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As the use of UASs rises across the world, researchers from the Department of Defense are testing new ways to counter the new threats that these new devices could present.

The 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron teamed up with a researcher from the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to teach Airmen how to pilot drones and use them to train coalition forces on how to react to them on the battlefield.

“This is a brand new program for the 455th, where we’re able to test our counter-UAS systems, in addition to running base-wide exercises,” said 1st. Lt. Ryan Wilkerson, the researcher attached to the 455th ESFS.

Wilkerson, who is not a defender by trade, is deployed out of the AFRL, Rome Research Site in New York, and came to test the program at Bagram Airfield, where the challenge is present in real-world scenarios. A few defenders assisted Wilkerson, serving as drone pilots and using their own down time to practice piloting and learn tactics the enemy may use.

“It’s exciting to be able to pilot these aircraft for a program no one has ever been a part of before,” said Senior Airman Christopher Gallman of the 455th joint defense operations center. “I can’t wait to see where it is going and to be able to help out the total force. It’s fun and enjoyable, and knowing how beneficial it is to not only the base, but all of the force, makes flying the drone worth doing,” Gallman told

Training never ends, and while service members train to deploy, training still continues while deployed. “This allows us to be better prepared,” Wilkerson said. “The best way to train is to actually put something in the air and see how people react. We train how we fight, so this is the most efficient way to counter this growing concern amongst coalition partners.”

It’s important to remember that tactics used by the enemy are constantly evolving, which means the airmen have to be constantly committed to adapting to face threats head-on, ready to engage anything that comes their way.