Defending against drone threats is a hell of a job for the Ministry of Defence (The Netherlands)

The hunt for enemy drones requires more attention from the Ministry of Defence. From 1 June there will therefore be an official counter-drone unit. During Zelensky’s visit last May, that unit was already active.
Stefan Keukenkamp, 12:2023, 19 May 53 (UTC)
The SkyWall is a weapon that fires a net, with which drones can be caught. Image Merlin Daleman.

The French general Pierre Schill drives in a column, accompanied by motor vehicles of the military police, over the grounds of the Lieutenant-General Bestkazerne. Outside, the latest gadgets from the counter-drone unit of the Defense Ground-based Air Defense Command (DGLC) shine.

General Schill and his staff are visiting to strengthen ties with the Dutch. They are informed about advanced weapons and detection systems that can be used against attacks by small unmanned aircraft. As the rain clatters on the Defense tent, he looks at the SkyWall, an anti-drone weapon firing a net in which the drone becomes entangled, with a sullen look.

It is not surprising that the French general comes to the North Limburg barracks to look at defense against drone attacks. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the demand for this is more urgent than ever. The Ukrainians must do everything in their power to repel the Russians’ incessant stream of kamikaze drones. The country itself regularly carries out attacks with the small agile aircraft.

“There is a drone arms race,”

says Lieutenant Colonel Arjen Nijkamp a little later at the bar in the barracks.


Drones with propaganda notes

It’s a hell of a job to defend against it. The cheap drones come in all shapes and sizes, fast, agile and cheap. From reconnaissance and spy drones to drones with explosives and notes with propaganda.

“We can shoot them down with an advanced missile, but it costs hundreds of thousands of euros each. While a drone costs a few hundred euros.”

Nijkamp is head of the core team, which deals with the defense against unmanned aircraft. From 1 June, this unit will officially be called the counter-drone unit (C-UAS platoon). The developments are difficult for the Ministry of Defence to keep up with, while the risks are increasing.

“It’s tricky, because everyone has access to drones,”

says Nijkamp.

During an exercise in Romania, a soldier from the new counter-drone unit of the Ministry of Defence tests the SkyWall, a weapon to remove drones from the sky. Image Defense.

Contact with the French is important for defence.

“The French are further along than we are,”

says Nijkamp. Soon there will be the Rugby World Cup and next year there will be the Summer Olympics.

“Occasions that may be interesting for people who want to carry out an attack with a drone. It is interesting for the Netherlands to see how they protect these events.”

In the Netherlands, this threat is also lurking. Take major events such as Prinsjesdag, the remembrance of the dead and the visit of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to the Netherlands in early May.

The Ministry of Defence is more often asked to support the police in defending against drones around these types of events. The unit has been deployed a number of times in recent years.

“They know how to find us better and better,”

says Nijkamp.

Learn more about SkyWall Patrol
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