Schneier on Security
A blog covering security and security technology.
« Marketing at the RSA Conference |
| The NSA's Ragtime Surveillance Program and the Need for Leaks »
March 6, 2013
Al Qaeda Document on Avoiding Drone Strikes
3 – Spreading the reflective pieces of glass on a car or on the roof of the building.
4 – Placing a group of skilled snipers to hunt the drone, especially the reconnaissance
ones because they fly low, about six kilometers or less.
5 – Jamming of and confusing of electronic communication using the ordinary water-lifting dynamo fitted with a 30-meter copper pole.
6 – Jamming of and confusing of electronic communication using old equipment and
keeping them 24-hour running because of their strong frequencies and it is possible using simple ideas of deception of equipment to attract the electronic waves devices similar to that used by the Yugoslav army when they used the microwave (oven) in attracting and confusing the NATO missiles fitted with electromagnetic searching devices.
Posted on March 6, 2013 at 6:50 AM
• 63 Comments
To receive these entries once a month by e-mail, sign up for the Crypto-Gram Newsletter.
I think #7: "Using general confusion methods and not to use permanent headquarters." is one of the most important items in that list.
It all comes down to people, after all.
There must be an error in 4 (the altitude the drones fly) - no sniper can shoot them down from 6000 meters. And that being 6000 meters upwards.
I'd like to see that rifle...
I was thinking the same inre #4
that range may-well be true horizontally, but it sure ain't true when shooting straight-up!
I am partly mixed thinking they have some country's support and partly thinking they are pitiful.
So... if we comment on what's wrong... are we aiding and abetting the enemy?
Regarding #4, the implication is that the "other" drones continuously fly higher than 6000m. The drones specified are believed to fly _lower than_ 6000m, which at some point makes them accessible to a sniper.
But yeah, the no-permanent-handle and no-permanent-location rules are more important/effective. Obscurity often works better than security in the physical world. (i.e. octopi change color/texture to hide from predators instead of whipping out their glocks.)
tapani: no sniper can shoot them down from 6000 meters. And that being 6000 meters upwards.
True. But the paper says "or less". And this "or less" may even be "significantly less" if the circumstances are right:
First, the infra-red sensor to pick up human heat signatures has a range of roundabout 3 km, which makes it the minimum height above ground.
Then, assuming that the drone is currently over a valley, it might be possible to hit it from an elevated position (i.e. a shooter somewhere in the surrounding mountains).
I still wouldn't place a large bet on the shooter, but there /are/ people winning the lottery once in a while. ;)
There must be an error
No there are several "Anti-Material" (AM) rifles around that certainly have the capability of firing amunition that would do considerable damage over that range.
One of the earliest AM (as opposed to Anti-Personnel) rifles to see use was the Boys Anti-Tank Rifle. A few years ago I had the oportunity to fire one and well lets put it this way it was an experiance I'm unlikely to forget (It cracked a bone).
Modern AM rifles are also used as sniper weapons and for bomb disposal and are thus often fitted out for the half inch Browning Machine Gun round that is NATO standard (NATO 0.5BMG).
This five and a half inch long round has some interesting bullets available including one with a microprocessor and inertial senssors to keep it on track through flight. The current record for "combat kill distance" of the 0.5BMG is a little over 2800m set about a year ago by an unamed Australian
In the UK Accuarcy International make several AP/AM sniper weapons as does the US Barret for the 0.5BMG. However there are larger rounds out there with considerably greater ranges and kinetic energy.
Although the rifels are specialised in general it was rounds for heavy machine guns that were used to build the rifles around.
For aircraft to aircraft combat you have cannon rounds which are designed to have considerable kinnetic energy and high muzzle velocity, such amunition is also used now in some places for armoured vehicle defence systems to shoot down incoming ordinance. Such weapons and their gun laying systems could be modified for anti-drone activity.
In general drones are designed for "time over target" for observational not combat use and thus are neither particularly fast or agile. Which is fine against an enemy that lacks technical sophistication but not one that does.
There is of course another issue with drones, they like cloudless skies, clouds bring their operational height and also time down by quite a margin.
I was in an air defense unit in the Army and we practiced shooting at target drones with M-16's. Slow moving, low altitude, easy to see... Impossible to hit. There's a reason duck hunters use shotguns instead of rifles. The only method of defending against air attack with rifles that had any chance of working was to have the entire company throw up a wall of lead and hope for a hit.
Moving the HQ twice daily is SOP in the US Army.
There's a reason duck hunters use shotguns instead of rifles.
Yes and it's not the one you are alluding to. The main reason is to limit the range of a shot fired upwards. Bullets fired indescriminatly from hand guns and rifles upwards into the air at outdoor celebrations have been known to kill people a considerable distance away.
This fire upwards and have the projectile come down on a designated target is used not just by field guns and mortars but also by light machine guns during WWII to shoot over mountain tops onto the enemies rewards positions.
Re No. 4 - my guess on the error is that it should be "slow" - not "low", and the 6 kilometers is 6 klicks an hour. But they would fly low enough to hit with a good rifle, too.
I'm not convinced that abducting Western citizens would have the desired effect of building sentiment against drone attacks on terrorists. My gut reaction is the American people would increase their support for continued war.
With regards points 5&6 and primitive jamming equipment it can be inordanetly effective.
Esentialy an electrical spark or arc contains a very broad band of frequencies at just about whatever power you would like.
For instance take a DC motor (12V) and use it to drive a modified car distributor this will produce a quite usefull set of pulses especialy if you know a little bit about how to use an auto transformer to up the spark gap voltage. If fed into an appropriate "long wire" antenna this can jam out MW radios and HF radios over several square miles (I've tried it in the past and know it works ;)
Now the problem with such a system is it's mainly llow frequency interferance not UHF and microwave.
However there is a way to do this with a "top hat spark gap" the Victorians were known to have produced kilowatts of microwave power with such systems .
