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Thread: Drone Attack

  1. #1

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    Drone Attack

    Think of the recent drone strike on the Iranian general from a technology standpoint. First of all we must have had very good intelligence to find the one car the two generals were in and where is was going to be at a specific time. I don't know how this was done, perhaps by satellite surveillance aided by people on the ground, and it may well be confidential so we don't know much anytime soon. And most of all, that a drone can be that effective, that is can find a specific target and launch a missile just at that target an destroy a vehicle without unwanted destruction to the area or civilians. I wonder where the drone was launched from and what its range is and how and from where it was controlled? And again. the specifics of this may be confidential.
    I have been reading the Orielly book, KILLING THE RISING SUN, about fighting the war in the Pacific, and while is it s not primarily about the atomic bomb, one thing about the weapons of that time, be it B-29s with conventional bombs or the nuclear ones, was that they were not very precise, they had to target whole cities and not the surgical precision of these drones. I have seen the drones on display at Nellis AFB and they are not so impressive looking, but in action they seem to do the job. And as for as what the job is in this case, that is a whole nother matter, I don't know much about the strategy or other than the tech parts of the story.
    Last edited by Bill Greenwood; 01-04-2020 at 09:45 AM.

  2. #2
    rwanttaja's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Greenwood View Post
    Think of the recent drone strike on the Iranian general from a technology standpoint. First of all we must have had very good intelligence to find the one car the two generals were in and where is was going to be at a specific time. I don't know how this was done, perhaps by satellite surveillance aided by people on the ground, and it may well be confidential so we don't know much anytime soon. And most of all, that a drone can be that effective, that is can find a specific target and launch a missile just at that target an destroy a vehicle without unwanted destruction to the area or civilians. I wonder where the drone was launched from and what its range is and how and from where it was controlled? And again. the specifics of this may be confidential.
    The attack was probably the culmination of a combination of US intelligence processes.

    The intel community probably found out about the upcoming trip via COMINT or HUMINT. COMINT is the monitoring of communications traffic; it can be done in a variety of ways. Satellites, aircraft, covert taps are all possibilities in this case. It is a subset of ELINT, Electronic Intelligence. Likely, the intelligence folks were able to intercept planning discussions related to his trip to Baghdad. This may have been via decrypting hardwire or radio communications, intercepting cell phone calls, etc. Assuming this is taking place in Tehran (well inland), this probably was not aircraft-based. Satellites would have been tasked, and/or intercept gear installed in the embassies of our allies.

    HUMINT is "Human Intelligence"...classic spies. Someone in the general's internal circle could have been "turned," working for a US or allied agency, or a lower-tier person may have been able to access his trip schedule (e.g., janitor finding itinerary information in the trash). One thing which is extremely rare is the classic "James Bond" situation...the people directly involved are almost always people of the targeted country, not a disguised foreigner pretending to be a native.

    This was a surgical strike, so knowledge of an upcoming visit would not have been sufficient for targeting. The planners would have needed as much information as possible regarding routes and timing in order to minimize collateral damage. The COMINT and HUMINT efforts in Iraq would have been far easier, since this would have taken place in a country where we already have a significant intelligence presence. Resistance groups in places like Iraq include people who are not very cognizant of the security risks of modern communications systems; I suspect the US Alphabets* have them penetrated six ways from Sunday.

    (* Alphabets: Agencies such as the CIA, NRO, NSA, DIA, etc.)

    So...we know when the trip is happening, and we know the arrangements being made to transport the target. Usual practice in these cases is to travel well within the urban areas in order to hide within the urban sprawl and to use the populace as a shield. However, an airport offers wide-open spaces and the ability to minimize collateral impacts. The general's airplane may have unloaded in an isolated corner of the field. Ideal from the point of view of an attacker, and I would have thought the Iranian planners would have nixed that. So a better plan would have been to use a commercial aircraft with the general and his staff mixed in with the everyday travelers.

    But...at some point, the target gets put into his own set of vehicles. Ideally, US Intel would have identified the vehicles to be used in advance via COMINT/HUMINT, but drones overhead could have picked out appropriate vehicles coming from the resistance group's areas. Depending on how deeply those resistance units have been penetrated, the vehicles could have been marked, either electronically, or with special paint not visible to the naked eye.

