By Imane Rachidi
Vredepeel, Netherlands, Sep 23 (EFE).- NATO is intensifying its efforts to counter the misuse of unmanned aircraft systems, which have emerged as a new challenge in its defense activities.
As part of this initiative, the military brought together hundreds of experts from 15 allied nations, three partner nations, the European Union, and the private sector in the Netherlands to test technologies aimed at detecting, identifying, and neutralizing drones.
The military alliance conducted its Counter Unmanned Aircraft System Technical Interoperability Exercise (C-UAS TIE23) this week at Vredepeel in the Netherlands.
As the exercise unfolds, a small drone hovers over the green expanse of the Dutch military base, Lieutenant General Best Barracks, capturing the attention of onlookers, including civilians and soldiers from participant nations.
Their gaze shifts to a yellow tank stationed in the corner, its cannon aimed at the enigmatic winged device that could be hiding explosives or crucial data.
A significantly larger drone takes off from the runway, remotely controlled by an operator, to capture its smaller counterpart.
It encircles the target, assesses the terrain, ascends further, and deploys a net, immobilizing the tiny aircraft without an incident.
The captured drone is taken back to the tarmac, its wings entangled, awaiting analysis by a base employee.
The scenario was part of NATO’s simulation designed to illustrate the current state of its unmanned warfare.
The event aimed to evaluate approximately 70 operational systems and technologies, including sensors, effectors, C2 systems, and drones that pose tangible threats, all used in countering small drones.
Over 60 industry participants from allied and partner nations engaged in collaborative learning to enhance their ability to detect, identify, and neutralize these small drones.
Brigadier General Hans Folmer, Chief of Staff at the NATO Communications and Information Agency (NCIA) in The Hague, emphasized that small drones posed a significant threat to the alliance and its military operations.
“We must address this threat, making this exercise of paramount importance. We are closely monitoring current events, including the use of drones in Russia’s ongoing conflict in Ukraine,” said Folmer.
While assessing drone use in the Ukraine conflict, it is equally vital to recognize the significance of data related to small drone usage in non-military contexts.
Folmer stressed that the exercise encompassed detection, tracking, identification, and development of strategies to mitigate the threat.
“All these aspects are crucial. We acknowledge the diverse systems available on the market and aim to ensure their seamless integration.”
He noted that technological advancements continued at an unprecedented pace even as nations actively sought interoperability in their anti-drone efforts.
Folmer underscored that it was not solely the drone but also the command center and intermediary communication systems that mattered.
Integral to NATO’s planning operations is the continuous assessment of threats and potential vulnerabilities of the alliance.
Matt Roper of Joint Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance at the NCIA said the vulnerabilities encompassed key infrastructures, some of which might be of significant interest to potential adversaries during war and peacetime.
The scenarios are nearly boundless, according to Roper.
In an unmanned armed vehicle system, potential threats could involve its ammunition, its configuration for providing intelligence to an operation (reconnaissance), or even subtler yet sinister elements like water treatment plants and power facilities on which society relies daily.
Roper emphasized the need to safeguard these assets against potential threats, recognizing their importance in military and civilian contexts.
He pointed out that drones posed a “growing threat” to troops, infrastructure, and the general populace, necessitating “responsible efforts” to find technological solutions.
Last year, Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, located just 130 km from the Dutch military base, recorded 55 airspace drone violations.
While there were no severe incidents, the Dutch Transport Inspectorate emphasized the gravity of the threat.
Consequently, anti-drone technology now constitutes a significant portion of defense expenditure. EFE