The poor man’s air defense – TTG

This was once taught as a valid air defense tactic in the infantry. It was in the field manuals. We also designated an air guard for every vehicle and even for foot patrols. We did not assume air superiority. We now have a lot more weaponry and countermeasures to counter this threat, but the threat of drones is growing just as fast if not faster. Sometimes, you have to make do with what you have at hand.

In the late 70s every infantry battalion of the 25th ID spent a month on the Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island of Hawaii. We did a lot of our live fire training there. Part of that training was each company shooting at a series of BATS (ballistic aerial targets) as they flew past our defensive positions. The most effective method to engage these targets was for the M-60 machine gunners to establish intersecting streams of fire leading the target. All riflemen would concentrate their fire on the intersecting streams of tracers. Normally the BATS would be recovered and we’d see how many holes we made.  The BATS were made to absorb a lot of hits. On two occaisions, our company, once my platoon alone, shot the damned thing out of the sky before it could fly past our defensive positions.

I don’t know if this is practiced anymore. It should be. 


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26 Responses to The poor man’s air defense – TTG

  1. Bill Roche says:

    Shooting skeet …. seriously, same idea. Knock the MF down with a lot of bullets.

  2. mcohen says:

    Backpack jammer that creates a 100m cubed radius protection umbrella .

    • scott s. says:

      A reasonable uav would have inertial nav backup.

    • Fred says:


      When you jam that inbound missle/drone what does it blow up, a school, hospital or apartment complex, or do they just wind up in empty fields every time?

  3. Rick says:

    I recall “small arms against air attack” was (is?) being taught/trained as a viable defense against enemy air attack, but I also recall it being a much more orchestrated response wherein the squad/platoon formed a line of some sort and concentrated its fire ahead of the aircraft. Also, at the time (1970s), I believe the tactic assumed the enemy aircraft to to be low-flying slow-movers. I thought it a sop at best.

    • TTG says:


      The BATS simulated a fast mover flying low level and popping up for an attack run. That’s what it was designed for. Redeye teams, Vulcans and Chaparral systems practiced against the same targets. The infantry unit did not have to adjust positions to concentrate fire. We never did. When practiced by a unit, it became part of unit SOP.

      • Rick says:


        By “sop,” I meant “a thing of no great value given or done as a concession to appease someone whose main concerns or demands are not being met.” I did not mean “standard operating procedure.” My experience with SAAD (I had forgotten the correct term) was as a light infantry NCO and later officer, usually in a patrolling situation in groups rarely larger than platoon. Employing SAAD as part of a mechanized column as depicted in the training film makes more sense. But why is the column out in the open like that? Yes, to make a point.

        • TTG says:


          That column is out in the open because it’s White Sands Missile Range or some similar wide open training area. My training experience with SAAD was with light infantry platoons and companies in defensive positions. I also have combat experience with a combined arms brigade in defensive positions. We taught the Lebanese 8th Brigade how to do this and they did it successfully at Souk al Gharb in 83.

  4. Leith says:

    It’s a darned good response to UAVs. In Nam we lost close to 3500 helicopters and over 2000 low-&-slow fixed wing aircraft. My guess is that a large majority of that was due to small arms fire, albeit I have no statistics to back that up. The NVA were particularly good at it using everything from AKs up to KPV 14.5mm heavy machine guns and even old RPG-2 antitank grenades.

    And I have read somewhere long ago that Massoud’s freedom fighters in Afghanistan used antique Enfield rifles to take down Soviet attack helos like the MI-28. That was long before we gave them Stingers.

    I’d like to see what my Grampa’s old 10 gauge goose gun could do. But that might be limited to 50 or 60 meters range not much more than a 12 gauge. How about a new round for those underslung M320 grenade launchers that can spray buckshot high up to 500 meters?

    • Pat Lang says:

      Pilots are scarred silly over what they call the “golden BB.”

      • Leith says:

        Pat –

        It’s a long way from the old days when they had the “big sky, little bullets” theory. Close air support pilots used to go into attack thru hostile ground fire. Frequently they also had to thread their way thru friendly mortar and howitzer rounds directed towards the same target. FSCC was in its infant years and comms were often incompatible. They did not have that “heavy duty armor bathtub” in the cockpit either, like the A10 Warthog does.

        • Pat Lang says:

          These are not A-10s. You can shoot these down with small arms if you get lucky.

          • Leith says:

            You are right about the ability to bring down UAVs with small arms. But we need more than luck. More and better anti-UAV ECM is needed. And whatever happened to the high-energy, UAV-killing laser that was supposedly going to be mounted on armored vehicles:

            I’m not a fan of the A10. It was overhyped. And it was not originally intended for a Close Air Support role. The USAF envisioned its job was to destroy tank columns long before they came in contact with friendlies. It lost relevance on the battlefield when both USAF and US Army started using PGM ordnance.

