US ‘concerned’ by war-zone drones deployed by Iran, its proxies in Middle East

Drones deployed by Iran or its surrogates for reconnaissance and potential attacks against US forces in the Middle East are the most daunting new regional threat since improvised explosive devices were deployed during the Iraq war, according to the top US commander in the region.

The “growing threat posed by unmanned aerial systems, coupled with our lack of dependable, networked capabilities to counter them is the most concerning tactical development in the Middle East since IEDs,” General Frank McKenzie, who heads the US Central Command, said in a written statement Tuesday to the House Armed Services Committee.

The rapid use of rudimentary and, later, more advanced explosive devices – many made in Iran and sent to Iraq – killed and wounded thousands of American troops during the US invasion that began in 2003. The emergence of IED’s eventually led to full-scale Pentagon development and rapid production of fortified vehicles called MRAPs under then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Read more: A Lebanese pleads guilty to conspiring to export drone tech from US to Hezbollah

“We are fast approaching a juncture requiring a similar mobilization to counter the UAS threat,” McKenzie said, using the initials for unmanned aircraft systems.

Since May 2019, Iranian-supported groups have “conducted scores of UAS reconnaissance flights near US and Iraqi Security Force bases and used drones in the September attack against Saudi oil facilities,” McKenzie said. Iran denies involvement in the Saudi strike.

Ellen Lord, the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer, in January directed the Army to coordinate the military’s overall counter-drone effort, including selecting new systems for procurement and deployment.

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