In summer 2016 West Point cadets flew a toy quadcopter around what could only generously be described as urban terrain: a handful of wood-and-cinder block structures regularly held and taken by cadets learning the ins-and-outs of raids.

What made that mission stand out was the seamless integration of new, commercial technology: a toy drone defenders could use to coordinate supporting artillery, and a scratch-built antenna and computer in an airsoft rifle body the attackers could use to take out the drone. Less than two years later, we’ve seen the Pentagon go from teaching hypothetical scenarios to training National Guardsmen deployed in Kabul how to use contractor-built anti-drone rifles against mock drone attacks.

As seen in a February 2018 video embedded below, members of the Oklahoma Army National Guard are training with perhaps the prototypical equipment of the present moment in drone and counter-drone warfare. The target drone is a crisp white quadcopter, similar in appearance to the wildly popular DJI Phantom series, though the model is never specified. Arrayed against it is what appears to be the twin-antennas of the Battelle DroneDefender, a drone-jamming weapon that resembles nothing so much as a science fiction rendering of a future shotgun, versions of which have been deployed to Iraq. In addition, the unit trained with a tool to detect the drone by the signals it sends through the electromagnetic spectrum.

The actual scenario appears less elaborate than the West Point cyber-rifle experience. This is fair; the cyber-rifle was one component of a broader established training for students at the military academy, and this was a narrower lesson about specifically figuring out how to use the counter-drone gear on hand. As the United States-led war in Afghanistan approaches its 17th year, it is remarkable to see technology go from hypothetical threat to training tool to observed threat to threat with countermeasures on hand, all in the space of a couple years.

Watch the video below:

Oklahoma Guardsmen conduct drone exercise in Afghanistan

For many, the concept of war on the ground has transitioned to the sky; hovering sometimes tens of thousands of feet in the air. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or “drones” are a game-changer, both for the good, and the bad. Combating against the threat of drones is key, as technological advances aren’t slowing down. Here, Oklahoma Army National Guard members of 1st Squadron, 180th Cavalry Regiment, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, currently deployed to Afghanistan as part of the Kabul Security Force in support of the Resolute Support Mission, conduct a drone training exercise utilizing counter-UAS equipment. The exercise and equipment was observed by Central Command’s “JDAT” or Joint Deployable Assessment Team in order to determine any vulnerabilities. (DVIDS, Leanna Litsch)