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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  • mike merlo says:

    Great news. Maybe this will also help keep Radio Shack from going ‘completely under’

  • Arjuna says:

    man with the mafia don name, are you 100% sure you’re sane?

  • mike merlo says:

    what are you ‘talking’ about? Oh & by the way the “mafia don” dude you’re referring to was never in the “mafia.”

  • Winston says:

    How did they get drones???

    Paul Bremer’s rotten gift keeps giving:


    The Terror Strategist: Secret Files Reveal the Structure of Islamic State

    What a betrayal from secularism to Wahhabism..

    The hidden hand behind the Islamic State militants? Saddam Hussein’s.
    CONFRONTING THE ‘CALIPHATE’| This is part of an occasional series about the militant group Islamic State and its violent collision with the United States and others intent on halting the group’s rapid rise.

  • Richard McCue says:

    Low altitude shots on the video and it looks like a wide angle lens. The operations center is 5 flat screen monitors and a laptop. I have not seen the video so I do not know if it shows the controller for the drone. The drone itself could be anything from a captured drone like a Raven to a “toy” like the DJI Phantom series or even a lash up of a RC model airplane and a camera. It seems shockingly advanced, just like a “real” army. But an artillery spotting system could be put together for $10,000- on the internet; a few laptops, 4 to 6 DJI phantom quadcopters (switching off to give longer coverage as each has about 20 min flight time), extra flight batteries, hand held radios to talk to the gunners. Awfully short ranged though. Those who want to be frightened can check out under FPV, where at least one kit claims a 4 hour duration.


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