Case Study: The Aerial Threat of Daesh

    The battle of Mosul witnessed various implementations and models of armed UAV attacks done by Daesh (or so-called ISIS). However, the attacks didn’t totally repel the governmental forces though it helped in obstructing them for a while.

    The models we are discussing in this post are Anti-Armor, Anti-Personnel free dropping UAVs and suicidal remote controlled mini-planes (Kamikaze UAV).  They also serve duty as their main task is as surveillance for monitoring the battlespace, and to help direct their artillery (mortars and rockets) in real time.

    There was an article discussing the drones of Daesh and Iraqi Army (which copied Daesh’s technique) but in this article you will see some different equipment.

    The Anti-Armor Free Dropping IED

    A video footage released by Daesh captured from the drone/delivery platform showed a dropping of a 2 kilograms payload in a shuttlecock style IED on a military convoy including an M1 Abrams main battle tank advancing before 3 HUMVEEs to provide protection for them, but the strike came from above.

    The bomb which shattered the HUMVEE to pieces is believed to be containing a mixture of Ethylene Oxide and Propylene Oxide which causes a volume detonation using the oxygen surrounding the target to increase the explosion’s wave, as they said.

    There are also claims that these bombs are magnetic-guided, meaning they use a magnet to lock on nearest metal target but that’s doubtful since the magnet can negatively affect the functionality of the drone/UAV.  And magnetic forces would not be powerful enough to attract from that distance.

    Here are the pictures showing a slow analysis of the attack.

    The drone approaches the target and gets adjusted by the operator in order to put the target in the center of an imaginary crosshair.

    The beginning of the free drop, if you drew an imaginary crosshair you find the HUMVEE aligned just in the center which means that the bomb is not guided by any mean, neither advanced nor primitive.

    Here you will find a better “side view” of the shuttlecock bomb.

    Here it’s getting closer to its target, performing a top attack, if this technique is used against a main battle tank which the turret’s top is the weakest spot it can possibly take it out of service or destroy it.

    The early moments of the explosion, note that nearly nothing happened to the vehicle next to it, yet.

    Here shows the metal parts shattering off the vehicle and the blast violently reached the vehicle next to it

    The Anti-Personnel Variant

    This variant is using the same concept and design except on a smaller scale for targeting infantry troops on-foot but it also can target armored vehicles, true it is not as destructive than the anti-armor one but it can take out the mounted machine gun or the gunner leaving it useless, with lots of shrapnel, not to mention soft skin vehicles as well.

    The Anti-Personnel shuttlecock from a side view free dropping on army personnel, the red dots are on-foot troops.

    The explosion occurs leaving behind a number of dead and wounded soldiers.

    Same bomb targeting M1 Abrams tank from top, remember; it’s not the anti-armor variant here, note the soldier operating the machine gun here.

    The machine gunner is eternally neutralized from above, some damage is expected as well to the sights and optics’ equipment of the tank.

    Another picture showing the bomb dropping on personnel and soft skin vehicle.

    Also here it has fallen in between 2 soft skin vehicles.

    Eliminating the crew inside and disabling the vehicles, a very unpleasant shot.

    A top view of the delivery platform/UAV in flight.

    A bottom view of the platform releasing the 2 bombs at once.

    That’s how the surveillance camera shows the view to the operator-we hope it won’t be loaded with missiles.

    A member of Daesh launching the UAV which gives you a perspective on the size and mass of the platform and how difficult it can be spotted by radars due to its small radar sign, which makes it invisible to the majority of military radars.

    Another incident from Daesh in Syria targeting an ammunition depot for Al-Assad’s forces, the damage was outstanding.

    Note the red arrow pointing to the free dropping bomb.

    Note the sparkling spots in this picture, these are tracer bullets from ground defense forces trying to take the UAV down, but it failed to do.

    An IED with a payload of few kilograms can cause serious trouble, especially if dropped from above –great explosions come from small packages.

    Kamikaze UAVs

    In addition of the previous Assault RC Planes, there is something not lessdangerous which is their Kamikaze remote control planes.  These UAVs are home grown built (which you can see from its design) and capable to deliver a heavier payload of explosives. It is expected to break in fortifications, assembled groups of soldiers and even tanks.

    Some of these incomplete UAVs were captured in Mosul as the following pictures show them.

    Manned Aerial Kamikaze Vehicles

    These were discovered in Mosul after Daesh’s evacuation, where they had begun building their own planes which were not designed to land anywhere but to be flying suicide bombs.

    They were crudely put together but it takes expertise and creativity, in which they assembled them from the locally available materials, luckily these projects were incomplete.


    It takes nothing but a mechanical engineer with some knowledge of aerodynamics and flight sciences to start such a project.

    Many observers –including my self- believe that the withdrawal of Daesh is temporary, leaving the theatre to their opponents.  We can assume Daesh hopes they will start fighting each other sooner or later for spoils and political power over the regions, then they can return again after their opponents exhaust each other.

    We also must not overlook that the deployment of regular troops all the time and everywhere to repel small armed groups is very costly to any state/regime to gain a fast and decisive victory to reclaim the land–unlike the small guerrilla groups which can dissociate and assemble anytime.

    However, new tactics must be adopted to repel such attacks without affecting the structure of regular forces with considering the cost of such tactics as well, but it is very obvious that in the future there should be a wide usage of anti-drone armament.

    Marawan Maklad

    Marawan Maklad is an Egyptian firearms and ammunition designer working for Turkish company specializing in the hunting and defense industries, and a dedicated researcher in asymmetric conflicts arms and tactics.