Homeland Security

American, British ISIS Jihadists Ran Reverse Engineering Op to Mimic Captured U.S. Drone Technology

Assyrian forces battling the Islamic State in Raqqa revealed an abandoned drone-construction site at which ISIS members were studying recovered coalition technology and detailing their prototype research in English — indicating that American or British fighters were running the research-and-development operation.

Macer Gifford, the nom de guerre of a former Tory council candidate who left a finance career in the UK two and a half years ago to come fight ISIS in Syria, showed off some of the items recovered by the Syrian Democratic Forces in a video released by the Syriac Military Council. He tweeted that the projects he saw were a “total failure but a clear investment in drone technology.”

The SDF found “very sophisticated” American and coalition drones that had either been shot down by ISIS or crashed and recovered by the terror group so they could try to mimic the technology. Among the recovered items was a heavy camera — “a serious piece of coalition equipment” — that Gifford assumed was once on a much larger drone.

“All that you can see here is American, in front of me, and there’s been a clear attempt by ISIS to reverse engineer,” he said, showing a diagram drawn by the terrorists detailing “the internals of some of the machines.”

He noted they found “writings on the walls where they’ve attempted to draw the wingspan, just put together a lot of the data that they’ve sort of gleaned from what they found here.”

“And then, you actually see some pretty amateurish attempts at copying the American drones.”

Gifford showed one drone in the works that was over 2 feet long and “very, very light” — “you can quite clearly see a place for a camera,” an example reflecting “a clear indication that ISIS are really investing in drone technology.”

ISIS has been using drones to drop bombs on the SDF during the ongoing battle for Raqqa, the terror group’s declared caliphate capital, but they’ve been deploying mostly commercial drones that aren’t ISIS-built.

Gifford said the research and production facility was the “first time I’ve ever seen drones that they started from scratch.” The facility altogether was “quite sophisticated,” the British fighter said, noting that “everything’s written in English.”

“So this is quite clearly a facility that was run by the English — or British — and American jihadis to reverse engineer coalition technology,” he said.

Syriac Military Council spokesman Kino Gabriel said last week that the city’s remaining ISIS fighters, perhaps numbering in the thousands, were “fighting very hard against our forces, mostly using, let’s say, dirty tactics including dropping bombs from drones, snipers, VBIEDS [car bombs], and are using tunnels that have been built under the city to infiltrate our forces.”

ISIS released a lengthy video in January unveiling their weaponized drone program. After the Mosul operation began in October, a U.S. general described ISIS’ drones as “commercial, off-the-shelf” unmanned aircraft. ISIS used drone photography in videos to capture aerial shots of battles before they started using drone IEDs that have progressively gotten more advanced.

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