The basic design is a sphear shaped electrode in a tube which is sealed at one end and has a plate at the other (it looks like a top hat) if you get the measurments correct such a system will generate some rather usefull very broadband energy in the UHF and microwave bands.
Such a system could be put together very simply and easily from cooking oil or auto oil drums and any metal plate from old vehicles etc.
 K.L.Smith "Victorian Microwaves" Wirless World, Sept 1979.
As far as #4 is concerned, notice that they do not explicitly mention that the sniper team is there to shoot the drone.
A sniper team would probably be the most qualified group to spot drones
That's 6 kilometers above sea level. Kabul is about 1.8 kilometers above sea level, and it's in a broad valley surrounded by the Hindu Kush mountains; the highest point in that mountain range is over 7 kilometers above sea level.
A sniper is not going to station himself on the highest peak in the country, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that plenty of their fortifications were 4 km or more above sea level.
@altjira - 6km/h is a brisk walking pace. The only machine that can fly that slow is a helicopter.
Counter measures such as shooting at drones or wide band interference are themselves likely to attract attention, and so are short term measures. Longer term solutions such as not having a permanent locations and not communicating will degrade the organisation. So drones may still be cost effective even if all they do is force adoption of these countermeasures.
@ Clive Robinson
"No there are several "Anti-Material" (AM) rifles around that certainly have the capability of firing amunition that would do considerable damage over that range."
Like this one? ;)
NTW 20mm Anti-Material Rifle
This is strait and simple EM Warfare tactics combined with Vietnam grade low tech simplicity. Murphy's law can be the defender's friend.
If I knew the drone was coming, would I lounge about in its cross hairs?
Identify. If I identify the threat because it likes to use my landmarks to navigate, I am 1/5 of the way there.
Coordinate: If I identified it, would I tell my friends.
Replicate: If I had a better than average plan to help, would I tell my friends how to do it?
Provoke: If I knew how to harass or deceive a drone would I skip that step?
Hibernate: If I watched what a Drone Pilot though of as innocent and would skip, I can learn to look innocent and be skipped.
Firstly, you're not going to shoot a drone down, that's just stupid. Even with a .50, not going to happen, unless you pick it off as it takes-off or lands at the end of the runway.
The most important aspect of this document is to stay under heavy tree canopy! Thermals don't work in dense fog, snow, or through vegetation. Afghans have successfully implemented wool blankets to disperse thermal signatures, and avoid being killed. They also park vehicles under trees very successfully. Drones aren't magical.
Check this out:
Countering Aerial Thermal Surveillance:
Following on from my comment in the previous post about having to hide from Drones, I thought it would be a good interest topic to write about the threat of aerial thermal surveillance. A few ‘open source’ comments and facts about this threat, should you ever have to face it.
#1 and #2 are the most interesting not covered here.
1 – It is possible to know the intention and the mission of the drone by using the Russianmade “sky grabber” device to infiltrate the drone’s waves and the frequencies. The device
is available in the market for $2,595 and the one who operates it should be a computerknow-how.
2 – Using devices that broadcast frequencies or pack of frequencies to disconnect the
contacts and confuse the frequencies used to control the drone
@ Clive Robinson
"[use shotguns] Yes and it's not the one you are alluding to. The main reason is to limit the range of a shot fired upwards."
BS, shotguns are used for EXACTLY the reason wiredog was alluding to.
I don't get #3. Apart from some localised dazzle, what's that supposed to accomplish?
@ Godel "I don't get #3."
Obviously(?) AQ don't(?) have inside access to US drone operations, and so can only make decisions and plans based on what they observe. Sometimes those observations will be mistaken or exagerrated, and create mistaken deductions. My guess is that #3 is one of these.
For example, they may have observed that in a particular event the drone appeared to lose interest and fly away, and also noticed that there was a lot of broken glass about, and mistakenly assemed that the glass defeated the drone's sensors. Or sumfink.
I suppose it's plasible that broken glass on the upper surfaces would screw with optical sensors (and mirrors would probably screw with thermal sensors, at least a little), but I'd think you would need a pretty thick and continuous coverage of broken pieces, and that the pieces would probably have to be in a particular size-band, in order to get a useful effect. Breaking a coke bottle and gluing the few shards to the top of your car probably wouldn't do much.
It could also be a simple case of "We really don't know how you can hide yourself, so here's a simple technique that will at least make you *think* you're hiding, and maybe raise your morale a little."
@ Clive Robinson & @someone
Yep, the big problem with jammers is that they're trivially easy to find with RDF and then to blow up, or at least investigate. If you have to keep turning off and moving your jammers around, that sorta defeats their purpose.
Also, the drones have pretty good (perhaps not perfect...) 'fly around (or home) autonomously if signal lost' routines.
There might be a short-term benefit to having local jammers if you're also listening into (watching into?) the video feeds, because if they're looking at you, you trip the jammer before they receive the fire command (hopefully).
However, many modern fighting aircraft have counter-EW ordnance that is designed to automatically fire at and take out the radiation source. Drones carrying missiles could be easily rearmed to carry one or two of them, too (and I'm sure jamming drone signals counts as 'reason to return fire' according to the ROE in Afghanistan and probably Pakistan as well).
BS, shotguns are used for EXACTLY the reason wiredog was alluding to
I suggesst before you start calling BS you go and study the history of "Punt Guns" which were the major way of "water fowling" before they were banned and shotguns.
The shotgun as we know it is developed from a "Gentleman's Sporting gun" which evolved from the close quater weapon often used from horesback called the blunderbuss. Part of it's design was very deliberatly a short range weapon suitable for use in melees and the lose shot would find it's way through eye slits and vents and uncovered joints in footsoldier armour. It was an early "shock and awe" weapon in that it made a very loud noise and bright flash (the word Blunder as in "blunder about" had a similar meaning back then as the word "confusion" does today, the buss comes from the old Dutch word for pipe).
