The European Defense Agency’s recent report on its member states’ military forces has found a major deficiency in counter-drone weapons.
The agency’s “Coordinated Annual Review on Defense,” which it passed to European Union members’ defense ministries last week, warns that “European capability approaches towards A2/AD [Anti Access/Area Denial] are clearly at a crossroads, whereby the capability is either developed in a collaborative manner or the capability will not be developed for European forces.”
Accordingly, the report “recommends developing a European capability to counter unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to improve force protection, as well as contributing to establish a European standard for Anti Access/Area Denial (A2/AD).”
While ongoing wars in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia have proven just how effective drones can be, the EU’s report also came just days after a ceasefire was reached by Azerbaijan and Armenia at the end of a seven-week conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, in which drones played an important role.
The United States has made a similar push, sparked by the failure of its Patriot missile systems to intercept a slew of kamikaze drones that attacked two Saudi oil facilities in September 2019. The Pentagon has aimed to develop as many as five counter-drone systems in 2020, including directed energy weapons, jammers that interfere with a drone’s communication with a ground controller, and short-range guns and missiles that can bring a drone down quickly. The US military has adopted a kamikaze drone of its own with the intent of using the machine to intercept other kamikaze drones.
Just last week, US soldiers stationed in Germany traveled to the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico to test the US Army’s Interim Maneuver Short-Range Air Defense (IM-SHORAD) system, based on its Stryker wheeled armored vehicle. The Pentagon plans to field 144 of the systems by 2023, with the first going to US forces in Germany.
In all, the EDA report recommended six course changes for EU member states on defense, including developing a joint main battle tank and coastal patrol ship, starting a unified European space defense program and participation by more countries in joint exercises.
The push comes amid pressure from the Trump administration for members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to increase their defense budgets to at least 2% of their gross domestic product - a goal only one-third of its members, many of whom are also in the EU, have reached.