Drones Hard to Kill Even by Warships

Cybernetic and drone attacks were first tested by the Navy in a multinational exercise with four more European countries.

A commercial drone acquired for less than 800 euros managed to avoid the radars and weapons systems of the warships, which cost hundreds of millions of euros, operating near a port city on the Portuguese coast.

In what was the first test of a drone attack on a naval force located near densely populated areas, where so-called rules of engagement imposed limitations on the use of large-caliber automatic weapons (to avoid civilian casualties) and electronic countermeasures does not affect civilian digital networks), the military exercise Swordfish 2018 revealed the high degree of military threat currently posed by unmanned drones, even though they are not very complex.

The information was given on Tuesday by the naval commander, Vice Admiral Gouveia and Melo, during the visit of the Defense Minister and the Secretary of State for Defense to the frigate D.Francisco de Almeida, the main ship of the force – 12 ships, 11 aircraft, 2381 military – from five countries (Portugal, Spain, France, United Kingdom and Italy) participating in that great biennial exercise off Setubal.

Joint and multi-country exercises simulated the response to a crisis situation in which the United Nations mandated a multinational military force to respond to the call of a failed state with dissidents backed by the hegemonic power in the region and which is opposed to the international embargo and stabilization operation.

While there was an officer on the frigate bridge giving an order of “machines ahead 120,” after an overflight of two F-16 fighters and the fluttering passage of a maritime patrol aircraft to launch a sonobuoy to locate an enemy submarine, the commander of the military force, Commander Diogo Arroteia, explained to DN that the exercise with the drones was “a first experiment” to verify if it was possible to destroy a drone with light weaponry.

Even in a “very saturated” electromagnetic environment with the use of the radars – warning, air defence, navigation – of the 12 ships, the inability to shoot down a drone about five feet wide and about two feet long is explained its small size and very fast movement.

A solution for a visual detection threat and about 1500 meters away? “Maybe a sawed-off shotgun,” admitted Diogo Arroteia, stressing that studying and finding those answers will be the next steps in this lesson.

For Minister Azeredo Lopes, with Swordfish 2018 “it is proven that we must always work to be always prepared, it is proved that it is impossible to ensure anything if we do not work together with friends and allies, it is proved that we have an excellent Navy and an ability to think “complex” exercises and where we test responses to the latest risks and threats.

In this case, it was possible to “test the defensive capacity against drones that can be very cheap but also very efficient”, warned the minister, highlighting Swordfish’s participation in countries with “a very European defence tradition based on a principle of collective security”.

An example of this was the amphibious landing launched by Portuguese marines from a Spanish logistic polyvalent ship.

Cyberdefense was another component trained for the first time by the Navy in an exercise of this size, with cyber attacks obliging garrisons to fight with alternative means to computer networks, Gouveia and Melo said.

The Navy commander, Admiral Mendes Calado, emphasized the importance of the “ability to command and control” the multiple means of different countries present in the theatre of operations by the branch, revealing how “behind this immense training, immense coordination and immense effort “.

Drones Hard to Kill Even by Warships

Demonstration of amphibious landing, submarine operation, air defence and assault on a vessel – which “we do very often in our routine [military] operations,” said the admiral – were some of the capabilities highlighted by Mendes Calado to ensure that operate safely at sea.