by Stephen Carlson
Washington (UPI) Aug 7, 2017
The Department of Defense has approved a policy that allows military bases to shoot down unauthorized drones in their airspace, according to the Pentagon.
A Pentagon spokesperson confirmed the policy's existence to UPI but offered no further comment because it is classified. The policy was distributed in the last several weeks in response to growing concern among military commanders.
"The new guidance does afford the ability to take action to stop these threats and that includes disabling, destroying and tracking," Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters this morning.
Davis told reporters the policy had been sent out to military installations in July and covered the rules of engagement concerning private drones.
He added that the policy had been coordinated with the Federal Aviation Administration and other agencies, and what measures would be taken to stop drones in restricted airspace "will depend upon the specific circumstances."
Complicating the issue is what may constitute a threat and who owns what airspace in regard to military leases. Many military installations are surrounded by farmland, towns and cities and have property leased from private owners.
Senior leaders in the Pentagon have voiced concerns over the potential threat of private drones in military airspace, particularly around sensitive sites like those involving nuclear weapons.
U.S. nuclear missile silos surrounding Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota are intermixed with farmland and cattle ranches whose owners often use drones to track crops and herds with few restrictions.
Commander of U.S. Strategic Command Gen. John Hyten last March complained about the slow pace of providing drone countermeasures to nuclear sites in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee.
"We're going too slow," Hyten said in response to questions regarding the policy.
"We have to get the right policies and authorities out there so our defenders know exactly what to do, and then we have to give them material solutions to allow them to react when they see a threat and identify that there is a threat so they do the right things."
Anti-drone countermeasures can range from low-tech options like water cannons and shotguns to sophisticated electronic warfare systems designed to disable drone guidance and power systems, obviating the need for conventional anti-aircraft guns and missiles with their attendant risks to surrounding areas.
Whether the new policy includes conventional weapons is not known due to the classified nature of the guidelines. Legal issues have long been a concern when it comes to countering drones despite legal clarifications in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act last year.
Hyten said during his testimony that despite legal steps taken, "I look out at the number of lawyers involved in this discussion and, well, it's significant."
US military bases can now shoot down private drones
Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said the various branches of the military received the new guidance on Friday, and this would be passed on to bases across the country.
While details of the new policy remain classified, Davis said personnel on bases that have been designated no-fly areas can now target unmanned aircraft deemed to be a threat to people, facilities or other assets.
"We retain the right of self-defense and when it comes to ... drones operating over military installations, this new guidance does afford us the ability to take action to stop those threats," Davis said.
"That includes disabling, destroying, tracking."
All drone activities within the United States must follow Federal Aviation Administration rules and guidelines.
Prominent locations -- including the Pentagon and Washington -- are already "no drone zones."
The new shoot-down guidelines build on FAA restrictions put in place in April that restricted drone use over 133 military bases.
Drone operators violating those rules are subject to criminal or civil charges.
Washington DC (SPX) Aug 04, 2017
DARPA's Mobile Force Protection (MFP) program focuses on a challenge of increasing concern to the U.S. military: countering the proliferation of small, unmanned aircraft systems (sUASs). These systems-which include fixed- or rotary-wing aircraft and have numerous advantages such as portability, low cost, commercial availability, and easy upgradeability-pose a fast-evolving array of dangers for U ... read more
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