GATWICK DRONE DEBACLE UNVEILS MULTIPLE PROBLEMS FROM PROCUREMENT POLICY THRU INTEROPERABILITY TO BREXIT! BY JULIAN NETTLEFOLD
There has been considerable speculation in the press over what happened at Gatwick over the Christmas period and BATTLESPACE has done some investigation to see if we can piece together the facts. In putting this piece together we were conscious that AUDS, a system jointly developed by 3 UK SMEs; Chess Dynamics, Enterprise Control Systems (ECS) and Blighter Surveillance Systems, has been selected in the US as the system of choice since 2016 and has been deeply integrated into a number of command and control systems. The US Airforce is purchasing it in a containerised version, C-AUDS, for airfield protection.
However, for some inexplicable reason, the UK Government, DE&S C-UAS UCR seems to have ignored it to the extent that they have purchased an Israeli System the Rafael Iron Dome.
DE&S C-UAS UCR ran an open competition lasting 8 months including a trials evaluation; it is believed that AUDS was excluded prior to the trials. Sources suggest that Rafael Drone Dome won by a country mile on performance and cost contract award was made in August 2018 for £7.6m and the MOD contracts bulletin publish that result. Leonardo partnered with IAI for the trials for which the AUDS Team also participated but were believed to have been ruled out on a technicality in the bid. The only system MOD has is one off Drone Dome and user evaluation and acceptance is on going. An observer stated that MOD policy is off the shelf, meeting the requirement and have freedom of action. That policy may result in this case of attracting inward investment for future acquisition and supporting jobs through life.
What does this tell you about MoD Procurement strategy in general? For years we have had readers sending us complaints about how current MoD Procurement Policy not only excludes SMEs on financial grounds but also, for some bizarre reason fails to take into account the indigenous manufactures and key UK technology. It is all very well buying off-the-shelf and the cheapest system on offer but this fails to address key industrial issues which will become clearer post-Brexit. The UK will no longer have to abide by EU competition rules post-Brexit and let’s face it no other European country has such an open procurement system to the detriment of indigenous suppliers and in-country support.
The speed by which the AUDS system was deployed and crucially supported at Gatwick shows how important it is to support indigenous technology and support. This was clearly demonstrated in the Afghan UOR process where key life-saving equipment was procured in record time, much of it from UK industry. However France and Germany go much further in sole sourcing from local industry and one only has to see the huge growth in Rheinmetall in particular to show how these policies can create an international champion capable of earning billions in overseas earnings. The UK military vehicle industry has virtually disappeared with he sole exception of Jankel, BAE Systems and GDELS, although UK IP is virtually non-existent.
The other mistake made was for the Department of Transport not to have an anti-UAV Policy where it could easily move into action in the event of a UAV incident.
The sightings of drones over Gatwick Airport have exposed the frailties of the UK’s Counter Unmanned Aerial System (C-UAS) policy, which currently does not allow jamming a drone. However, by looking to military technologies, there are safe and effective ways of dealing with these threats that can be adapted for the aviation sector to protect and enforce its no-fly zone; such as the Anti-UAV Defence System (AUDS), which can detect, track and inhibit drones to prevent them entering restricted airspace. We need more robust laws and the necessary enforcement and counter-measures that prevent unmanned drones entering restricted airspace. Although the registration and education process for flying drones is moving a step forward and will come into force next year, as drone technology becomes more accessible, the Government needs to put in place measures to protect aircraft and their passengers now.
Sussex Police were worse than useless in their handling of the incident, not only arresting the wrong people but also deploying their won UAV which was seen as hostile! Had there been a joint Army/Police C-UAV Team available this could have deployed AUDS in hours and the airport remaining operational rather than closed for 36 hours.
‘Military capability’ withdrawn from airport
Some media reports (See below Gatwick drones: ‘Military capability’ withdrawn from airport) continue to indicate that this Israeli system was deployed at Gatwick, but BATTLESPACE believes this to be untrue. The facts of the case seem to be that the first call was to the MoD who currently do not have an integrated system. There was much in the press about this deployment but we have ascertained that the system may have been ineffective and that the AUDS consortia were contacted by UK government experts to see if they could deploy a system that they know to be effective on current military operations. A system had already been prepared by the AUDS consortium once it was obvious that the Gatwick closure was prolonged and was shipped to Chess who are only 20 minutes from the airport. The facts are difficult to piece together but we understand that Gatwick, on the advice of UK government, contacted ECS and one AUDS system was deployed, which became operational at about the time the airport re-opened. To fully cover the runway a second system was deployed as soon as it was available.
