“They’ve come here to buy drones before. I don’t know why. Those drones aren’t particularly effective or useful. They’re toys.”
When Isis overran Mosul and Tikrit two years ago, Iraqis who had lost faith in their military rallied behind the Iranian-backed Shia militias. Lacking the advanced technology available to the American-led coalition and the Iraqi government, many militias have resorted to consumer drones to help with intelligence gathering.
While toys to some, the drones are playing a crucial role in the conflict according to Sadiq al-Husseini, a commander in the Badr Organisation – the largest and oldest of Iraq’s Shia militias. “The drones have been extremely useful for preventing casualties among our forces,” says al-Husseini while observing the front lines around Fallujah, a former Isis stronghold. “They have helped us lock onto targets with our mortars and cut Isis’s supply lines.”
“Our artillery observers have brought our accuracy from 70 per cent to 95 per cent,” explains Karam Hatam, a policeman manning a truck-mounted rocket launcher in the rear. Two rockets from the police’s artillery batteries had hit Fallujah during al-Mayali’s deployment of the drone.
“We use the drones to provide oversight of the battlefield as our soldiers advanced against Isis,” says brigadier Haydar al-Kaabi, a commander from the Ministry of Interior.
I“Generally speaking, there’s space to be worried about proliferating drone technology because of the capabilities it bestows on the operator,” observesGalen Wright, an expert on Iranian drones. “But the degree to which the technology is available commercially in one form or another means that it’s more or less inevitable and that there shouldn’t be too much hand wringing about it.”
“Our logisticians buy them at the markets in Baghdad, where the militiamen purchase them like all other Iraqis.”
Apparently, military procurement can be streamlined when the enemy is at
It is not the first story about the use of small commercial drones providing military capabilities. They are using them in the mountains of Turkey, the cartel uses them for spotting and delivery on the Mexican border and there have even been reports on Somali pirates deploying drones. Democratization means that technology is accessible – it seems to be a virtuous idea but as always the devil is in the details.
This is a lengthy article that looks at the use of drones across the Middel East theater, with a special emphasis on Iranian drones.