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NEWS | March 15, 2024

Oklahoma Guard Explores Future of Drone Defense at Symposium

By Leanna Maschino, Oklahoma National Guard

OKLAHOMA CITY - A quote from the “Oppenheimer” movie, “This isn’t a new weapon, it’s a new world,” set the tone for the inaugural Oklahoma National Guard Counter-Unmanned Aircraft Systems Symposium at Oklahoma State University March 12-13.

The symposium addressed the evolving warfare and security challenges UAS technology poses, including integrating artificial intelligence, countering the UAS threat and countless other emerging advancements.

“We are undergoing a shift in military technology as significant as the development of the airplane during World War I,” said Maj. Gen. Thomas H. Mancino, adjutant general for Oklahoma. “Units are no longer able to freely maneuver without being detected, targeted and potentially destroyed.”

Referencing the war in Ukraine and other conflicts across the globe, Mancino mentioned the progression of drones — from reconnaissance operations to first-person-view drones that can target individual service members to future swarm and AI drone operations.

“Backed by state funds, the Oklahoma National Guard can move faster in partnership with industry and academia to innovate,” Mancino said.

The OKNG aims to train alongside civilian aerospace industry leaders and local partners to enhance mission readiness in future aviation and aerospace technologies.

The symposium included the Department of Defense, the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Guard Bureau, the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, Oklahoma State University’s Oklahoma Aerospace Institute for Research and Education, the Joint Counter Small UAS University at Fort Sill and private-public companies. They discussed regulatory frameworks, technological advancements and strategic approaches to counter-UAS operations.

“Together, we can shine a light on these issues and begin the process of adapting our warfighting technology and tactics to the modern battlefield to protect our brave military members, fight and win,” Mancino said.

The symposium featured panels led by industry experts, showcasing cutting-edge technologies and tactics for detecting, tracking and neutralizing unauthorized drones.

“Part of my job is to scare people, then we work together to solve problems,” said Jamey Jacob, executive director of OAIRE. “Since [the OKNG] has a dual-purpose mission, they can train for systems while at home, but they may get different systems that they’re fielding when they’re overseas. They may not know until a week before they go what systems they’re going to be required to use.

“Our goal is to provide them with that training upfront so they have not just a general understanding of the various systems and threats they might see, but some really specific training,” Jacob said.

Col. Shane Riley, director of military support for the OKNG, highlighted the significance of partnerships with government agencies and public and private sectors in safeguarding national security interests.

“We’ve been a highly deployed force over the years,” Riley said. “We see that counter-UAS and the UAS fight is a completely new and challenging environment, and I’m excited to have a crowd here today to interact and ask questions, share your knowledge and talk about how solutions come out of interactions like this to solve problems.”

As adversaries exploit drones for malicious purposes, it’s crucial that the military stay ahead of the curve. Events like the symposium help foster collaboration and innovation to counter emerging threats.

“At its basic level, public-private partnerships demonstrate that we’re stronger together — that we’re all on the same team,” Jacob said. “We want to be able to achieve the same goals.”



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