In effect the blunderbuss was an officers or gentlemans weapon and it's short range was a significant factor for mounted hunting in that it was easier to load and safer to use in hunting parties where accidently shooting in somebodies direction was common. Because as most game keepers would tell you "Gentlemen play at hunting". Game keepers also liked it as it did very limited damage to trees and other "crops" when eradicating from a property in low light conditions vermin such as stoats, weasles, foxes and poachers.
The punt gun is in effect a small cannon (and possibly where the first ones came from) that can be loaded with any kind of shot upto a two inch diameter ball (ie A Guage) it's barrel was six to ten feet in length and it took considerable time to re-load. In America it was used for comercial water fowl hunting with such effect it nearly eraddicated several species of water fowl. The idea behind it was that it was mounted in a very shallow draft boat (the punt) and would be gently pushed through reeds and other cover to where water fowl were resting. When fired it would kill a very large number of birds some records show more than one hundred, the punt would absorb the recoil and dissipate it into the water and often move backwards a few inches.
As for shooting game for the pot such as pigeons, rabbit, duck, goose and other birds, it is quite easy to use a rifle to do it. Before my health dictated otherwise I used to regularly use either a .22 rim fire or a .177 20ft/lb air rifle. I also used the .22 for foxes and other vermin and the .177 for ratting. I've freequently taken game birds such as wood pigeons on the wing or from trees with the .177, I could have also used the .22 but I didn't because I know from experiance the .177 can travel well over a half mile  and the .22 I've calculated would do over 2 miles. Whilst being hit at the range limit of the .177 is going to hurt it is unlikely to cause you injury, the same is not true for the .22 as accident reports have shown.
 I shoot at a woodie on the wing on farm land early one morning, and it saw my movment and turned in flight as I fired, I did however a little while later hear the tinkle of the pellet hitting the roof tiles of the farm building. The farmer who was up and about was not amused, because as he pointed out he did not want the windows broken.
@ Jon (A different Jon),
Yep, the big problem with jammers is that they're trivially easy to find with RDF and then to blow up or at least investigate.
I've acctually had a little think on what might have "been lost in translation" from the AQ document.
I thought "where are they going to get a copper rod from when wire would be easier" then the penny dropped, they don't mean "rod" but "pipe" and the purpose of the jammer is not what at first it seems...
In that part of the world it's desert not just as in the conventional meaning but electronicaly as well. Laptops make a lot of electrical noise which for various reasons are not power limited but frequency spread. This makes them easy to detect and a 'laptop in the middle of nowhere' is a good indicator of AQ operatives so is a signiture the US et al are going to be looking for.
The badly translated idea is to turn all village water pumps surreptitiously into jamers (you need move only one wire and cut one lead on a decoupling capacitor in most cases).
Thus as you say they are easy to find. Now if some brain dead drone jockey falls for it he wipes out a village full of innocents, or ground troops are sent in. Either way AQ gets a publicity victory and more recruits. If the drone jockeys don't fall for it, then it provides AQ with more and more safe haven areas to operate their laptops etc.
If we skip the part about rifles that could shoot straight up almost six kilometers, and still have enough power to destroy the drone, there's still the problem of aiming.
Finding the drone must be done with electronics, I guess, but try to locate one tiny spot in your telescope, estimate the winds etc.
Even Simo Häyhä couldn't have done it (I know he didn't use optical scopes).
@ Jon (a.d.j),
I can tell you're not an amateur radio person. Copper plumbing makes *wonderful* antennae
Oh I know that, when they said "rod" I thought they ment solid copper rod to use as a vertical radiator or some such. Now in that part of the world finding a thirty foot length of copper rod lying around is not going to be easy, power cable would be easier to find.
Then as I said the penny dropped and I realised it was copper pipe such as 15 or 22mm water pipe that you would find connected to the pump and running a fair way over ground. And with the leaks and night condensation the ground underneath it would probably make quite a good "ground" (especialy if the dog/donky/ who ever had releived themselves against it regularly as they do... ;-)
And yup when the penny dropped for you, and your thinking switched from first/second world systems with AC squirrel cage motor thinking to third world 12 volt DC solar/battery power motor with worn brushes thinking the little light buld in your head lit up as well :-)
As for laptops and computers in general they do generate quite a bit of EMI and most don't meet the EMC masks and can push out 3-3.5watts of very broadband comb generator style output from the top end of the HF band well into microwaves so the energy in each spur might be fractions of a milliwat but still well over the mask level. So rather than spend money on filtering components many manufactures use frequency spreading. Thus each spur gets spread and it falls to under the EMC mask level in the way it's measured...
If the only test instruments you had on hand were directional couplers a couple of EMC test antennas and a spectrum analyser then you would see the computer as a small bump in the noise floor with the pump system drowning it out entirely. So on the face of it job done...
But *if you know* that the laptop spreads it's signal you generaly also know or can easily find the spreading sequence and chip rate. And knowing this could build a de-spreader and easily pull the laptop signals out of the noise. I'm aware of how effective this is from actually doing it when trying to do a bit of Van Eck Freaking which could pick one PC out of a group of ten as a demonstration.
Now as I said AQ's assumed playground is a desert in more ways than one and a laptop on it's own with spreading on is going to be detectable at a Km or more simply as it's the only noise source out there with the correct de-spreading then you are potentialy looking at 10KM line of sight in the upper end of the radiated signal.
Now the question is, whilst making this sort of primitive jammer would work for simple test kit would it still work against appropriatly designed de-spreading receivers?...
With regards #3 flip the problem the other way around.
In the desert and other scrubland like places the only shiny objects are man made.
If you are a drone operator looking for AQ you are still following the old "Shape, Shine" rules to do a visual find. Now if I give you hundreds of shinny objects to check out then I've increased your workload hundreds of times. Further if I accidently get refllection of my optics you will just see it as one flash out of many potentials rather than one certain target...
