In the meantime, the Pentagon has rushed dozens of technical specialists to Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan to help protect American troops and to train and, in some cases, equip local allies against the drone threat, which has killed more than a dozen Iraqi soldiers and wounded more than 50. The aircraft, some as small as model airplanes, conduct reconnaissance missions to help Islamic State fighters attack American-backed ground forces. Other drones drop bombs or are rigged with explosives to detonate on the ground.
“These things are really small and hard to detect, and if they swarm in groups, they can overload our ability to knock them all down,” said J. D. Johnson, a retired three-star Army general who previously commanded the threat-defeat agency, and now heads Army programs for Raytheon. “The threat is very resilient and well-resourced, and we have to be looking one or two moves ahead to defeat it.”
American troops are using an array of jammers, cannons and other devices to disrupt, disable or destroy the enemy drones, often quadcopters rigged with explosives. And the military has increased airstrikes against Islamic State drones on the ground, their launch sites and their operators.
“This isn’t just an Iraq and Syria problem; it’s a regional and global problem,” Lt. Gen. Michael Shields, director of the threat-defeat organization and one of the two generals overseeing the effort, said in a telephone interview. “These are airborne I.E.D.s,” meaning improvised explosive devices.
Indeed, the drone threat is going global. Iranian drones have buzzed United States Navy ships more than a dozen times in the Persian Gulf this year. In Europe, American and allied soldiers accustomed to operating from large, secure bases in Iraq and Afghanistan now practice using camouflage netting to disguise their positions and dispersing into smaller groups to avoid sophisticated Russian surveillance drones that could potentially direct rocket or missile attacks…