Yes, it is a shotgun, and yes the system is called SkyNet.
Lacking a long-term approach to tackle the increasing accessibility, flexibility and volatility of drone warfare, the U.S. Air Force is turning to small contract, quick turn-around solutions to defend against smaller and lighter unmanned aircraft threats. The best solution, for the time being, may just be the shotgun.
We have all joked around about shooting packages out of the sky with a barrel of buckshot when Amazon announced it was looking into drone delivery, but that very same approach is now being fast-tracked by the U.S. Air Force to defend against smaller drone targets.
According to the justification document released by the Pentagon’s Joint Rapid Acquisition Cell last week, and as reported by our friends over at The War Zone, testing is under way to develop a shotgun projectile designed to take out light unmanned aircraft by firing a weighted net with a foot-wide spread.
The net projectile is being developed by ALS to be compatible with the U.S. Air Force’s standard Remington 870 shotgun, but could also require a small muzzle attachment with barrel rifling to get the projectile spinning as it travels toward the little enemy drone at longer distances.
The small drones this new shotgun projectile is being developed against are classified in two categories; the first category of drones weigh less than 20 pounds and fly at an altitude of about 1,200 feet, and the second category weigh just over 50 pounds and fly at up to around 3,500 feet.
The projectile system, fittingly called the “SkyNet Net Gun System”, has been tested alongside other anti-drone prototypes like electromagnetic wave guns and drone-to-drone systems. The most recent documented test of the SkyNet system was in December of 2016.
The main concerns with an anti-drone weapon like the shotgun net is the potential for collateral damage if the system misses its target, and defense leadership feel the “take a shotgun and shoot down something” approach isn’t a good enough solution to adequately equip U.S. security forces.
The threat of small unmanned aircraft, like popular commercial drones recently weaponized with grenades by ISIS, are a current and immediate threat, and the Pentagon is rightfully in a panic over ensuring we can defend our armed forces, emergency personnel, and vital national security assets (like nukes) from the threat of these tiny machines.
Firing a net out of a shotgun may be one of the cheapest, quickest, and decently reliable methods of combating this new form of warfare in the short-term, but the contracts are for limited supplies. Lack of a long-term solution, as well as legal guidelines and a structure for implementation, leaves U.S. defenses at the mercy of anybody with a credit card.