In a cat and mouse game, it helps the mouse if the cat thinks there are ten or twenty fake mice (you only have to see a cat follow a laser pointer to see why ;-)
Finding the drone must be done with electronics, guess, but try to locate one tiny spot in your telescope, estimate the winds etc
As has been pointed out the drone might be at 6000m ASL but the sniper might be at 4000m ASL so the range is closer to 2000m and snipers are making kill shots on much smaller targets at over 2500m using ordinary optical scopes and stanadard NATO 0.5BMG
We know that AQ operatives in the past have direction found the drones and then locked onto their downlinks and seen the same video feed as the drone pilots. It does not require much skill, just a little practice to get a good indication of where "to sweep your optics" and then get a visual lock.
Now a little bit of history, the currrent sniper rifles came about because somebody put a telescopic sight on a light machine gun and used it to get the range that the then sniper weapons were not giving.
Rather than think a single shot sniper rifle, think a heavy machine gun on a tripod etc with a sniper scope. A belt with every third round being tracer would also help in exatly the same way it used to do for fighter pilots using cannon fire from WWII onwards.
Oh and the Provo's (Provisonal Irish Republican Army) used to do similar to keep UK Army helicopters out of various areas in the North. They also planed to shoot down a 747 or equivalent flying into or out of Heathrow airport the same way using a truck mounted machine gun in Chiswick London or closer under the flight path. And I can assure you back in the 1980's Maggie Thatchers Government considered this to be a serious threat especialy when the Provo's went shopping in the US for the appropriate machine guns...
Re aiming at drones
I agree with tapani and other critics. I don't think it's likely that AQ snipers are going to hit a drone. We don't have any sniper on record destroying a high flying drone that I know about. That it happened in The Bourne Legacy seals the deal on it being fiction. Our opponents have always used their air forces to take out drones for a reason.
Now, the situation might be different for mini-UAV's flying low and slow. A good sharpshooter might be able to take them out. They will need some practice with moving or aerial targets, though.
@ Nick P,
Our opponents have always used their air forces to take out drones for a reason
You've left the word "conventional" out of there ;)
AQ are "unconventional comabatants" and as such don't have the infrastructure or resources to aford the waste of an airforce.
As far as I'm aware in recent times the only unconventional combatants that had an "air force" as such were in the north of Sri Laka called the "Air Tigers" consisting of a couple of microlites, a couple of hellicopters four of five single engine light aircraft and a couple of UAV's.
So in the general sense drones and other UAV's belonging to the US and other Western nations are considered "air superior" by default in those conflict areas. However we know that unconventional combatants have had their hands on anti-aircraft weapons befor and it might well be in various persons interests to ensure that happens again.
Even if that does not happen it is sufficiently well known that the drones are vulnerable if they caan be brought into range of low tech weapons.
Most of our anti-aircraft countermeassures are compleatly usless against low tech weapons and only speed and agility will suffice.
As I noted above PIRA managed to put the wind up UK Forces by just seaking to obtain heavy caliber machine guns that were known to be capable of shooting down helicopters.
Thus the question arises as to when unconventional forces get their hands on weapons with the range and if they will use them against US drones.
I suspect that it is in the minds of various planners in Iran and Syria currently as they do have the weapons capable of shooting down drones.
If a drone does come noticably under fire the question then becomes what will the US do, will they pull back on their usage through fear of loss of technology, or will they press forward with more conventional forces to try to remove the threat.
And it's a question many countries are wanting the answer to, simply because the US seem hell bent on expanding the drone capability as far as they can as quickly as they can and some nations are already looking at the lack of respect the US shows for other nations sovereign airspace as tantamount to an act of war.
Thus I would start to expect one or two nations to look at "war by proxy" by "unconventional forces" as a way to test US drone capabilities...
From the US point of view Al Quaeda machine gunning drones with tracers is probably a best case scenerio. The drones will start hunting in pairs (or packs) and the US will be willing to trade a large number of drones for one skilled and dedicated opponent.
There's still the problem of distance. 2000 meters upwards requires much more velocity/power than the same distance horizontally. And if you don't shoot straight up but at an angle, that distance will become even larger.
Modern machine guns and their amunition have the range accuracy, power and rate of fire.
Navel ships have had systems designed to automaticaly shoot down incoming ordinance for a number of years now so we know the physics of it works.
There have been similar prototypes shown for armoured vehicles and systems are being looked into as a defence against GPS guided smart munitions such as bombs, mortar rounds or 150lb artillery shells in indirect fire.
The only question is if the likes of a supposadly unconventional combatant can or will do the same and for what reason against drones.
Given the knowns we can surmise that various non super power nations are certainly developing anti drone systems in response to changes in the way the US wages war.
Around 50 years ago the US discovered that the major limitation to it's military capabilities for "extending power" was not it's opponents military capabilities but it's civilian population reaction to the press etc. Over time the US has been more and more hampered by the press and to sum it up crudely the two issues are,
1, Body Bags being repatriated.
2, Non combatant civilian deaths.
The solution to the first has been to try to minimise boots on the ground and bums in the air, and to the second the development of more precise weapons and targeting systems.
The initial way to do the first was to change the way the US faught other super powers in proxie wars. Instead of sending in large amounts of US troops they resorted to arming and training the native populations of the countries used for proxie wars. So in Vietnam in the early 1970's there were very large casualties both in US troops and civilians. By the 1980's when the cold war was aproaching it's point of maximum you had the US arming Afghan tribes men via irregulars from other nations with very modern weaponry. That did not work out to well because it left Afghanistan as a waring tribal nation armed to the teath with modern weaponary and the likes of Osam Bin Laden and others stiring up a backlash against the US...
