New military system could allow soldiers to eliminate drones with one shot

The system has also been deployed with other forces in various countries around the world, with the main customer being US special forces.

By
August 30, 2019 07:52
AN OPERATOR demonstrates how SMASH works against a balloon like those sent from Gaza into Israel.

AN OPERATOR demonstrates how SMASH works against a balloon like those sent from Gaza into Israel. . (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

What started as a child’s toy has turned into a strategic weapon in the hands of militaries and non-state hostile actors across the skies of the messy Middle East.
From the crowded cities of Beirut and Gaza to the sandy deserts of Yemen and Iraq, weaponized drones have brought a whole new assortment of security threats to the forefront and have raised the stakes in the tensions between Israel and its enemies.

“The threat of drones is a multilayer threat,” Dr. Abraham Mazor, VP BD & Marketing of Smart Shooter, told The Jerusalem Post. “There is not only one kind of done that we have to defeat; there are many kinds, in terms of height, weight, velocity; and therefore there is no one solution for the threat posed by them.”

While drones and other incendiary aerial devices are cheap and usually toys that can be bought on the civilian market, they are fast and remain a challenge even for skilled sharpshooters. The appeal of such unmanned aircraft, which can also be small enough to evade air-defense systems, has pushed many companies to scramble to come up with breakthrough technology to take them out.

But a new system developed by Smart Shooter, the SMASH 2000, to take out drones might be the answer militaries are looking for.



“Since drones have become a very serious threat all over the world, we began to think of how we could use the system against drones,” Mazor said, explaining that SMASH 2000 can hit moving targets on the ground and in the sky.

“If you are capable of hitting moving targets, we don’t care if the target is on the ground, such as terrorists in the terminal, terrorists on the battlefield, or a drone in the sky,” he said.

We have to adapt the algorithm and a few other things, but basically we are facing the same challenge – how to hit moving targets,” he said.

Even with no experience with rifles or the system, the author, during a visit to a range in northern Israel with company representatives, was able to take down moving targets at over 200 meters away, including several balloons, with the help of SMASH 2000 attached to the M4 rifle used. The author became a smart shooter.

“The need for such a system comes from the place where soldiers in combat need to operate in very tense scenarios and do things very fast and accurately under a tremendous amount of physical and mental pressure,” another representative from the company told the Post while demonstrating the system at the range.

“Exactly the same way it locks on a target on the ground, it locks on a target in the air,” he said.

With the system, the user selects and locks onto the target, and as soon as the trigger is squeezed, the system calculates the target’s movement and predicts its next location by means of advanced image processing and algorithms. SMASH 2000 prevents the bullet being fired until the target is precisely in its crosshairs.

LONG BEFORE the IDF came face-to-face with the burning balloons and kites from Gaza, the IDF and the Defense Ministry were looking for such a system, and, according to Globes, installed it on rifles used by troops in the Golani, Paratrooper and Givati brigades. After a successful pilot program, thousands of Smart Shooter sites were ordered.

“What we are dealing with is the shooter – it could be a border guard, infantry, special forces – whoever carries the rifle and needs to use the rifle, he will be precise. We don’t mean just infantry, we mean everyone. The system allows anyone to be a smart shooter just after a bit of basic training,” Mazor said.

And in Israel it’s even more crucial, he continued, explaining that in times of war thousands of reservists can be called up without any recent training.

The combination of simple hardware and advanced image-processing software can effectively turn every soldier with basic weapons into sharpshooters, with the first round out of every rifle hitting its target.

“Smart Shooter’s fire control solutions are designed to give soldiers and law enforcement officers a decisive tactical edge in almost every operational scenario, maximizing force lethality and effectiveness throughout an engagement,” the company said, adding that “repurposed and occasionally armed civilian drones have become common, turning the concept of unmanned warfare back on national forces.”

The SMASH 2000 gives troops a precision anti-drone system on their weapon with built-in targeting algorithms that can track and hit drones flying at high speeds at ranges of up to 120 meters with the first shot.

