At the invitation of the Portuguese Navy, ELTA Systems, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries, participated at NATO’s REP (MUS) 19 Exercise in Portugal where ELTA demonstrated its Counter Unmanned Aircraft System (C-UAS) Drone Guard (ELI-4030).
The exercise focused on harbor protection: the use and integration of surface, underwater and air unmanned systems including anti-submarine warfare (ASW) in harsh combat simulated scenarios.
Approximately 800 personnel from NATO nations participated in observing major defense companies demonstrating their solutions. The Drone Guard passed a rigorous evaluation of its specifications by the Portuguese Navy and was qualified to participate in the NATO exercise for protecting harbors against hostile drones, UASs, USVs and other airborne and surface threats.
The Drone Guard system performed flawlessly during the event.
The system provided an advance and innovative awareness display of integrated surface and air situation picture while simultaneously auto classifying different types of targets.
Drone Guard, which sold hundreds of units around the world to date, features an integrated sensor system developed at ELTA and includes: 3D X-band radar that detects and tracks hostile drones, dedicated COMINT system that classifies the drone by its transmission (using the information to verify the target and reduce false-positive rates), an EO/IR camera used to classify the detected object and a Jammer that neutralizes the object from causing harm. The Drone Guard is the ultimate solution in providing protection and early warning against low and slow flying objects.
At the exercise, the Drone Guard was set up to detect and track simultaneously high and low flying airborne threats from both the land and sea with 360° coverage.
With regional threats deriving from both large and small actors, the exercise’s intent was to show extreme scenarios that could occur in the present as well as in the future and how NATO can respond. Portuguese special forces ran the exercise by releasing single drones and a swarm of drones including very small drones similar to Mavic Pro quadcopters.
The drones, controlled by the forces on rubber boats, simultaneously attacked the harbor from both the land and sea.
The Drone Guard effectively detected and tracked them at long ranges and automatically classified the threat.
The system successfully intercepted and neutralized the drones through jamming and brought them to the ground. The exercise included a night operation whereby the system had to detect and track tactical UAVs and USVs which it accomplished at long ranges.
“C-UAS units must be able to detect and classify both hostile as well as civilian drones that mistakenly enter sensitive areas as they too can cause unintended damage to a facility’s infrastructure,” mentioned Abish Asher, Regional Director of Marketing and Sales at ELTA, to media outlets covering the event.
The Drone Guard was successful in providing a protective dome around the harbor against the tested air threats. The Portuguese Navy expressed their appreciation and satisfaction with the Drone Guard’s results.
Yoav Tourgeman, IAI VP and CEO of ELTA, said, “The Drone Guard is consistently proving itself again and again. Due to recent events in the news, especially with the recent dreadful attacks in the Middle East, there has been an exponential growth in demand for an all-inclusive anti-drone protection system. ELTA is one of the only providers in the market today that develops in-house all the modules needed and is continuously developing new features to meet future threats. It was truly an honor to participate in this prestigious event and we are grateful to the Portuguese Navy for inviting us.”
New maritime unmanned systems technologies can be a game-changer in countering multiple threats in the maritime domain.
Unmanned systems also become a major risk for navies, defense forces and authorities, which should be understood, and countered effectively.
For the forces operating unmanned systems, operation under degraded Position Navigation Timing and Communications (PNT-C) communications conditions is mandatory in a challenging operational environment.
The system comprised of Elta’s ELM-2026B X-band radar that also integrates into a VSHORAD point-defense capability, the radar detects all types of aerial targets, from aircraft and drones to small, slow low-flying or hovering multirotor drones. The radar provides automatic identification of targets.
Passive COMINT-ELINT sensor provides a second detection layer, detecting drones by their characteristic emissions. The system can identify and differentiate between drones and other emitters, such as Wi-Fi hot spots, and identify specific drone types by their electronic signature.
These sensors can detect a drone even before it takes off, providing an early warning on hostile intent.
Drone Guard can also detect ‘silent’ autonomous drones that do not rely on communications or GPS for their operation since it monitors a wide frequency spectrum that may also detect the signals of sensors used for the vehicle’s autonomous flight.
A third layer is a visual identification by electro-optical (EO/IR) sensors providing positive identification of a drone target.
An active jammer integrated into the system enables operators to engage a target of choice or multiple targets. Due to the high efficiency of the system, Drone Guard jammer needs focuses its power at a narrow lobe to defeat targets at a significant range. Therefore, the system minimizes the transmitted power and interference to other systems.
All sensors were managed on a unified control unit, that tracked and engaged multiple targets during the exercise.
The system tracked small drones and tactical UAS deployed against the port by Portuguese Navy commandos in day and night, from the sea and inland. Using automatic classification and identification, Drone Guard detected those drones at significant ranges and provided situational awareness and early warning operating in a challenging electromagnetic noisy environment involving aerial traffic and extensive communications activity.
The need for such capability became clear after the surprise attack on Saudi oil facilities. While air defense radars provide effective early warning from enemy aircraft, those radars often ignore targets flying very low or very slow since they masked in the ground clutter or filtered as birds. A Drone Guard system added to existing radars would enhance existing air defense radars, such as Elta’s MMR, to improve small, slow low (SSL) target detection.