The cold war colapsed for various reasons and what had been inconsiquential build ups of tribal power in the likes of Afghanistan and Somalia and quite a few other places were not immediatly recognised as problems.
The colapse of the US backed Iranian government and the fundementalist take over had shifted the balance of power away from the US and this had given people like OBL ideas.
Further in response to the US change in policy other super powers have followed suit and changed tactics in their use of proxie wars. And other nations also had ideas about how to use these factions and fundamentalist organisations as proxies against the US and other nations.
In the mean time the US kept interfering in middle east politics to try to control oil in various ways and in the process made it's self a rallying flag for recruitment in fundamentalist groups.
Well various people did not like the US attempts to rig oil prices so various things happened amongst which large amounts of oil and drugs money started to be used to by weapons and influance. Much of this became available to fundamentalist organisations and it was becoming clear that their political influance was such that they ended up running countries directly or indirectly.
The US tried to keep Iran under control by using the old policy of backing it's enemies and in the process Iraq and Sadam Husain was armed and fought a long and protracted war against Iran which should have resulted in the fundementalists being kicked out of Iran.
It did not, quite simply because as in the Eastern Front war between Germany and Russia during WWII, the Iranians like the Russians went into all out war with children not even ten years old going off to fight the Iraqi troops. Eventually a stalemate was arived at but by know resentment against the US had risen to a point where blowback was inevitable and started to happen in various ways.
Now it is not known what the US involvment was in Iraq invading Kuwait, but there certainly must have been a considerable degree. Because for all his failings Sadam knew where his wealth and power originated and where most of the weapons he had came from and who was to a certain extent keeping Israel of his back (there were and still are rumours that Israel were at one point actually backing Iran during the war). Upsetting the US would not have been on his list of plans. Some have suggested that Kuwait that had been upseting the US in various ways was "suggested" by friends of the Bush clique to Sadam as a way to recover the costs and losses of the war with Iran and as a further way to get at Iran with US blessing.
Well Kuwait might not have had the armed forces but it certainly new how to work the UN and world Press (remember the babies thrown from incubators story? given to the world by what we later found out was a woman related to the Kuwait rulling family who was not even in Kuwait at the time). Well the result was the first gulf war where the US decided to try out it's new ideas about air supremacy smart weapons and keeping boots off of the ground.
Well it did not quite work the way planned and the smart weapons turned out not to be quite as smart as they could be, and the US was shown to still be susceptible to significant manipulation via human shields and attacks on Israel but mainly by civilian deaths. Whilst Bush senior was asleep with Iraq under full retreat along the Basra road a US pilot was interviewed and came up with the "Turkey Shoot" statment that along with graphic and horrific pictures turned the world opinion and that of the US civilian population on a sixpence. All of a sudden instead of looking like a saviour the US looked like the aggressor and Bush senior pulled the plug.
It was testiment to the power of 24H news reporting in the worlds biggest TV nation and the message was not lost on the US or other eyes.
More or less from that point on the US started to lose political influance in the world because it was seen ass "to flaky to trust" and this started policy changes. Which also coincided with that fact it was becoming glaringly obvious that the US policy on intel gathering since the Garry Powers U2 incident was not working and the US did not have real on the ground intel.
And thus the drones resulted as they did not have pilots who could be used to manipulate the world media, they had less problems with cloud cover no orbit time issues and perhaps best of all not being an intel community only political football. And importantly were considered tactical not strategic which ment that the usuall secrecy rules on using the intel for battle field work were not a hinderance.
The Bush clique got back into power and the war hawks rejoiced as rumours circulated about "finishing daddies business" started with regards the Iraq problem to US prestige and status.
The preasure against Sadam was cranked up and thus various events started one of which is rumoured to be Sadam aproaching the EU with an offer to sell Iraq oil in Euros only not US dollars . All of a sudden Iraq was a major major issue and with it the rest of the middle east. Power was swinging back that way and the US was looking quite vulnerable.
What changed all of that and brought the US back to world domination was 9/11. Suddenly every nation was saddened by the event but nations realised just how vulnerable they were to a handfull of unconventional and disafected individuals that for a very small amount of money had inflicted a crippiling disaster on what many still regarded as the worlds most powefull nation.
The US went on the warpath not just against the terrorists, but invented Sadam into a press credible threat and went back in to "Finish Daddies Business". Since then Bush clique and those surounding them have done very nicely thank you the money train is rolling and the leson learn about how to deal with problems 1&2.
However the "enemy is adaptable" and have dragged US boots onto their home turff where they have the home advantage and have shown by quite cleaver tactics rules 1&2 still apply in spades and no amount of technology is going to be of any real advantage whilst fallible humans are still in the chain.
This has pushed the US even further down the drone route and if the signs and symptoms coming out of the US DoD are anything to go by then drones are the future of warfare for the foreseable future (see prefrence of cyberr combat medal etc).
So we have the interesting state of warfare polarising out to nobody high tech drones -v- as many bodies as required low tech anti drone techniques with nations of varying technical capability watching and learning and possibly even assisting the low techs simply because they reason quite simply they are next on the US hit list.
So keep your eye on it because military budgets are not big enough for the cliques hangers on they want serious orders and those they are not realy going to get from overseas orders but from those other fat budgets of Law Enforcment...
 There is significant evidence that these aproaches were made as part of actions to get international sanctions lifted. What is not known is if it was in Sadam's mind just as a "sweetener" or as a real kick back weapon against the US .
 If Sadam had stopped trading oil in Dollars as the worlds second largest producer of oil the effect on the US economy would have been at the time an unimaginable disaster . Bill Clinton and Alan Greenspan had been very carefully doing a lot of things in the background to keep the US and world economy from going into recesssion for many years preceading Bush Junior getting the oval office gig.
