When they're flying over bases and nearly colliding with $250 million fighters.
The head of the U.S. Air Force's Air Combat Command wants permission to deal with civilian drones—including shooting them down—that threaten to interfere with flight operations. Two recent incidents, one involving an F-22 Raptor, have shown the military to be relatively defenseless against this potentially expensive nuisance.
General James Holmes, the head of Air Combat Command, was quoted by Aviation Week describing two recent incidents. In one, an F-22 Raptor coming in for a landing nearly collided with a small, commercial unmanned aerial drone. The same week, Air Force security personnel watched as a civilian drone flew over the base perimeter and along the flight line before disappearing.
Flying drones over air bases in the United States is already illegal, but actually taking action against them, including disabling or shooting them down, is a federal matter and currently only federal civilian agencies can jam drones.
In both cases, Holmes pointed out, the Air Force had no legal authority to actually do anything about the drones, particularly to shoot them down. While the espionage aspect is a given, one possibility is a terrorist or state-sponsored drone swarm attack crippling an air base. In an event on Capitol Hill, the general is quoted as saying, ""Imagine a world where somebody flies a couple hundred of those, and flies one down the intake of one of my F-22s with just a small weapon. I need the authorities to deal with that."
Devices that can down drones, including forcing them to land, are currently in the field in Iraq to counter ISIS drone bombers. Islamic State DIY engineers have become proficient in jury rigging commercially available hobbyist drones to drop hand grenades, mortar bombs, and other improvised devices. If General Holmes has his way, Air Force security police may soon be carrying weapons such as the Battle Labs DroneDefender.