Services must modernize their air and missile defense capabilities and examine other materiel solutions to address the growing threat.
  • The services must reexamine joint tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs), and training required to defeat UAS capabilities.
  • Services must pursue a common command and control capability to exercise control of the complex counter unmanned aerial system environment.
  • The joint force needs to expand its exercises to address evolving UAS threats.

Colonel Tedesco’s recommendations support the framework and ends defined in the U.S. Army’s Counter – Unmanned Aircraft System (C-UAS) Strategy published in October of 2016. The C-UAS strategy seeks to provide forces at all echelons with solutions across the (DOTMLPF-P) framework that will enable defeat of UAS threats. The strategy seeks combined arms solutions, using capabilities from every warfighting function, in a coordinated, synchronized way. It seeks cross-domain solutions, recognizing that UAS threats impact every domain, not just the air. Finally, it seeks a whole-of-government approach, recognizing a comprehensive C-UAS capability will involve JIM partners from all areas of government, working together towards a common goal.

For further information on the C-UAS Strategy, contact Lieutenant Colonel Vince Bailey, Chief, Fires Branch, ARCIC, at 757-501-5375, , or SIPR:

As you read Colonel Tedesco’s article and the attached extract from the C-UAS strategy consider the DOTMLPF implications for the following Army Warfighting challenges:

As you read the article, consider the impacts on the following Army Warfighting Challenges:
#1 Develop Situational Understanding:

How to develop and sustain a high degree of situational understanding while operating in complex environments against determined, adaptive enemy organizations.

#4 Adapt the Institutional Army and Innovate:

How to improve the rate of innovation to drive capability development and deliver DOTMLPF-P solutions to the warfighter at a pace that meets operational demand within the existing constraints of the acquisition and budgeting processes.

#8 Enhance Realistic Training:

How to train Soldiers, leaders and units to ensure they are prepared to accomplish the mission across the range of military operations while operating in complex environments against determined, adaptive enemy organizations.

#10 Develop Agile and Adaptive Leaders:

How to develop agile, adaptive, and innovative leaders who thrive in conditions of uncertainty and chaos and are capable of visualizing, describing, directing, and leading and assessing operations in complex environments and against adaptive enemies.

#13 Conduct Wide Area Security:

How do Army forces establish and maintain security across wide areas (wide area security) and across multiple domains to protect forces, populations, infrastructure, and activities necessary to shape security environments, consolidate gains, and set conditions for achieving policy goals.

#14 Ensure Interoperability and Operate in Joint, Inter-organizational, Multinational Environment:

How to integrate joint, inter-organizational, and multi-national partner capabilities and campaigns to ensure unity of effort and accomplish missions across the range of military operations.

#17/18 Employ Cross-Domain Fires:

How to employ cross-domain fires to defeat the enemy and preserve freedom of action across the range of military operations (ROMO).

#19 Exercise Mission Command:

How to understand, visualize, describe, and direct operations consistent with the philosophy of mission command to seize the initiative over the enemy and accomplish the mission across the range of military operations.

#20 Develop Capable Formations:

How to design Army formations capable of rapidly deploying and conducting operations for ample duration and in sufficient scale to accomplish the mission.

Continuous feedback, collaboration, and teamwork are keys to the success of the Campaign of Learning and driving innovation in the Army. Please use the Army Warfighting Challenges as the framework to contribute your ideas and recommendations with respect to this topic to improve our ability to innovate as we develop the current and future force.

The Army Warfighting Challenges (AWFC) framework may be accessed here:

For previous weekly readings go to: ARCIC Professional Readings

  1. Army Operating Concept, TRADOC Pam 525-3-1, 30 October 2014
  2. Multi-Domain Battle

All the best,