June 17, 2021

The Dangers of Potential Russian Counter-UAV Technology Exports to Latin America

By Samuel Bendett

The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology has proliferated globally, resulting in myriad uses, both military and civilian. With the steady rise in non-military uses comes the potential and dangers of this technology’s misuse. Presently, the Latin America (LATAM) region is home to major energy and extractive industries infrastructure, port, and logistics facilities, as well as competing and overlapping geopolitical causes and rivalries — and all can become potential targets of a growing list of belligerents.

Following the growing UAV use by LATAM militaries, many non-state actors and groups, such as drug cartels, criminal organizations, non-state armed groups, terrorist organizations, political and opposition groups, started to adopt UAV technology to further their own goals. Over the past several years, there have been high-profile incidents involving unsanctioned drones that threatened political, military, and economic targets around the world.

With the steady rise in non-military uses comes the potential and dangers of this technology’s misuse.

In recent years, Syrian, Iraqi, Russian, and U.S. forces — and their regional allies and partners — came under attack from small commercial drones that were turned into combat UAVs by the Islamic State group (IS). Often, the drones were simply rigged by IS to drop grenades from low altitude. These and many other examples demonstrate that both commercial and military drones present a challenge that forces governments and the private sector to adopt counter-UAV (also known as C-UAS, or counter-unmanned aerial system) technologies to defend their interests. Elsewhere around the world, oil and gas installations along with civilian airports are being targeted by more sophisticated combat drones.

Back in 2016, drone industry analysts and observers predicted that as UAVs began to proliferate across LATAM, counter-drone measures would be developed domestically or imported as a result. Selling and promoting C-UAS systems could be a relatively low-cost/high-return policy for Moscow, and its progress in developing and using C-UAS systems merits a closer look. Today, Russia is one of the major hubs for developing such countermeasures, building on its decades-long experience in electronic warfare (EW), and its military experience in Syria. In the midst of this global C-UAS race, Russia could solidify one of the leading export positions in this rapidly growing field.

Read the full article from Diálogo.

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