Countering Small Uncrewed Aerial Systems

Air Defense by and for the Joint Force

Audio Brief

A short, spoken-word summary from CSIS’s Shaan Shaikh on his report with Tom Karako and Michelle McLoughlin, Countering Small Uncrewed Aerial Systems. 

Audio file

For years, air defense has been the domain of specialized units and niche capabilities under conditions of air superiority. That era is no more, and the entire joint force must now look up. Small uncrewed aerial systems (sUAS) pose a significant threat, exhibiting multi-mission capabilities, minimal signatures, wide proliferation, low costs, and ground force utility. The common use of sUAS today amplifies other trends in modern warfare, including further complicating the airspace, saturating battlefields with more reconnaissance and strike assets, and expanding support for precision strike complexes. Their introduction is comparable to that of mortars and anti-tank missiles in the degree to which they have and will continue to push ground forces to adapt their tactics, techniques, and procedures.

This report examines the sUAS threat, the various kinetic and non-kinetic defenses available to defeat them, and how the U.S. Department of Defense has approached the counter-sUAS mission over the past decade. It evaluates the Defense Department’s efforts across the DOTMLPF—doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel, and facilities.

This report was supported by Raytheon, an RTX business, and Epirus Inc., as well as by general support to CSIS. 

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Shaan Shaikh
Deputy Director and Fellow, Missile Defense Project
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Tom Karako
Senior Fellow, International Security Program and Director, Missile Defense Project

Michelle McLoughlin

Former Intern, Missile Defense Project