Shooting drones out of the sky with Phasers

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Abqaiq has the world’s largest oil processing plant

When a mixed formation of cruise missiles and small drone aircraft rained explosive charges on the Saudi Arabian state oil group Aramco sites at Abqaiq and Khurais on 14 September they halved national oil output, cutting 5.7 million barrels of crude per day from the company’s production.

But they did more than economic damage. This attack has had a huge impact on how nations think about protecting their airspace.

Companies are now developing and deploying sophisticated new defences, from frying the electronic circuits with powerful beams of microwave radiation, to precise jamming systems.

While both the United States and Saudi Arabia have blamed Iran for the Abqaiq attack, it’s still not clear who was behind it.

But it would be a mistake to confuse the use of drones or UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) in this attack with other incidents where off-the-shelf drones have disrupted airports, football matches or political rallies, says Douglas Barrie, an air power fellow at think tank the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

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