U.S. service members deployed to Middle East are unprepared to deal with the rising proliferation of small unmanned aerial platforms among adversaries in the region, the head of U.S. Central Command warned on Wednesday, raising the specter of drone swarms as an looming threat to U.S. forces abroad.
“I argue all the time with my Air Force friends that the future of flight is vertical and it’s unmanned,” Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie said during an event hosted by the Middle East Institute. “And I believe we are seeing it now.”
According to McKenzie, the proliferation of commercial, off-the-shelf drone systems has allowed militant groups such as ISIS has increased to the point where it’s harder for U.S. forces to defense against these platforms than it is for adversaries to create them.
“I’m not talking about large unmanned platforms which are the size of a conventional fighter jet that we can see and deal with, as we would any other platform,” McKenzie said.
“I’m talking about the one you can go out and buy at Costco right now in the United States for a thousand dollars, four quad, rotorcraft or something like that that can be launched and flown. And with very simple modifications, it can make made into something that can drop a weapon like a hand grenade or something else.”
“Right now, the fact of the matter is we’re on the wrong side of that equation,” he added. “We’re working very hard to fix it. It concerns me.”