 If the Euro had superceaded the Dollar as the world trading currancy then at the very least the US would have seen a colapse and recession as bad as the housing and banking crises combined, but it's get out of jail card of being the defacto world trading currancy would not have been there and the US would have had a dollar crisis the size of the current Euro crisis to contend with as well, and Europe would probably not have had the Euro crisis at all.
@ several folks
I definitely like the idea of shooting at the drone with a heavy machine gun instead of plinking at it with a rifle.
Keep in mind they do have lots of practice at this - The mujahedeen were shooting at Soviet helicopter gunships in the 1980's (and getting slaughtered until the CIA shipped them a batch of Stinger AA rockets).
About shine: Yep. Even better than sticking a bunch of broken glass on the roof of your own car is sticking broken glass on the roof of everyone else's car, so yours doesn't shine nearly as much. Think of it as a primitive retroflector.
@ Clive :
Old laptops that still mostly work around here are so cheap you have to pay to have them hauled away. It'd be easy enough for AQ to score a container-full and just leave computers around the place running SETI@Home or something. There's your jamming - A surfeit of targets, few of any value. Not quite as cheap as a leetle hacked-up arduino running software designed to create the relevant spurs, but a lot simpler to implement.
Keep in mind NGOs use laptops as well. Beaning a Red Cross camp trying to send email will not go over well in the court of public opinion.
Long post, and interesting enough to turn into a guest essay of sorts, but you might want to proofread it first... ;-)
From my experience frequency spreading does not help as much as it used to because new measurement rules require "quasi-peak" measurement not average power in the band. This means that frequency spreading only results in about a 6 dB reduction.
Part of the problem is that Buck converters that cause a lot of the emissions can only really be spread by about 10%. A major source of emissions is the supply side of the buck because in this domain the currents are discontinuous. This is where multi-phase buck converters really help, because the supply side impedance looks continuous at most frequencies and supply side current variation is also reduced. All modern laptops will use multiphase systems.
There are other tricks to reduce the EMI like:
Rate controlled switching (typically 10nsec to 30nsec is the ideal rate) acts like a Fir filter.
Synchronous switching with small overlap is used to prevent substrate injection, overlap/non-overlap timing is often controlled by feeding back the substrate current collection guard ring to the overlap control circuit.
A lot of 3D Finite element analysis of the output switches, changing contacts metal layers other things to control where the current goes to and to make sure almost all the Buck supply current is delivered to the load. If current flow is correctly controlled than then the Input decoupling caps and output reg caps smooth all the transitions and no current spikes get into the system GND (which is the source of a lot of emissions above 250Mhz.)
These days frequency planning and emissions management are two of the most important tasks in designing a laptop, pad or smartphone. So device placement and PCB routing management for critical signals is done on day one of the project. Doing this right at the start reduces the parasitic antenna loop areas which is more important than any "after the fact" spreading techniques. Also most output drivers use rate controlled switching which helps avoid weird transmission line effects on IO signal transitions.
Haven't read the whole thread yet, but guys - I'm a gunsmith, and I also own Hatcher's notebook, in which actual tests were done. FWIW, the terminal velocity of a pistol bullet won't kill unless someone gets very lucky - say a hit in the neck. But a .50 bmg will, even coming down base first (which they do, read Hatcher - they caught some). They holed a wood boot coming down after going straight up for many, many miles. My own .50, shooting ranging tracer - man, those things just go up and up and up...
A bullet, as it leaves a barrel, at say 2800 ft/sec or so (there are faster and slower ones of course) - sees 20 to 60 gees of deceleration from wind resistance alone depending on bullet design and a couple other factors. Add one gee for straight up?
That's not the problem. The problem is the target is tough to see at all, and going up, you go through a bunch of contrary crosswinds you can't measure from the ground, so even something like a CheyTac can't pre-compute your "English" to hit a stationary, much less a moving, target. It's not about range, it's about accuracy. A 10 mph wind will take the average sniper bullet many feet off course at 1 klick. Drones are small...and winds aloft make the ones on the ground look like nothing.
As another commenter pointed out, the easy cure (from our side of things) is simply to have them hunt in "wolf packs" - plenty of history on that one.
Maybe you even have a couple worthless ones to use as bait, just as safari hunters bait for big game.
Why do you think everyone hates these things - there are essentially NO usable countermeasures where the cure doesn't cost more than the disease.
If drones start getting shot - there will be a stop put to that very quickly, and all things considered, they are cheap.
Which is the point about a lot of civil liberty issues with drones. It's not that a police force couldn't have used a helicopter - they can and do. But they are expensive to operate, and therefore self-limiting as regards abuse.
We lost the war long before this battle - since we allowed heli's, surv cams, and other things, and abuse was low because it was too expensive, we no longer have ground to stand on to object to drones, which ARE cheap enough to abuse and misuse.
@ Doug Coulter
As far as the big rounds go, yep, that's why you use a machine gun. And screw the probabilities of one shot hitting, throw a lot more lead at it and you're going to be good.
Incidentally, tank rounds decelerate at more like 2,000g upon leaving the barrel. You're correct in that shooting upwards is irrelevant to the round.
It's not about one shot hitting. It's about spraying and praying and improving your odds through massive application.
As far as the costs? I laugh. Even if there's a 1-1 kill ratio for a drone to a .50cal machine gun nest, the machine gun wins on cost every time, by a country mile.
Locally, we hate these things being used against civilian non-combatants because they represent invasion into our personal space, in direct contravention to the 4th amendment of the United States Constitution. When the law enforcement officers themselves are violating the law, what's to be done?
Locally, it's not a matter of cost, it's a matter of the law violating its own law. That's why we object to them.
Personally, I have objected to helicopters in the same way. It did not go well. The idea of 'self-limiting' abuse is laughable - There should be no abuse to start with.
Let's start by correcting that idea.
@Jon, surprisingly, we agree a good deal.
