Help Us Decipher This Terrifying Video Of A Suicide Drone Flying Up An Armored Vehicle's Ramp (Updated)
The dramatic video may serve as yet another warning of America's glaring short-range air defense gap and the threat that low-end enemy drones pose.
A frightening video has emerged showing what appears to be a suicide drone attack on a wheeled armored vehicle that is surrounded by personnel. The drone seems to be some rudimentary man-in-the-loop remote controlled setup with a fixed forward-facing video camera and a single front-mounted propeller. It catches the people milling around the center of the compound where the vehicles are congregated by surprise as it makes its dive, literally flying up the rear ramp of the armored vehicle before its video feed ominously cuts out.
One of the topics I have been most passionate about over the years is the threat posed by low-end and now, in many cases, commercially available drones, as well as the Pentagon's alarming lack of vision when it came to predicting their transformation into weapons. To get up to speed on this issue, take a look at these in-depth pieces of mine linked here and here.
Israel largely pioneered this concept on a military-grade level, but it really emerged as a capability of non-state actors during the Battle Of Mosul. Fast forward to today and it is now a very hot topic served up with plenty of bad and sensationalist information by the mainstream media. Regardless, the presence of lower-end enemy drones is a near-daily issue that our troops deal with overseas. With this capability rapidly proliferating, the mysterious video below, which I first saw on a Russian language Twitter account, is disturbing, but sadly not all that surprising.
I have to be clear, I have no idea what the background is on this video or if it is indeed authentic, although it certainly looks like it is after a close examination. Even the drone intermittently losing line-of-sight radio connectivity as it descends just feet off the ground looks accurate.
It is possible that it could have been a friendly unmanned aircraft that malfunctioned, although that seems unlikely as it appears to be flown directly into the ramp of a targeted armored vehicle. Even recovering a small hand-launched drone in such a manner would be dangerous, but coincidences do happen. Otherwise, it could be some very well made fake that I am not familiar with, but that also seems improbable.
The location of the video is unknown, but the vehicles may give us some clues. They appear to be similar to Stryker and LAV III Kodiak wheeled armored vehicles. The two designs are very closely related, with the Stryker serving with the U.S. and Thailand and the LAV III serving with Canada, Saudi Arabia, Colombia, New Zealand, and Thailand. Considering the setting and what happens in the video, it is nearly impossible for this attack to be involving Thailand, Colombia, or New Zealand. So, if indeed they are of the LAV III/Stryker family, it would seem that a U.S. or Saudi vehicle is being struck.
The Kingdom has been in a brutal conflict with Houthi rebels in Yemen, a group that has leveraged suicide drones as a primary vengeance weapon over the last half-decade. The country's lighter armor has definitely taken part in the fighting. Maybe we are seeing a group of Saudi soldiers in the drone's video feed as it makes its terminal attack run. Meanwhile, the U.S. has deployed Strykers to major hot spots in the region in recent years, most notably in Northern Syria.
We will need to take more time to analyze the video to better identify the vehicles involved as it is possible it is another type altogether. There are many types of wheeled armored vehicles in operation around the globe, many of which have similar features, but the rear area on the vehicle in the video looks very much like one of the two discussed above.
So, with all this in mind, what do you think we are seeing here? We can only hope that the drone in question was a dud and all that was harmed was an armored vehicle's hardened passenger compartment. Regardless, if this video is indeed authentic and does depict an attack, it is another stark reminder of how troops are operating in combat zones where air superiority is no longer assured and a fighter combat air patrols will not fix the problem. The U.S. military's glaring short-range air defense gap has to be closed and the lack of foresight in regards to what was clearly a brewing threat has to be learned from so that it doesn't happen again.
Let's get to the bottom of this mysterious and remarkably dramatic video. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below or shoot me an email at the address posted.
What amazing readers we have! I received so many emails, DMs, comments, and tweets regarding this video that varied widely as to what people thought they were seeing and why. These came from top industry professionals to just interested parties that wanted to share their thoughts. I also got some great leads on future stories from it. I can't thank all of you enough.
Ok, now onto the answer! This may be one of those wild coincidences that I mentioned above.
There was some evidence regarding the configuration of this drone and some of those used in Yemen that have Iranian ties. Yet the most valid evidence I received was from a number of people that were familiar with one type of drone, in particular. It appears the drone in question might very well have been a Lockheed Desert Hawk III that either went haywire during recovery or that received inaccurate coordinates for recovery.
Note the image below shows the Desert Hawk III type with the camera mounted on its left wing leading edge and a very similar collapsable prop. The video below also shows a similar data overlay arrangement to the one we see in the mystery video. The aircraft, which was created with help from the Skunk Works, is made primarily of polypropylene material and is designed to break apart on landing in such a way that it can be easily reassembled for flight.
As for when and where the video was shot, that remains unclear, although the video dates back to at least 2013, and possibly quite earlier. The user of the drone is also unclear, although the Royal Army was the biggest adopter of it.
We continue to update this post as we find out more! And once again, thank you for everyone's help in the investigation.
Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com