The first ISIS unmanned aerial vehicles were seen this week flying over the battlefields of the western Iraqi province of Anbar. Two were shot down by Iraqi Sunni militias, who had been trained and were supported by American military instructors at the big Iraqi Ayn al-Asad airbase in the province. The downed craft when tested at the base facilities showed they were fitted with cameras for spying on the militias and capable of transmitting surveillance images to the jihadists’ rear commands.
Their first appearance over Fallujah and Haditha, both of which are in ISIS hands, were a shock to the ground forces. debkafile’s military sources report that some weeks ago, US intelligence had discovered that ISIS had begun manufacturing UAVs at a military industrial plant located outside their Iraqi capital of Mosul. Production was not considered advanced enough for putting the drones in the air so soon.
This substantial upgrade of ISIS resources at extremely short notice is assumed to have been enabled by the skills of the former Iraqi army officers who are part of the terrorist group’s command structure, and fighters from Russia and western Europe who have joined the Islamists and are contributing their experience in making unmanned aerial vehicles operational.
Initial tests of the downed vehicles showed them capable of covering the 69 kilometer distance from Falujjah to Baghdad.
ISIS is now busy working on the design of a drone model capable of carrying arms, debkafile’s intelligence sources disclose. This was first revealed at a closed meeting of senior officers at Central Command Headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. The conference was called for a briefing on the state of the war against ISIS and a discussion of new tactics for combating the Islamists.
They were informed that the jihadi terrorists were in the final stages of preparations for testing drones armed with missiles or bombs, having hired the services of experts in a number of Muslim countries to work on their development at top speed for exceptionally high pay.