Shotguns Countering Drones in Modern Warfare

( – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been an unwelcome shock to European nations who’d gotten used to wars being low-intensity counterinsurgency campaigns fought far away. Now, tanks and artillery are battling it out again on European soil on a scale that hasn’t been seen since 1945. Military experts have different worries, though. The war has shown that cheap, simple drones are a lethal threat to tanks and troops. But has Ukraine found a cheap solution?

Drones Are Changing War

The skies over Ukraine’s battlefields are infested with a plague of drones. Used in the thousands by both sides, the tiny aircraft make it almost impossible for troops to move without being seen. They’re killing tanks, ignoring their heavy armor and simply dropping grenades down their open hatches. Air defense systems can’t cope with them; most of the drones cost less than an anti-aircraft missile, and there are far more drones than missiles anyway. Germany has donated Gepard AA vehicles, a Leopard tank chassis fitted with a pair of radar-controlled 35mm guns, but even those can be overwhelmed by the number of drones in use.

Traditional air defense systems might be the wrong answer, though. Ukraine is having success using much cheaper and simpler weapons — shotguns. In April military blogs reported the Ukrainian military had bought hundreds of compact, Turkish-made BTS-12 shotguns to use against Russian drones. After all, if a shotgun can bring down a duck it can also bring down a small drone.

The machines can fly above a shotgun’s range, but that reduces the quality of their camera images and makes their weapons less accurate. If Ukraine can kill drones with shotgun fire, that’s great; if it can even just force them to fly higher, that’s a win too.

Ukraine isn’t the only country that’s now investigating the drone skeet option. The French military has bought Benelli Supernova shotguns for anti-drone use. Belgium went with the Benelli M4. The US military has focused on electronic warfare, aiming to “soft kill” drones by blocking their control signals, but is now experimenting with shotguns too.

That’s a smart move. Shotguns are cheap, don’t rely on high technology, and they’re easy to use and any soldiers are already familiar with them. If drone operators know the tank or infantry squad their aircraft is sneaking up on could produce a shotgun and blow it out of the sky, they’ll need to be more cautious — and that could be enough to protect the military from the drone menace.

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