Monday, September 16, 2019

Drones and a New Age of Economic Terrorism

5% of the world’s oil production is knocked out … and days-on no one has any evidence who and from where.

The assumption – and I think it is a good one – was that the Yemeni Houthi rebels launched the attack using either drones or a combination of drones and missiles.

What we don’t know right now is what kind of drones and/or other weapons were used, where they were launched from, or really if it were actual Houthi who did it.

Whatever delivery platform(s) they used, you have to give a professional nod to those who carried out the operation. What an incredible bang for the buck.

This is not a “new” threat. Attacks against economic targets are as old as history – but to do it effectively usually took overt displays of nation-state military forces … or mercenary/piracy that were easy to track back to their benefactors. No more.

What to do?

1. Well, to start with, we need to “learn to code.” The threat is from the air, and we are not ready for it. I am reminded here one of the interesting accidents in the development of the Israeli Gabriel ASCM. When they were trying to develop a seeker head, they made a math error. As a result, they “over-engineered” their seeker head making it incredibly accurate for its time.

We have great AAW defensive sensors weapons – many we’ve exported to Saudi Arabia … but they are not designed to find and defeat this threat from small RCS and slow “drones” – especially if they come in low launched from nearby locations. You can transport drones for these type operations in a backpack on the small end, to the trunk of a car on the more capable end. There are some EW issues – but none that we’ll discuss on this net – but there are ways around it (you need to pony up some consulting fees for this advice). In any event; advantage to the aggressor, as we’ve seen.

We and the Saudis have good kit, but it is not optimal for this threat.

2. Diversity and disaggregation is the key. If you think the Saudi’s have a lot of refining eggs in a few baskets, you should look at the USA. That and our electrical grid…but I’ll try to focus on the topic at hand.

The cult of efficiency and NIMBYism resulted it a lot of critical capacity packed in to just a few locations. We are one natural or man-made disaster from having problems that will make the Saudi attack look small.

There are also military vulnerabilities to this threat.

Case in point – look at this pic.

Now, instead of oil storage tanks - here's your oldie-but-goodie - think ships lined up at Christmas in Norfolk. Think subs at Kings Bay or New London.

You get the idea. And no, you don't have to sink anything ... you just have to make a point. 

“We’ve” been chatting about this threat for a very long time, and the technology is reaching the point of where the chatting needs to move towards action.

In the attack, you don’t need a lot of money. You don’t need a big footprint; all you need is will and imagination. Do it right, and no one will even know how to retaliate.

In the defense, you do need a lot of money. You need more real estate. You need leadership, vision, and persistence. Do it right, and you will still be vulnerable, but not to the point of strategic risk.

There is a very good chance that this is simply an opening of a new type of global threat. I’ve had my Red Hat on too long this AM, I’m going to take it off – I’m scaring myself.

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