Libya is now ground zero for where drones go to die. A record number of drones being shot down is having a lot of ramifications from the US to Russia. The numbers are thought to have doubled in recent years. Both the Wing Loong and Bayraktar systems were shot down, or crashed. The Turkish system eventually ended up destroying numerous Russian air defense Pantsir systems.
“In Libya, Russian private military companies almost certainly downed a US unarmed, unmanned aircraft in November using a sophisticated Russian air-defence system,” said US Army General Stephen Townsend, commander of US Africa Command, in written testimony to the US House of Representatives Armed Services Committee in March 2020.
The Flight Global report notes “The USAF plans to make its last purchase of the MQ-9 in fiscal year 2020, according to its FY2021 budget request. In light of Iran’s shooting down a Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk in June 2019, the service also wants to retire 21 of its 31 examples of that type, particularly older Block 20 and Block 30 variants. And, the USAF on 3 June launched its search for a UAV to replace the MQ-9 starting in 2030.” Could that mean a “pod” to defend the UAVs? Perhaps.
Counting the number of drones shot down is difficult at the Drone Wars UK study above shows. The Drone Wars UK report counted 16 Bayraktars and 8 Wing Loongs shot down from January to June 2020 in Libya.
The ramifications are large, with US Reaper crews concerned about flying in these “contested” airspaces and the need to now develop new drones or defenses. Nevertheless the Reaper still has a major potential markethttps://www.raf.mod.uk/news/articles/new-training-pathway-paves-way-for-protector/ in places like the UK and elsewhere.