CATF Reports Sep. 15, 2016, 9:33am

A recent report by the U.S. Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office overlooking 21 case studies discussed the increasing trend of “tele-operated” weapons being used by terrorist and insurgent groups. Groups such as the Islamic State, the Free Syrian Army, and the al-Nusra Front were reported to have used remote-controlled rifles and machine guns, modified mostly from older Soviet variations. Remote-controlled weapons are not a recent innovation, but terrorist and insurgent groups’ ability to create and access them is. Though the designs of the modified weapons are quite primitive, they do contain the necessary features to fire the weapons from a distance, including operating cables and a small screen, and can be developed by the groups at a low cost. As these weapons cannot be easily suppressed, they give the advantage to the user of doing more damage to opponents on the field while simultaneously protecting their men from casualties. In one of the case studies presented, an Islamic State shooter using this weaponry had the ability to stay out of harm’s way at a distance, while the Kurdish troops who pursued the attacks were losing men on the ground.

Though novel and still in their experimental stages, these trends are alarming because violent terrorist groups are gaining the ability to design and use materials that can match the U.S.-made weaponry. Even more worrisome is their potential to learn to replicate and mass produce such weaponry. Additionally, as terror groups gain access to more modern weapons, the designs of the remote-controlled rifles may advance and boost accuracy and efficiency. This is especially concerning when advanced arms that have been supplied to the region are lost to terrorist groups, as exemplified by the July defeat of Syrian rebels, equipped with modern U.S. arms, to the Islamic State on the Syria-Iraq border.


From the Foreign Military Studies Office Report:

“This data set has shown that terror and insurgent groups have been improvising weapons to make technical advances on the battlefield. They have proven to be more efficient than expected […]

Videos and images of teleoperated systems are useful to military personnel because such media informs them concerning new terrorist TTPs (tactics, techniques, and procedures) and well as to regions with operational clusters of use. However facing these systems is becoming a dangerous reality. It can be difficult to determine whether there is a human operator firing a weapon or if they are securely hidden a distance away while remotely operating it […]

In the worst case, terror groups may even obtain more modern weapons to improvise, which may boost accuracy. Some have proven their hacking abilities; in cases such as Israel with a mini-robot or weapons that have Wi-Fi capabilities, there is a threat that these types of weapons may be manipulated. In the wrong hands, they can certainly cause considerable damage.”

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