Army General leads U.S. charge against enemy drone attacks: ‘This threat can touch anybody, anywhere’

A surprise drone attack that took out nearly half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production and blindsided global markets last year is just the kind of thing that keeps Maj. Gen. Sean Gainey up at night. Gen. Gainey, commander of the Defense Department’s new Joint Counter Unmanned Aerial Systems Office, is the Pentagon’s point man in countering the rapidly growing threat from foreign drones, responsible for coordinating a crucial 21st-century anti-drone strategy across the country’s military services. With allies, major rivals such as China, and even hostile powers like Iran closing the gap with the U.S. on drone technology, the Army general and his 60-person team face one of the most daunting challenges confronting American national security today. “This threat can touch anybody, anywhere,” Gen. Gainey told The Washington Times in an exclusive interview this week. “We’re trying to get after the whole spectrum, from training through material solutions,” he said. “We have to ensure our soldiers have the best capability against that threat.” In the wide-ranging interview, Gen. Gainey detailed his office’s approach to protecting American military forces stationed around the world from enemy drone attacks. He described the growing momentum behind the idea of consolidating anti-drone capabilities across the services, rather than relying on the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Space Force to mount and maintain their own programs. Gen. Gainey assumed his new post in January, just four months after a swarm of low-flying drones slipped past Saudi Arabia’s sophisticated air defense systems and devastated two state-owned oil processing plants at Abqaiq and Khurais. Houthi forces in Yemen, battling a Saudi-backed coalition in that country’s civil war, claimed responsibility, but Washington and Riyadh both saw the hand of Iran in the attack. Not only did the September 2019 attack temporarily cut the oil production in one of the world’s biggest suppliers by half, it showed the world what some believe is the future of combat — and demonstrated how America’s once-inarguable advantage in drone warfare may be eroding. Dozens of countries across the globe — from major international powers such as China, Russia, Israel and the United Kingdom to nations such as Nigeria, Belarus and Indonesia — either have armed drones in their military arsenals or have invested heavily in programs to develop them. A South Korean think tank estimated in 2017 that the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had stockpiled upwards of 1,000 drones that analysts fear could be used to deliver chemical or biological weapons across the divided peninsula. Iran’s Defense Ministry, whose experience with drones dates back to the 1980s war with Iraq, last month took the wraps off a large arsenal of new drones for the army and air force, drones that Tehran says have the range to hit Israel.

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