The latest official report of a drone in the possession of the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) is tucked in an August 3rd press release from U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), the overseers of the air campaign in Syria and Iraq against the terrorist organization.
The reference is included in a list of targets from the previous day near the Iraqi town of Ramadi: "[T]hree airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL motorcycle, an ISIL drone, four ISIL vehicles and an ISIL resupply truck."
A CENTCOM spokesperson told THE WEEKLY STANDARD that the "remotely piloted aircraft 'RPA' was destroyed on the ground," but that the coalition was unable to confirm whether or not the drone had been armed.
This drone destroyed in Iraq in August was the third ISIL drone targeted to date by Operation Inherent Resolve and the most recent hit since June. The only ISIS drone destroyed so far in Syria was located near Raqqah and was targeted on June 26th. CENTCOM reported that "five airstrikes struck three ISIL tactical units, destroying five ISIL excavators, an ISIL vehicle and an ISIL remotely piloted aircraft."
The first instance of an ISIS drone being taken out by Operation Inherent Resolve was reported by the Daily Beast in the spring of 2015 based on a March 18th press release from CENTCOM. The Daily Beast quoted military officials as saying that "they believe the drone in question is one of several owned by ISIS but that fighters only recently started seeing them appear on the frontlines." At the time, it was believed the drone's mission was one of surveillance, not attack, and was described by military officials as "something that could be bought commercially."
Although the Daily Beast article was titled "Is ISIS Building a Drone Army?" and noted that experts have said that "ISIS could convert this kind of technology into something deadly," military officials dismissed the idea: "there [is] a big difference between what ISIS could have purchased off of Amazon.com ... and the Reapers and Predators deployed by coalition forces."
When asked this week if drone use by ISIS was on the rise, a CENTCOM spokesperson told THE WEEKLY STANDARD that "[c]urrently, there is no assessment indicating an increased use of RPA's [remotely piloted aircraft] by ISIL."