At a recent military symposium, US general David Perkins revealed that a US ally shot down a $200 drone with a Patriot missile, usually used to take down Iraqi Scuds. The missiles designed by US firm Raytheon cost up to $3 million apiece.
Thomas Karako, director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), told Foxtrot Alpha, a blog that covers defence, technology and policy, that this was not the first time a Patriot missile was used against a drone.
According to Karako the growing threat of drones would pose greater threats to alliance air defense systems than what was heard of in the past.
''You can't really blame the Middle Eastern actor who probably took a shot at this,'' he said. ''When something pops up on their screen as a radar blip, they may not know that it costs $200 from Amazon. It may just show up as a radar blip. So what this really points to is the lack of sufficiently precise surveillance that informs the air defence mission.
"Now, if that was an aircraft rather than a drone, an air defence missile may be appropriate. But the difficulty is you don't always know. It could be a cruise missile, could be a slow-moving aircraft. What this points to is a need for better sensors that know what the threat is.''
''That quadcopter that cost 200 bucks from Amazon.com did not stand a chance against a Patriot,'' Perkins said. He was trying to illustrate the point that many of the weapons used on the battlefields today were not really the smartest choices against the technologies many groups, such as ISIS in Iraq, were using against the US military and its allies.
''I'm not sure that's a good economic exchange ratio,'' Perkins said. ''In fact, if I'm the enemy, I'm thinking, 'Hey, I'm just gonna get on eBay and buy as many of these $300 quadcopters as I can and expend all the Patriot missiles out there.'''