The thing is, well, maybe I'm not enough in the "terrorist" mind-set. Though I argued it effectively when a bunch of self-appointed chemist experts pointed out that trying to make HE in an airplane sink would result in thermal-nitration runaway and certain death for the mixer (what was the point of bombing an airplane anyway if not an explosion) - since death for him was certain anyway.
I know that if I fire a big burst at a drone, it will have time to upload the data of where it came from before being hit, and my death is at that point, assured - since I'll also be tracked as I run. So I wouldn't do it. Seen too many FLIR videos...
(and no, it doesn't work to hide under trees, which are pretty transparent to IR - ask John Plaster - or anyone else who has used one)
I would guess that the truly suicidal (like the bombers) are a relatively small percentage of the guys who'd like to take down a drone.
And I agree about the law. We've lost rule of law for some time now, and it's not just GB tearing up the constitution, then O using the pieces for toilet paper - the next guy will probably recover the bits and burn what's left. It's been going on awhile.
Why again do we allow a private bank to create all the money we have to pay back as "debt" to them, when congress could do it just as well - and just declare it fiat (which it is anyway), no paybacks required?
We lost in 1913 or thereabouts - and several presidents have mentioned it - after they were safely out of office. My dollar now buys 2c worth of what it did in '13, after all. Is that a demo of how good they are at their mandate of stability?
Funny how my gold piece from that era still buys what it did then.
Forgot to add - money isn't as fungible as you'd think.
While a drone definitely costs *us* more than a machine gun nest costs us...that's not the point.
What does a drone cost us as a percent of GDP vs what does a machine gun nest cost them as a percentage of their available funding?
I think we win even that one, taking out the nest.
Most troops are not suicidal, but war is war, and if ordered to hold an untenable position as considered a small expense for a larger benefit, that's war, and many a trooper will obey such orders.
See Pink Floyd "And that's how the High Command took my Daddy from me".
Hiding under trees doesn't conceal one from FLIR. Starting a forest fire, on the other hand, will... ;-)
See, most of this anti-drone stuff really can't be done in the USA, or pretty much anywhere in the Western World. I'm not going to start a forest fire to run from a cop drone, nor am I going to happen to have a .50cal machine gun and belts of ammo to shoot back with.
That's why I object to military hardware used against civilians.
In. re. machine gun nests:
For them, people are cheap, equipment is expensive. For us, equipment is cheap, people are expensive (downed, dead, captured pilots...)
But still, a machine gun (and keep in mind they too can use pack and decoy tricks) is going to be cheaper.
Also keep in mind they have experience at this. They were shooting at Soviet helicopters thirty years ago.
@ Doug Coulter
"What does a drone cost us as a percent of GDP vs what does a machine gun nest cost them as a percentage of their available funding?
I think we win even that one, taking out the nest."
Your statement is more true than it seems: America will spend more money than it actually has on wars. American generals will hit individual trucks with Tomahawk cruise missiles. Finances is an issue that won't stop them when targets are on their screens.
They will stop eventually. Maybe not until they've ruined the country they claim to be protecting, but they will stop eventually.
As an aside @ Mr. Coulter, Mr. Robinson and I were talking about jamming radio.
Jamming infrared is as simple as starting a fire.
From my experience frequency spreading does not help as much as it used to because new measurement rules require...
The problem is the speed things change...
I'm guessing that this AQ doc was written some time ago and the information that went into it was likewise from some time before that and as others have noted not quite as accurate as it could be (further suggesting it's based on "Chinese Whispers Writing").
When trying to reverse a "lost in translation" you have to try and put your head into "the mind set of the time" and when that's not as clear as it could be... neither is what you write in the process (as seen by my being totaly baffeled by the "copper rod" untill the penny dropped about a copper water pipe :-)
As for modern designs yes they are a lot lot quieter these days, especialy on circulating earth currents. Which probably upsets a few of the TEMPEST old timers :(
However I can see ways that you can turn the technique back on it's self by injecting your own fault signal.
Speaking of which you said the other day that a young upstart of an engineer had upset your shunt reg idea... I forgot to ask did you thank him politely and the go kick the office furniture, or beat him unmercilessly for daring to question the wisdom of the master ?
Many many years ago when I was a young upstart I worked for a company making very very very expensive and oh so hush hush devices for select areas of the physical security industry. One of which was an early fingerprint reader. Well I showed the other engineers how to beat the system using the soft red wax from Edam cheese, WD40 and Rubber Solution glue to make fake finger prints which was something I'd discovered when I was around 8years old. Well they being young also thought it was "neat" however the engineering manager did not... And as you can guess took the other route to a polite thank you...
It was only some time afterwards that I realised that it was the way of life, in that when given a choice a man will never understand when his living depends on not understanding...
Which is not to say I forgave the Git, and if I ever see him again... well lets just say if I find out where he's buried I'll go start a merry jig even at my ripe old "grandad" age ;-)
@ Nick P,
Finances is an issue that won't stop them when targets are on their screens
Which is a reason why in all out asymmetric warfare as Napoleon saw and Hittler saw with Russia, it's the number of bodies crossing the ground that counts.
When it came to getting rid of the Russians from Afghanistan even if the hill tribesmen had not been given AA missiles by the CIA  they would still have defeated the Russians and sent them home in bags (which they did by the thousands). The British have known that since Kippling's time you only need to read his poems to know that.
Put simply when you are fighting people who have nothing to lose and belive they win if they die trying there are only three sensible things you can do to resolve it,
2, Get the hell out of there.
3, Give them something to lose.
I'd like to think we are trying 3 in Afghanistan but the oposition have and will continue to ensure that we can't, so as option 1 is not acceptable option 2 would appear to be the only rational choice as it pretty much has been all along (it will be interesting to see what the French do, I'd bet on them doing the sensible thing a little of 3 and then 2 as quickly as possible).
As for the use of smart weapons...
