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Iraqi forces now attacking ISIS with drones in Mosul -USAToday

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At the peak in February, ISIS deployed 10 to 15 drones a day against Iraqi security forces as they fought to clear militants from Mosul, said Air Force Col. John Dorrian, a military spokesman in Baghdad.

The number of militant drones is now down to about one or two a day, principally for surveillance, he said. During the past two weeks there have been no recorded incidents of militants using an armed drone in Iraq or Syria, according to coalition military statistics.

The militants’ use of drones in Mosul highlighted the danger commercial drones have in the hands of ISIS.

“They’ve actually gone to almost swarm-level capability in a couple of cases,” Lt. Gen. Michael Lundy, commander of the Combined Arms Center, said last month. The Army has been studying the militants' use of drones in Mosul to counter the threat in the future.

“It’s a serious concern,” said Seth Jones, a counterterrorism expert at RAND Corp. “A range of terror organizations are able to buy off-the-shelf drones and use them against the United States and its allies.”

Jones said terror groups are likely looking for ways to put larger munitions on the drones. In Iraq and Syria, the militants mostly used small grenade-sized munitions or mortar shells on drones.

Even the smaller munitions can be deadly. In October a drone with an explosive hidden in it killed two Kurdish soldiers and injured two French Special Forces advisers who were with them. The explosive was detonated after the drone had been downed by Kurdish forces.

Iraqi forces have not released data on how many deaths or injuries have been caused by drones. No U.S. forces have been injured by drones in Iraq or Syria.

Their main benefit is surveillance, particularly in a crowded city like Mosul. The small aircraft, which have a
range of several miles, can maneuver through tight streets and alleys to see what lies ahead. Iraqi forces now use them to identify militant snipers, which have been a significant threat in western Mosul.


The militants have no way of blunting the use of drones by Iraqi forces. “The enemy doesn’t have any anti-drone technology other than try to blaze away at the drones,” Dorrian said.

The small quad copters and other small commercial aircraft don’t compare to the level of sophistication and firepower of U.S. Predators and Reapers, which can stay in the sky for long periods of time and fire weapons with precision.

The militants have been indiscriminate in their use of drones, the U.S. military said. “They just dropped (munitions) and they didn’t care who they dropped it on,” said Marine Brig. Gen. Rick Uribe, director of the Combined Joint Operations Center-Baghdad.

But the weaponized drones have captured headlines, producing a propaganda benefit for ISIS. “It’s more of a psychological effect than anything else,” said Patrick Martin, an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War.
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