The MIM-104 Patriot missile is a surface-to-air system that combines an advanced radar with an interceptor missile. First deployed in 1980 as an anti-aircraft weapon, ballistic missile interception capability was gradually added and enhanced throughout the 1980s and 1990s, though its success rate in conflicts like the first Gulf War remain highly disputed.
But at least one Patriot missile had a confirmed hit, albeit not a very attractive one. Speaking at a military symposium this week, General David Perkins told the audience that one of our allies had successfully used a $3.4 million Patriot missile to destroy a quadcopter drone estimated to cost $200.
The good news, I guess, is that our continually upgraded anti-ballistic missile system is exceptionally good at stopping the kind of drones you can pick up at Best Buy. The bad news is that firing a $3.4 million missile to stop a UAV is rather overkill. And while the military drones that the US government uses are vastly more expensive and far more capable than a basic quadcopter, even those quadcopters can conceivably carry very small payloads. In fact, they’ve already been used to drop grenades in Iraq. In one attack, two Kurdish Peshmerga fighters were killed as a result.