A large military exercise called Bright Star has brought together thousands of soldiers and personnel from two dozen countries for a drill in Egypt. The drill this year has included a focus on the future threats that soldiers are seeing on the battlefield. These include drone threats and how to incorporate drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) into their operations.
Several different events involving drones have been documented during the exercise. One of these involved an American contractor meeting with Egyptian, South African, and Indian soldiers. These were soldiers from several of the key countries taking part in this important drill. According to reports from US Central Command, the soldiers discussed the use and application of drones.
This took place at Mohamed Neguib Military Base, Egypt last week. The details were published this week.
“The use of drones includes surveillance, combat, reconnaissance operations and more. Bright Star 2023 is a multilateral U.S. Central Command exercise held with the Arab Republic of Egypt across air, land, and sea domains that promotes and enhances regional security and cooperation, and improves interoperability in irregular warfare against hybrid threat scenarios,” the US Army noted.
In another important meeting US Army soldiers with the 3rd Security Force Assistance Brigade, showcased the Dronebuster, a device that is used to counter drone threats. The Dronebuster looks like a large bulky futuristic handheld rifle. It is “a tool used for disabling unmanned aircraft systems,” the report from the event said.
The use of small drones, such as quadcopters, is increasingly common on the battlefield. These types of small drones are now incorporated at all levels of some militaries. This includes issuing them in battalion or company sized units. In the past special forces often made use of some of this new technology.
Larger drones are generally flown by air forces. For instance, the US used to fly Reaper drones over maritime zones and countries in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, but the operators were sometimes far away in the desert of Nevada or other places.
Today’s drone operator is likely to be a soldier who is not a trained pilot, but rather proficient with a tablet as the drones are easy to use. Militaries now borrow a lot of technology from the civilian world. Commercial drones, like DJI, outpaced the military in the last decades and now militaries are catching up. They have to make the drones more rugged and also give them new electrooptics as well as the possibility to use munitions.
The use of armed drones in Ukraine and how they can threaten front-line units by being observers for artillery, shows how soldiers need to have counter-drone technology. This is usually called counter-UAS technology.
The Dronebuster is one example but there are many other gadgets out there that defend against drones. Israel is a pioneer in the use of drone technology and also defending against drones. Companies in Israel are pioneers in some of this technology.
Combining new technology
The main goal today for militaries in the region is combining new technology and passing it on to units in the field. Many countries and defense industry experts are examining the Ukraine conflict to see how drones actually perform on the modern battlefield. For instance, the Turkish Bayraktar drones that Ukraine had at the beginning of the conflict have not been seen much over the last year.
These larger drones were likely neutralized by Russian air defenses or even Russian investment in electronic warfare and other means. Meanwhile, Russia uses Iranian Shahed drones to terrorize Ukraine.
On the frontline, both countries use drones to help their artillery units. In warfare at the fronts that have trenches and aspects similar to the First World War, the drone is playing a key role. Drills like Bright Star therefore focus on this highly relevant technology.