  5. SNS says:

    In the late 80s I was a machinegunner in the Marine Corps. On one occasion an ad-hoc group from my BN participated in SAAD (small arms air defense) training. We had a number of M16s, M249s, M60E3s amd M2s at the range. The people putting on the training used 1/6 scale (IIRC) planes which were flown in front of us; they were supposed to simulate a real target travelling 400 mph or so. Once we shot them down, they would repair them and we would try again. We shot them down often over the course of the day, but once the 50s ran out of ammo the duration between kills was much longer.

  6. jim ticehurst.. says:

    Speak od Don Juan…How About Wind Mills..?? Works in California..

    Put on Your Snow Tires Record Cold Coming Down The East Coast..

    Most used Banking System in America..I Have to Wait 15 Minutes in Grocery Stores because 15 Latinos are in Line For Money Orders and Western Union..Bet Thats Not Regulated….Love Seeing Them Walking Around the Streets in long lines Single File..

  7. Eliot says:


    If the air defenses were effective against the Shahids, the Ukrainians wouldn’t be doing this.

    They also wouldn’t be using what’s left of their Air Force to try and intercept these drones.

    – Eliot

    • Pat Lang says:

      I don’t really see a lot of damage from these drones so far. The number of casualties is minor on a national scale. The main damage seems to be to the power grid and that is reparable rather quickly.

      • Worth Pointing Out says:

        “The main damage seems to be to the power grid and that is reparable rather quickly.”

        That is because the power grid is the target.

        As for how quickly that can be repaired, well, we’ll see.

        The Russians aren’t aiming to cut overhead power lines, they are attacking the 330kV transformers that are used to switch electricity around the system. You can’t just splice around them.

        • Fred says:


          “330kV transformers”

          Those are not overstocked anywhere either, nor is the a deep manufacturing base for them.

      • Peter Williams says:

        Transformers don’t grow on trees, and keeping dozens of replacement transformers just doesn’t happen. The Ukrainian energy grid was being held together with bailing wire and duct tape. Even Zelenskiy has admitted that 30% of the energy grid has been destroyed. This is NOT repairable quickly.

      • Eliot says:

        Col. Lang,

        The Ukrainians claim to have lost 30% of their generating capacity. It is of course possible that they’re inflating that number to secure more western aid. I don’t know.

        I’d you look at night sky comparisons from October 13th, and compare them to today, you can see the impact of the strikes on the transmission system. The countryside has gone dark across Ukraine, and the glow from the cities is reduced.

        – Eliot

  8. jim ticehurst.. says:

    October Forecast for Ukraine..Mild Weather..Putin is Doing What He Always said His Strategic Plan Was…Pubish the Ukranian People With No Food..No Power No Heat..and a Stalingrad Winter…He is capable of More Of This IMO…What Does a Harsh Freeze and Artic Winter Do the Europe..Put that on The Screen Plan it Out..Quick Responses..Humanitarian Aid..What..Where How..??

    Current Events..Everything is ‘Aw Shit”…and The Pisch Pot” is Full Already..

  9. Barbara Ann says:


    O/T but do you buy this ‘Strelkov has gone to war’ business? He disappeared from Telegram on October 10th – just before news broke of Russian bloggers (himself included) being investigated by the MoD for “discrediting” the army. We learnt on 15th that he has finally been allowed to go back to the front, not from him, but via his wife’s VK account. To my eyes the photo of Strelkov in fatigues with his comely wife looks photoshopped (his head). In fact it reminds me very much of an image of Khashoggi together with the mystery Turkish fiancée who popped up right after he was killed. I always thought she was probably Turkish Intelligence and maybe even led him to his death. Anyway, maybe I’m wrong but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear he’s ‘cargo 200’ in the near future. Strelkov has insulted/embarrassed a lot of very powerful people – notably Prigozhin in the last but one post before he disappeared.

    Oh and guess what I saw on a Russian Telegram today; a Ukrainian Android app for tracking drones, with 100,000 downloads already: (in Russian)

    • borko says:


      All they need now is a phased plasma rifle in the 40 watt range to shoot them down. 🙂

      Seriously though, although it makes every app user a potential observer it also makes every user a potential source of disinformation. In addition, the Russians will probably either hack the API/server(s) the app is using or hit it with a DDOS to render it unusable.

      Stoltenberg says NATO will provide Ukraine with hundreds of drone jamming devices. Maybe that will help with the drone problem.

    • TTG says:

      Barbara Ann,

      I have my doubts about Strelkov going to the front. I’m sure there’s a part of him that yearns for being there leading the “Novorossiya Militia” on to victory, but he also know the reality on the ground. The Russian military and her militias suck at war. I think it’s more likely that he is laying low because of Kremlin warning to knock off his critical comments. Strelkov neither want to be on the receiving end of a HIMARS rocket than he does taking a leap out of a high rise window.

      Not surprised at all about the Ukrainian techno-geeks already being on top of the drone tracking app. Glad to see the evidence of it. Here’s an English language write up for those interested along with a short article on Ukraine’s diia. I hope our CYBERCOM is going balls to the wall in supporting and defending Ukraine’s eAir Defense Observer app and the Diia platform.

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