Leaked documents show that Al-Qaeda’s leadership has teams of engineers finding ways to shoot down, jam or remotely hijack US drones.
The engineers are looking for holes in the weapons which have done considerable damage to the terrorist network.
So far there is no evidence that al-Qaeda has forced a drone to crash or interfered with its flight operations.
The US has tracked the group’s efforts to develop a counterdrone strategy since 2010. Drone airstrikes have forced al-Qaeda to take measures to limit their movements in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia.
So far the only thing about drone attacks al-Qaeda is happy about is that they tend to kill a lot of civilians too – and that has created something of a backlash against the USA.
Details of al-Qaeda’s attempts to fight back against the drone were found by the Washington Post in a cache of documents provided by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
Titled “Threats to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles”, the report is based on intelligence assessments posted since 2006.
Worried intelligence analysts noted that information about drone operational systems is available in the public domain.
The Post said it is withholding some detailed portions of the classified material that could spill the beans on the specific weaknesses of certain aircraft.
It doesn’t look like al-Qaeda is close to finding these weaknesses, and US spy agencies have concluded that al-Qaeda faces “substantial” problems finding a way to attack drones.
Unmanned aircraft do have a weak spot, namely the satellite links and remote controls that enable pilots to fly them.
In July 2010, a US spy agency intercepted electronic communications indicating that senior al-Qaeda figures wanted to develop jammers to interfere with GPS signals and infrared tags that drone operators rely on to pinpoint missile targets.
Other weirder plans included using balloons and small radio-controlled aircraft, or hobby planes, which insurgents apparently saw as having the potential to monitor drone flight patterns.