Documents give peek into ISIS' lethal drones

US Special Operations Forces members inspecting a drone used by ISIS militants to drop explosives on Iraqi forces. Few Iraqi and Kurdish units have been equipped with the sophisticated devices that the American troops have to nullify the growing leth
US Special Operations Forces members inspecting a drone used by ISIS militants to drop explosives on Iraqi forces. Few Iraqi and Kurdish units have been equipped with the sophisticated devices that the American troops have to nullify the growing lethal threat from the drones.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON • The standardised four-page checklist describes each Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) drone mission in chillingly impassive detail: Mission type (spy, bombing, training). Location (city, province). Drone components (motor, bomb ignition). Operation (successful or not).

The form, apparently filled out by ISIS drone operators in Iraq after every mission, was part of a batch of documents discovered last month by a Harvard researcher embedded with Iraqi troops in the battle of Mosul and turned over to US military analysts for review.

The documents - in Arabic and English - offer a rare window into how the ISIS group has cobbled together a rapidly advancing armed drone programme that increasingly threatens allied troops fighting the militant group. They show how the group has institutionalised a programme using off-the-shelf technology to bedevil the militarily superior US armed forces.

ISIS has used surveillance drones on the battlefield for about two years. But an increase in attacks since October - mostly targeting Iraqi troops - has highlighted its success in adapting readily accessible technology into a potentially effective new weapon.

In the past two months, ISIS has used more than 80 remotely piloted drones against Iraqi forces and their allies.

  • 80 Number of remotely piloted drones used by ISIS against Iraqi forces and allies in the past two months.

About one-third of the aircraft dropped bombs or were rigged with explosives to detonate on the ground, said Colonel John Dorrian, spokesman for the US-led operation against ISIS in Baghdad.

Iraqi officials said bombs dropped by the drones, which were primarily quadcopters propelled by four rotors, had killed about a dozen government soldiers and injured more than 50.

US military officials said the Pentagon had dedicated significant resources to stop ISIS drones but few Iraqi and Kurdish units had been provided with the sophisticated devices that the US troops had to disarm them. The officials said they had ordered the Pentagon agency in charge of dealing with explosive devices to study ways to thwart hostile drones.

The documents were discovered by Ms Vera Mironova, an international security fellow at the Belfer Centre at the Kennedy School of Government in Harvard.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 02, 2017, with the headline 'Documents give peek into ISIS' lethal drones'. Print Edition | Subscribe