US Special Forces now have a new secret weapon to use against insurgents.
It’s lightweight, relatively silent and highly effective, and it’s called Project Hornet.
Imagine you’re tasked with attacking an insurgent safehouse, deep in the heart of enemy territory.
Consider that the weakest link for the enemy, is communications.
Consider, as well, the ability to jam those communications, whether they be cellphones, walkie talkies or other radio devices, and, GPS signals as well.
In fact, anything within the line of sight — including that of an entire city — could be effectively jammed.
While details remain scant, some information on the previously unknown Project Hornet have been revealed in a Pentagon budget document.
According to a report in Forbes magazine, here is what we do know.
The R&D budget estimate for the inter-service Office of the Secretary of Defense, describes Project Hornet as “an advanced, hand-launched unmanned aerial system (UAS) that can be used by forward-deployed personnel to interdict and disrupt adversary electronic capabilities in contested environments.”
In simple terms, a small, hand-launched drone, capable of jamming electronic signals, and capable of operating where friendly aircraft cannot operate easily.
In situations like this, Special Forces may need to carry their own air power.
US Special Operations Command operates hundreds of small tactical drones, from palm-sized helicopters to quadcopters to large fixed-wing drones, and uses them extensively for intelligence gathering, Forbes reported.
They are also major users of the portable, tube-launched SwitchBlade strike drone.
Adding jamming into the mix is a logical extension of their capabilities. One possible platform is the widely-used RQ-11 Raven, a miniature aircraft weighing four pounds which flies for up to 90 minutes, Forbes reported.
The document states, “The UAS platform provides Special Operations Forces (SOF), along with Service and Interagency partners, with a versatile, adaptive capability that can be applied to a diverse range of adversary electronic threats.”
While the most obvious use is communications jamming, it is clear that Project Hornet can do more.
Small drones could also jam or spoof GPS. A jammer the same size and power as a smartphone can put every GPS within line of sight out of action, Forbes reported.
Special Forces may also be interested in using drone-borne jammers to put enemy radar out of action.
According to experts, a small drone released by commandos can get extremely close to a radar, and a one-watt jammer nearby can do more than tens of kilowatts from a manned electronic aircraft at a safe distance, Forbes reported.
The information which was provided states that the system has successfully “demonstrated” its capabilities, adding that the project has been “transitioned” to the special forces command, awaiting distribution to special forces units of the US Army.
There do not appear to be any other references to this project, and the document notes that: “Further details of this project are classified.”
There is likely to be plenty of demand for this capability among special forces, according to analyst Robert Bunker of C/O Futures, LLC.
“One of these electronic warfare drones could position itself over a terrorist or insurgent safehouse to electronically isolate it before it is raided,” Bunker said.
“The drones could be used to electronically isolate and suppress specific targets within a tactical bubble.”
He notes also that a jammer drone might be useful as a defense against the proliferation of grenade-dropping drones used by insurgents and others.
“A convoy could launch one of these systems in a counter-UAS mode to neutralize a hostile weaponized drone,” says Bunker.
— with files from TheDefensePost