As much as we like to gripe about it stateside, our complaints about the drone program are nothing compared to those of Al Qaeda. The terrorists don’t like drones, because drones are designed to kill terrorists. According to documents leaked by Edward Snowden, however, Al Qaeda’s about to fight back.
The Washington Post gained access to the leaked documents and found some pretty interesting facts about Al Qaeda’s relationship to drones. In brief, they do not like drones, or as the online jihadist magazine Azan put it, “evil missiles designed by the devils of the world.” Drones keep the terrorists holed up in their caves and otherwise living in constant fear of an attack, so Al Qaeda’s been busy over the past few years, exploring ways to fight back and neutralize the threat.
At present, Al Qaeda is recruiting engineers to help out in its anti-drone mission, but it’s also giving guidance about how to evade an attack to all its members. In 2010, for instance, the organisation distributed a “strategy guide” with tips on how “to anticipate and defeat drones”. According to the Post, “Al Qaeda was sponsoring simultaneous research projects to develop jammers to interfere with GPS signals and infrared tags that drone operators rely on to pinpoint missile targets.” One idea is to use “lasers and dazzlers” to blind the drone’s cameras and disable the GPS. Meanwhile, leaders have been working on more creative methods to fight drones, including using weather balloons and hobby planes to monitor the flight patterns of the US aircraft.
What’s become increasingly clear to Al Qaeda, however, is the fact that there is no silver bullet when it comes to taking out drones. There is a major vulnerability in the drones’ satellite links, though. Occasionally, a drone will drop its connection to the satellite that was steering it and will circle the air until the connection is reestablished. This is called a “lost link”, and it’s already claimed a few drones in recent years. It’s not clear if Al Qaeda had anything to do with those accidents.
In the long run, US drones are only going to become more and more sophisticated, giving Al Qaeda’s engineers plenty of problems to deal with. The US Navy’s already developed a next generation drone that can take off and land on an aircraft carrier. Now if the military could just convince some soldiers to fly the dang things… [Washington Post]