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Iraqi Federal Police Using Weaponised Drones

March 2, 2017

By Nick Waters

Translations: Русский

The last few months has seen the phenomenon of small, weaponised drones being used on a large scale by IS, especially around Mosul. It now appears that the Iraqi Federal Police (IFP) are fielding their own weaponised drones in the fight against Islamic State (IS), as well as their own modified ammunition.

On the 23rd February 2017 Sara Hussein of Agence France-Presse saw an IS drone which was reportedly shot down by Iraqi forces outside Al-Buseif.

Drone shot down outside Al-Buseif (Credit: Alaa/Sara Hussein)

It was unusual for several reasons, not least because it appeared to be carrying two bombs of a type that hadn’t been seen before.

Enlarged image showing bomb. Note how there is still a ring-pull in the fuze of the bomb, indicated by the yellow arrow

At the time it was noted that there were still ring-pulls on the bombs. This is odd, as ring-pulls are safety measures which prevent the munition exploding prematurely. Once the ring-pull is removed the munition becomes armed and can be set off by the fuze on, for example, impact. With the ring-pulls still on, the bombs would not have been able to detonate, which negates the point of putting them on a drone in the first place. If IS were trying to use this drone to attack Iraqi forces, they would not have had much success.

On 1st March 2017 reports appeared that the IFP were using weaponised drones against IS in Mosul.

Tweet describing armed drone use by IFP

The drone used appears to be the same kind seen by Sara Hussein, a DJI Matrice 100.


Clockwise from left: drone seen by Sara Hussein, drone used by IFP and a DJI Matrice 100

On 2nd March 2017 a video emerged, allegedly showing three strikes by the IFP against IS in Western Mosul. Although it is low quality, it is still  possible to make out the shape of the bombs that were dropped

IFP Drone strike video: Note the shape of the projectiles (source

The final bomb in above video is the most clear, and we can see several distinct features. 

IFP drone bomb features: 1. Shuttlecock tail, 2. Intermediate tail section, 3. Possibly a driving band for a munition, 4. Fuze, possibly improvised.

This munition is identical to ones carried on the drone documented by Sara Hussein. This is distinct from the kinds of bombs used by IS, who do not appear to modify the fuzes of the 40mm grenades they incorporate into their bombs. (an album of publicised IS drone strikes and their munitions can be seen here for comparison. An analysis of IS drone bombs can be seen here).

Comparison of bombs, from left: IFP bomb, bomb seen by Sara Hussein, 3 different kinds of IS bombs


One of the reasons that small drones have proliferated across the battlespace is that they are easy to obtain and use. Although IS were not the first group to weaponise drones, they have been the most prolific users of them, releasing hundreds of images and videos showing drone strikes over the last two months. However, since the drone seen by Sara Hussein uses the same distinctive kind of bomb and drone as those employed by the IFP, it was almost certainly an IFP, rather than an IS drone. It is clear from this, and the media emerging from Iraq, that the use of armed drones is spreading beyond IS. It is also clear that the Iraqi Federal Police are now using the very same tactics that IS has previously used against them. 

Nick Waters

Nick is an ex-British Army officer and open source analyst. He has a special interest in the conflicts in Syria, as well as social media, civil society, intelligence and security. Contact via Twitter: @N_Waters89

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  1. Randall

    Although I cannot tell for sure, it looks like there may be arming wire attached to the pull ring in the photo referenced to Sarah Hussein. The arming wire would be tethered to the drone, so when the bomb is released, the pin would be extracted, arming the weapon.

  2. Michael Weber

    Two rings, one is the safety removed when loaded on to drone. Seconomy one is the lug, used to hold bomblet on the drone. When release command is sent a hook releases the bomblet. Fuzing is impact inertia. The firing pin is kept in place and separated from the stab detonator by a spring. On impact the stab det is driven forward onto the firing pin. The ISIS 40 drones are South Korean. It is extremely difficult to arm that fuze, have inerted several of them and not easy. What ever fuze is used it must be effective as there have been no reports on any found to my knowledge.


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