The system effectively downs a hostile target in a cheap manner, saving militaries millions of dollars that might have been spent deploying a helicopter or launching a $3 million Patriot missile toward such platforms.

Hezbollah and Hamas have sent drones into Israel and are said to have been working on upgrading the group’s UAVs for use in both offensive operations and intelligence gathering. Larger, more advanced drones sent by Hezbollah and Iran have also infiltrated Israel from the northern border, most recently in February of last year, when Iran launched a drone on a sabotage mission. It was eliminated by an Apache attack helicopter near Beit She’an.

ON SATURDAY the Israel Air Force took out an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force cell led by two Hezbollah operatives planning an explosive drone attack against Israel. The cell, which was under the direct order of IRGC commander Maj.-Gen. Qasem Soleimani, was said to be planning to use drones similar to the kind used by the Houthis in Yemen against Saudi Arabia.

Several hours later two explosive-laden DJI drones appeared in the skies of the Hezbollah stronghold of Dahiyeh. One exploded, hitting an industrial-sized planetary mixer, which is a central component to create propellants that can improve engine performance and accuracy of missiles. The explosion also destroyed the machine’s control panel. Hezbollah and Lebanon have accused Israel of being behind the attack.

And while the drone tit for tat over the weekend has raised the risk of unwanted escalation between Israel and Iran, Israel’s military has been contending with ongoing violence with the Gaza Strip.

In the last round of violence between Israel and terrorist groups in the blockaded coastal enclave, the IDF said that there were multiple attempts to attack troops stationed along the border using drones.

In one attempt, Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed that a drone belonging to its military wing dropped a bomb in the vicinity of an IDF tank. In a video a drone drops a bomb above a tank, after it spots IDF troops approaching it. The bomb explodes near the tank, deployed close to the border, but does not cause any injuries to the nearby troops.
But more simple devices, such as kites, balloons and condoms carrying Molotov cocktails or bombs, have posed a major problem for Israel since the beginning of the “Great March of Return” protests along the Gaza border fence.

The devices have caused over 2,000 separate fires, resulting in over 3,500 hectares (approximately 8,500 acres) being burned. According to the IDF, this has included over 1,300 hectares (approximately 3,200 acres) of nature reserves, and over 1,100 hectares (approximately 2,700 acres) of forestry.

For several months the IDF had been using high-speed drones to take out hostile drones from the Hamas-run coastal enclave. But they couldn’t get them all. According to Mazor, the SMASH 2000 system has now been in use by the IDF for several months along the border, taking out drones and incendiary balloons launched from Gaza.

“There is a lot of interest around this product because of the drone threat and the balloons from Gaza,” he said.

The system has also been deployed with other forces in various countries around the world, with the main customer being US special forces.

“We are there; we have been trying the system, they have been trying the system, and they are very happy with it, and the results are very successful so far,” Mazor said, adding that the company is preparing to work with Europeans and other countries.

“It is my vision that the entire world – especially in developed countries, where there is a lot of sensitivity to collateral damage – that all militaries should switch to this system,” he added.

Earlier this month the US Air Force showcased the system at Beale Air Force Base in California.

According to a statement by the USAF on its website, Chief Master Sgt. Dustin Hall, 9th Reconnaissance Wing command chief, and Col. Andrew Clark, 9th Reconnaissance Wing commander, tested the SMASH 2000 fire control system developed by Smart Shooter.

“The 9th Security Forces Squadron airmen have been using off the shelf commercial technology to help train and improve how their missions are conducted to protect the installation,” the USAF said.

And while SMASH allows troops to remove the threat of drones and other aerial targets, “what will happen in the next two years, nobody knows,” Mazor said.
“There is no one solution for the threat posed by drones,” Mazor said. But, “among all the means that exist, we can eliminate drones in one shot. Any and every soldier with the SMASH 2000 can defeat the threat.... It’s as simple as that.”


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