Eventually not only was AUDS deployed but also a small detachment of personnel from the RAF’s 90 Signals Unit, based at RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire was deployed using the Leonardo Falcon Shield system. Jane’s reported that the RAF)personnel concluded their counter-unmanned aerial vehicle (C-UAV) mission at Gatwick Airport in West Sussex on 2 January.
The airport was closed for prolonged periods between the evening of 19 December and the afternoon of 21 December in response to about 67 sightings of drones flying near or over the airport, a Sussex police spokesperson said on 24 December.
We understand that, following this crisis, the Government is actively discussing changing the law to enable jamming/inhibition of drones under command of the operational commander of an airfield or other key installation that is being protected.
BATTLESPACE Editor Julian Nettlefold was given a brief on the T-REX system at AUSA 2017. (See: T-REX, 500 and counting! BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol.19 ISSUE 43, 16 October 2017). At AUSA, Orbital ATK showcased Tactical-Robotic Exterminator (T-REX), a vehicle mounted and integrated version of the combat-proven Liteye C-UAS non-lethal Electronic Attack (EA) capability combined with the lethal defeat capability of the Orbital ATK XM914 30mm BUSMASTER Chain Gun. This new Stryker mounted system integrated with tactical radar detection and electro-optical infrared (EO/IR) sensors, provides great Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) identification and tracking followed by directional radio frequency (RF) defeat exceeding all users’ threshold operational requirements. With T-REX, the operator has the choice of non-lethal, or lethal defeat leveraging Orbital ATK’s XM914 Chain Gun and advanced ammunition (30x113mm) specifically designed to defeat Class 1 and 2 UAS. Pratt and Miller undertook the vehicle installations. The Orbital ATK Booth also showed the Anti-UAV-Defence-System (AUDS) in a FoB configuration as purchased by the US and Spain. Many other countries have also expressed interest.
Sources told BATTLESPACE that the Liteye C-UAS system (based on AUDS) had destroyed over 2000 UAVs in theatre (down range) with one operator receiving an award for destroying more than 70 UAVs. In the advance on Mosul one of the Liteye C-UAS was re-configured and deployed on a truck and moved forward with troops protecting them from UAVs. The systems shown at AUSA were mounted on a General Dynamics Stryker and also a BAE Systems Bradley vehicle which had a different configuration with Chess Dynamics Stabilised Merlin EO/IR Weapons Control Tracking System integrated with a Danish WEIBEL 3D ballistic radar which allows targets to be detected in all weather conditions at a greater range as Graham Beall CEO of Chess Dynamics told the Editor. Both the Bradley and Stryker systems had slew-to-cue and target follow functionality slaved to the ATK Bushmaster canons. Graham Beall told the Editor that AUDS had been initially developed to counter Low Small Slow (LSS) Class 1 and 2 UAVs (Drones) and that it was now developing into a far wider use M-SHORAD system capable of shooting down multiple targets from UAVs of all types to aircraft.
AUDS appears to be the most advanced and mature TRL9 C-UAV system on the market. Handheld systems have encountered problems on the battlefield with IS sending unarmed UAVs to be located by these systems. The operator is then targeted by snipers and killed.
Gatwick, Heathrow airports order military-grade anti-drone equipment
On Jan 3rd 2019 it was announced by Reuters that London’s Gatwick and Heathrow airports have ordered military-grade anti-drone defences worth “several million pounds” after drones caused three days of disruption at Gatwick last month, the airports confirmed late on Thursday.
“While I can’t go into detail about exactly what we have, I can confirm this was an investment of several million pounds to ensure we are at an equivalent level to that provided by the Armed Forces”, a Gatwick spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.
Gatwick said the new equipment had been in place for over a week. The statement did not give further details. Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport, also said it had ordered the equipment. It said it was working closely with authorities including the police and looking at relevant technology to combat the threat of drones. It is believed that there are two AUDS systems at Gatwick and four containerised versions to be deployed at Heathrow.
Transport Minister Chris Grayling met police, aviation and defence chiefs on Thursday to discuss the issue, according to The Times newspaper, which first reported the orders.
Drone sightings caused chaos last month at Gatwick, Britain’s second busiest airport, disrupting the travel plans of tens of thousands of people in the run-up to Christmas.
The incident led to about 1,000 flight cancellations and affected the travel of 140,000 passengers. It revealed a vulnerability that is being scrutinised by security forces and airport operators worldwide.
The military was drafted to deploy specialist equipment, enabling authorities to reassure the airport that it was safe for planes to take off and land. Media reports suggested the technology that was used to combat the drone disruption included the Israeli-designed Drone Dome system.
Security Minister Ben Wallace said late last month that Britain’s security forces had detection systems that could be deployed throughout the country to combat the threat of drones.
Media reports suggested earlier on Thursday that the defence ministry had removed its anti-drone hardware from Gatwick. (Source: Reuters)