Islamic State uses drones to coordinate fighting in Baiji

In a newly released video showing the Islamic State’s assault on the Baiji oil refinery complex, several scenes depict the jihadist group using unmanned aerial vehicles for reconnaissance and battlefield coordination.

The use of drones allowed the Islamic State to gather intelligence to be used by commanders for command and control purposes, as well as act as spotters for artillery pieces. In addition to the scenes showing the use of the drones, other footage features several Islamic State commanders in an “operations control room” directing the fighting at the refinery. It is unclear what kind of unmanned aerial vehicles were employed by the group.

This is not the first time the Islamic State has used drones on the battlefield. Last August, the group released a video showing its forces using drones in a similar fashion at the Syrian Army’s Brigade 93 base in Raqqah province. The use of drones in this fight assisted in the takeover of the Brigade headquarter. The jihadist group has also showcased the use of drones in battles near Fallujah and Zawbaa in Iraq’s Anbar province, according to Alex Mello, an Iraq security analyst.

The fighting at the Baiji oil refinery complex has been ongoing since Apr. 11, when the Islamic State attacked the refinery from multiple directions, according to CNN Arabic. A suicide bomber detonated his explosives near the facility’s gate. A jihadist ground assault team then entered the breach into the refinery complex. (For more on the initial assault, see LWJ report, Islamic State assaults Baiji oil refinery.)

While the Iraqi Security Forces were able to repel the initial assault and other subsequent attacks, the Islamic State has launched several counterattacks on the complex.

Screenshots from the Islamic State video:

Drone use

drone use 2

Ops room

ops room 2

Caleb Weiss is an editor of FDD's Long War Journal and a senior analyst at the Bridgeway Foundation, where he focuses on the spread of the Islamic State in Central Africa.

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