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Shoot the sky with Phaser's drones

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Media Title Abqaiq has the world's largest oil processing plant.

When a mixed formation of cruise missiles and small drone aircraft rained explosive charges on the Saudi Arabian state oil group The Aramco sites in Abqaiq and Khurai halved national oil production on September 1

4, cutting production by 5.7 million barrels of crude oil per day.

But they did more than just economic damage. This attack has had a huge impact on how nations want to protect their airspace.

Businesses are now developing and implementing sophisticated new defense mechanisms, from roasting electronic circuits with powerful microwave radiation to precise jamming systems.

While both the United States and Saudi Arabia blamed Iran for the Abqaiq attack, it is still not clear who is behind it.

However, it would be a mistake to confuse the use of drones or UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles). In this attack with other incidents where drones off-the-rack have disturbed airports, football matches or political rallies, Douglas Barrie, a think tank fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said.

He says this attack was carried out in part by sophisticated UAVs – small, pilotless, winged aircraft – that have nothing to do with the quadcopter drones being flown in suburban parks.

Instead, they can travel hundreds of miles and be programmed to fly around navigation points on the ground, allowing them to approach a target from an unexpected direction.

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"The complexity of this attack surpasses everything we've seen so far – a mix of cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), All arriving at the same time required a high level of planning and competence, "says Barrie.

The attack has challenged the quality of available protection against UAV attacks.

Criticism of Saudi Arabian air defense is unfounded, says Barrie. The fact is that complex networks of air defense radars associated with guided missiles and squadrons of advanced fighter jets are not designed to counteract this relatively cheap and available technology.

"Digital technology has made a big difference to smaller UAVs, and suddenly you can pack a lot into a UAV, you can almost make it a precision-guided weapon."

By programming a UAV to fly around numerous points before it reaches its target, it can avoid the obvious directions from which an attack is expected. This could explain why existing radars could not account for the drone formation attacking Abqaiq.

And it could be that the defense tailored to this new UAV threat has been pushed to Saudi Arabia.

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Phaser uses microwaves to eliminate targets

The US Air Force has just received Phaser, a microwave-based weapon, from Defense Giant Raytheon. Firing a disk resembling a giant satellite dish on a sand-colored vessel erases the digital elements in a drone.

Raytheon can not say where the fast-bought phaser was sent, but the Pentagon has stated that it will be deployed overseas.

Perhaps the greatest strength of Phaser is the speed of light. That's the rate at which microwave radiation is triggered. And that can bring an approaching UAV to a halt in fractions of a second.

The beam emitted by Phaser is 100 meters wide at a distance of one kilometer. That means a lot of dangerous space for an attacking UAV. The targets are tracked by an electro-optical sensor that converts images into electronic signals and interacts with the microwave beam.

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Although the system can be fully automated, it currently needs to be confirmed by a human operator's target through the optical sensor. By shooting the target without explosion, Phaser prevents the kind of debris and fragments that are very undesirable in populated areas or over sensitive installations.

Another advantage of this microwave weapon is that it can handle continuous waves of targets without reloading. Phaser's $ 16 million (£ 13 million) delivery and support price is therefore relatively low compared to comparable systems.

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Don Sullivan, Raytheon's chief focused energy weapon, worked at Phaser and is the culmination of his life's work.

According to Sullivan, this is "the potentially most cost-effective way to counter drones."

And the microwave beam is emitted in rapid impulses, which means that it is harmless to people who are standing nearby.

I have been in high power microwave. It is not a heat ray, it is fired in very short impulses and is harmless to humans. "he says.

Paul Burt


Paul Burt served in Basra, Iraq in 2007

Paul Burt knows a lot about air defense and his experience is personal. As an RAF officer stationed at Basra Airport in 2007, he assisted both British forces and Iraqi civilian air traffic control officials in keeping the runway open, despite the fact that hundreds of rockets were fired by insurgents onto the compound.

His answer was to connect a radar system to a US-built phalanx cannon, an automatic cannon that ejects cartridges at astonishing speed and creates a line of lead along the path of incoming rockets shattered by collisions with these shells. Out of 860 missiles fired at the airport over a six-month period, Burt says only one hit the runway.

Today he works for the Anglo-Italian Defense Group Leonardo and sells a counter-drone system based on his experience in Iraq.

"You can not defend every inch of airspace, you have to think about what you can protect realistically," he says.

Instead of trying to build a defense dome around a large area, Leonardo has developed a so-called electronic sniper rifle. This disturbs the digital components of a drone, although Leonardo does not say exactly how to do it.

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Leonardo's Falcon Shield UAV defense system

Mr. Burt points out that this system, Falcon Shield, begins with a threat assessment program on a laptop that decides where to show it in order to have the best chance of countering drone strikes.

In the case of an oil factory that spans hundreds of square kilometers, this software tool should be able to generate overlapping defensive arches.

Leonardo recently announced a joint research and development program with the RAF. The goal is to explore how drones can be identified, identified and defeated while assessing how drones develop.

The threat of drones is developing dramatically. The economic damage inflicted on Aramco has opened a new front in warfare – and nobody wants to be left behind.

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