The cost of them is very high even thought the smarts are not exactly smart . Heavy duty machine guns can if you know were to look (old Soviet Block) be had for "a fistfull of dollars", I was once offered one that had a minnor mechanical fault (even I could fix) for 200USD cash. Whilst to but a smart weapon you would need several packing crates greater in volume than needed to ship the smart weapon full of dollars to buy one...
At the end of the day history has taught us the hard way hundreds of times the only way you can win in asymetric warefare is with boots on the ground that are more ruthless than the defenders...
And I think it safe to say that with 24H News etc the US are never going to be that ruthless, so they need to find an utterly ruthless proxy to do the dirty work for them covertly.
Which reminds me how did that Contras thing work out...
 Few of the AA missiles were ever used and are as far as we know still there and will probably remain unused even if in full working order. The reason is in that part of the world a powerfull weapon gives you status worth more than it's price in gold. If you fire the AAM all you have left is an empty pipe and all the status that attracts.
 Most smart weapons systems could be understood by anyone who has ever built a "micro mouse" the real smart part is actually making them survive the battle field and deployment phases. As some above have noted the G-Forces involved are almost mind boggling in intensity and enough to strip surface mount components off of PCBs with little dificulty. Even encapsulating does not stop micro fractures causing the equivalent of a dry joint within components.
Nice to hear from you again :)
With regards the "terrorist mind set", in the case of most of these wars we are not fighting terrorists but people who see themselves as defending there homeland and way of life against "The Big Satan".
If you think back a while you have probably heard the name "Bomber Harris" who implemented carpet / wide area bombing, and eventually "fire storms" in all out air attack on the enemy (Germany WWII).
Well the argument for this was not made by Bomber Harris but one of Winston Churchill's closest scientific advisors who was a well respected proffessor.
It you get the chance to read the papers written tthat argued for it it all came down to "destroying the enemies moral" losely disguised as destroying war production.
Well every single argument about "defeating moral" is hypocritical, because it was always argued that nomatter how bad it got for us "our stiff upper lip" would get us through, whilst the enemies "moral degeneracy" would make them collapse...
The simple thing is normal every day people when pushed into a corner will fight tooth and nail to defend "Me and Mine". You see this sort of courage with people rushing into suicidal conditions such as raging fires to rescue what they have and love. It might not be rational but thats the way it is.
But ontop of this is revenge, it is no joke when people say somebody would walk across burning coals to get revenge, it's happened and will continue to happen. Sometimes all you have left is the desire to make somebody pay for what they have take away from you. It may be destructive but it is very powerful.
Put simply never underestimate peoples desire for revenge or their courageousness the most unlikely of people will not break under torture and will do what it takes to get a job done even with their last breath. As history has shown these people may be one in a thousand but just a handfull will give others the same courage and sense of purpose. At the end of the day it's one of the reasons Empires fall.
Jamming infrared is as simple as starting a fire.
Oh that it still was...
Modern firefighters have if they are sufficiently well equiped false colour infrared scopes that can help them tell the difference between temprature sufficiently well that they can tell if you are alive on the otherside of a wall of smoke and fire.
I find it a realy impressive use of technology from that respect, and down right scary from the security perspective.
Just like nearly every other tool it's fairly agnostic to it's use, it's the mind behind the hand that holds the tool that's dangerous not the tool it's self...
Good gear, under certain highly limited circumstances (*very* short range?), can get through.
What do those cameras cost, compared to a book of matches? And the firemen are presuming that someone isn't deliberately trying to hide, that what is in there is a person not a dog or a horse, etc.
The idea is to throw cheap noise, and make your enemy spend a fortune chasing non-targets or dealing with the jammer.
Or, more concisely,
"To deny them the use of a very expensive [and valuable] system at much less cost to yourself".
"To deny them the use of a very expensive [and valuable] system at much less cost to yourself"
Is also one definition of asymmetric warfare...
To be honest I don't think the powers that be know how to fight asymmetric warfare to win or for that matter ever have (see my comment to Nick P above).
This is because they are in effect held back by their own citizens and resources from option 1 and in the case of the WASP countries by their own political rhetoric on option 3.
Thus after 10years or so they find they are either locked in perpetual combat of death by 1000 cuts or withdrawing altogether from the battle field chosen not by them but their almost hidden enemy.
But what of the "home front" there the powers that be have won big time, huge tranchess of US tax and GDP go not to the economic benifit of the US citizen in general but to a chosen few. And this is all to the benifit of the pultocratic few who have become the elite to whom the politicians go begging cap in hand for a few crumbs brushed from the top table.
But how do those outside the US see the US?
Well the US President is easily seen not as the most powerful man in the world but to be the puppet of those he has taken campaign funds from. Like a trained poodle from the petshop all trained and paid for...
But as history has repeatedly shown in any Empire where the elite are behind the throne the barbarians are knocking at the gate, some in their home countries and some much bolder at the Empires front door. In the case of the WASP nations the Middle East is a fight they cannot win, and as the US has belatedly found China is knocking on the front door with handfuls of IOU's that are due for payment...
I heard that emergency foil blankets are good at defeating IR sensors -they're very cheap too!
I heard that emergency foil blankets are good at defeating IR sensors -they're very cheap too!
Maybe hide your shape (so will a wetsuit). But it won't hide the heat you generate. The shape is a signature, so is the temperature of the lost heat.
Person huddled under a foil blanket in daytime in Afghanistan is going to be relatively cold spot leaking heat (until they expire from heat stroke). At night they're a relatively warm spot leaking heat against a cold background.
Only the shape is changed with something that reflects IR back at the source. It's still going to be visible as an anomaly - and it should be possible to diff anomalies, then focus on the ones to large to be goats, too small to be horses, and too cool to be engines. But I'm guessing.
If the technology is ever developed for UV sensors then maybe underarm deodorant will help people hide the scent of humans?
Schneier.com is a personal website. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Co3 Systems, Inc.