    In any case, we can assume 24-hour drone coverage over Baghdad. Some probably have local control, but the big armed ones are probably controlled out of US bases. Major events such as this one will mean high-level agency control (e.g., someone pretty high is calling the shots) and the travel of such people to Baghdad would be noted and potentially warn the target. One drawback of this is the communications delay; it's more than 22,300 miles from the Baghdad to the satellite, another ~30,000 miles to a Comsat over the US, 22,300+ from the satellite to the US ground terminal where the controllers are watching, and, of course, the same distance back. Due to the limitations of the speed of light, you might see a second or more of delay...and, of course, the general's convoy is moving at ~70 feet per second.

    So the planners work out some way to isolate the general's motorcade. The nice thing about airports is that they ARE full of open areas where attacks can be made with limited risk to the populace. The planners might have to work out ways to interrupt normal traffic to allow the motorcade to be isolated. A lot of care is needed on this, as the security people working the general's visit would be watching for such efforts.

    Drones overhead will provide the primary information, but there will be ground teams hidden on the ground with telescopes. While team communications may be via satellite, satellite imagery is probably not used in real-time....satellite passes are short and relatively rare, so can't be counted on for events for which specific timing might vary. Satellites can't "loiter," except for satellites orbiting above the equator at geosynchronous altitude (~22,300 miles), and others in specialized orbits that are at least as high.

    Drone video will be forwarded to the US operating base. There, the presence of the general will be confirmed, as well as specific information as to what vehicle he's boarded. Ground teams will confirm. Target designators will go active...probably controlled locally due to the speed-of-light delay. The US Mission Director will give the go for the attack.

    And...boom.

    Ron Wanttaja
    Last edited by rwanttaja; 01-04-2020 at 12:59 PM.

  3. #3
    rwanttaja's Avatar
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    Article in the Seattle Times this morning with more detail. By Tony Capaccio of Bloomberg News.

    1. According to a quoted source, Soleimani was easy to track due to his love of publicity.
    2. Soleimani traveled to Baghdad on a commercial airline flight.
    3. Says a control site in Beirut "watched him board the plane to Baghdad..." This implies that Soleimani's flight came from Lebanon.
    4. Soleimani and his party boarded two cars at Baghdad International Airport.
    5. Multiple drones observing; article claims they would have specifically been able to identify him and even pick out his clothing.
    6. Drones allowed them to know which car was in. Had eyes on him for ten minutes prior to the attack.
    7. Says a Reaper carried out the attack. Implies just one aircraft used.
    8. Sounds like Soleimani's handlers tried a bit of razzle-dazzle, changing position of the cars.
    9. Attack happened on an airport access road, with no civilian cars in sight.
    10. Both cars were hit by two Hellfires each. "There is no 'overkill.' There is only 'open fire' and 'I need to reload.'" - Karl Tagon

    Article also references the killing of Admiral Yamamoto in April 1942.

    Ron Wanttaja

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    The capability to identify, track and hit a specific person in a moving vehicle using a UAS is not new. We have been doing it for some time now. It is one of the reasons we are short of HELLFIRE missiles, we use them for such purposes very often. It does allow precision and "discrimination" -- taking out the target you mean to take out while limiting risk to nearby civilians. That we track the movement of key persons of interest is also not new. Putting it all together, as Bill points out, is the major feat.

    Ron, I have seen that done without any ground teams near by. We know that a certain person left a certain place and that he will travel along such a road. UAV's are overhead waiting. Three man UAS crew: pilot, sensor operator, intelligence analyst. Establish visual contact - yes with cameras that can identify facial features and facial recognition software at the control station -- and wait for a good angle to attack with low risk of inadvertent civilian casualties. None of this is to say that I necessarily approve of the tactic in all circumstances. There are times, I have come to accept, that it is appropriate.
    Chris Mayer
    N424AF
    www.o2cricket.com

  5. #5
    Is that Drone attack work better than, aircraft attack?

  6. #6
    rwanttaja's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by smithadam View Post
    Is that Drone attack work better than, aircraft attack?
    Drones have better loiter time for much less cost. It also puts command and control under the more-direct control of the high mucky-mucks.

    Ron Wanttaja

  7. #7
    BusyLittleShop's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rwanttaja View Post
    Article in the Seattle Times this morning with more detail. By Tony Capaccio of Bloomberg News.

    2. Soleimani traveled to Baghdad on a commercial airline flight.

    Ron Wanttaja
    He knew commercial flights are off limits for our forces...

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