US stepping up efforts to destroy ISIS drones

US stepping up efforts to destroy ISIS drones
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A U.S.-led military coalition is increasingly destroying drones controlled by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The terrorist group has begun using commercial drones on the battlefield to spy on Iraqi forces and is fashioning some of them into bombs. The coalition has destroyed two ISIS drones within the last week. 

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The coalition destroyed one drone on Wednesday in airstrikes near Hit and destroyed one just five days earlier near Mosul.

U.S. troops are planning to deploy to the Qayyarah air base, only about 60 miles south of Mosul, ISIS's stronghold in Iraq.  

U.S. Central Command said in an email Thursday that the drone near Mosul was a surveillance drone, likely obtained commercially. 

Statistics on armed drones, however, are classified, and it is not publicly known how many armed ISIS drones have been destroyed to date. 

On April 30, the coalition destroyed an ISIS drone "site" near Hit. And on April 1, the coalition destroyed an ISIS drone near Qayyarah, where the U.S. forces will be staged to retake Mosul. The coalition also destroyed two ISIS drones in 2015.

Centcom said it is aware ISIS is using both commercial and improvised bombs. 

"Generally we have seen ISIL use commercial off-the-shelf technology for aerial observation. They use commercial drones to observe our partner forces who are working to liberate areas from ISIL," Centcom said in a statement, using an alternate acronym for the group.

But the Pentagon is increasingly worried about drones improvised with bombs and is seeking to reprogram $20 million from elsewhere in its budget to encounter the growing threat of ISIS drones. They "pose a direct threat to U.S. and coalition forces," according to an internal budget document reported by Bloomberg on July 7.

"[Unmanned aerial vehicles] can and have delivered small, precision [improvised explosive devices] in Iraq. This is an iteration on the basic IED and there are known efforts by ISIL to grow this capability," said Melissa Tune, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon's Joint-Improvised-Threat Defeat Organization.

Tune said the terrorist group is using commercially bought quadcopters and fixed-wing type drones that are no more than 55 pounds. 

"We expect their use to increase as commercial unmanned aerial vehicles become more accessible," she said.   

ISIS is also using surveillance drones to create battlefield propaganda, look for targets and steer suicide car bombs.