The US brought down an Iranian drone near an American warship in the Strait of Hormuz by using new technology that had just been added to naval defenses, the latest move by the US military to deploy more furtive measures against Iran, defense officials said.
The counterdrone system, known as the Marine Air Defense Integrated System, or MADIS, was developed after officials recognized in 2015 that enemy drones posed an increasing threat to U.S. Marines around the world, The Wall Street Journal reported.
And while most military systems take years to develop, the MADIS represents a hodgepodge of other systems that officials have said would have to be routinely updated to keep up with the fast-paced changes in drone technology.
MADIS sits atop a Marine vehicle, allowing it to be transported onto a ship or to front lines where Marines could face a drone threat, like Syria. It consists of radars and jammers that identify if a drone is a threat, and, if so, can jam the drone’s communications to the ground.
Some versions of the MADIS include armed systems that fire at drones.
It couldn’t be determined how many times MADIS has been used to target a drone, but this week’s incident involving the USS Boxer appeared to be the first known use of the technology by a Navy ship, the report said.
Originally developed for ground wars, the counterdrone system was first deployed on the USS Kearsarge this year as it passed through the Suez Canal. Like the Boxer, the Kearsarge is an amphibious assault ship carrying hundreds of Marines.
The Pentagon so far has declined to officially say what it used to bring down the drone — or what kind it was — but it released a photo Thursday from the USS Boxer showing a MADIS parked on the ship’s deck.
The system uses a radar and cameras to scan the sky to detect drones and distinguish between friendly and hostile systems. Once it locates a threat, it uses radio frequencies to jam the drone, C4ISR reported in May.
It’s believed low-altitude defense officers and gunners with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163, which is currently deployed aboard the Boxer with the California-based 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, trained with the system before the unit deployed.
The use of the MADIS on naval vessels is the latest example of the Defense Department turning to less conventional means of engagement with Iran, as President Trump has been reticent to deploy more traditional means of military force, the report said.
Last month, the US military’s Cyber Command, in coordination with Central Command in the Middle East, launched cyberattacks against an Iranian intelligence group’s computer systems to control missile and rocket launches.
The result is a conflict that is less visible and more difficult to measure. US security officials have been closely monitoring Iranian hacking groups, fearing they too may retaliate against perceived US aggression in unconventional means, including potential cyberattacks on critical US infrastructure.
FireEye, a US-based cybersecurity company, published research this week saying it had been tracking a phishing campaign conducted by a suspected Iran-linked entity masquerading as being affiliated with Cambridge University and using LinkedIn as a platform to send malware-laced documents to victims, the report said.