Plane landing in airport at sunset

Anti-drone ‘military capability’ removed from Gatwick airport

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The Ministry of Defence announced on Wednesday that the military hardware deployed to stop drones disrupting flights at Gatwick airport has been withdrawn.

In the run-up to Christmas, reported drone sightings at the airport caused mass disruption to passengers between 19 and 21 December, with around 1,000 flights being affected, which led to cancellations and long delays. As a result, the army was brought in to help bring an end to the travel chaos.

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: “The military capability has now been withdrawn from Gatwick. The armed forces stand ever ready to assist should a request for support be received.”

The Israeli-developed Drone Dome system is believed to be part of the technology used at the airport by the British Army, with the anti-drone equipment capable of detecting and jamming communications between a drone and its operator, and was deployed on a roof at Gatwick.

It has been said that the system has a range of several miles and uses four radars to give 360-degree detection to identify and track targets such as drones.

Chief Constable Giles York of Sussex Police said last week that police had received 115 reports of sightings in the area, including 93 that had been confirmed as coming from “credible people” including a pilot and airport staff.

Some reports of drones in the area may have involved the police’s own craft, he said, but added that he was “absolutely certain” that a drone was flying near the airport’s runways during the three-day disruption.

During the disruptions at the airport, defence secretary Gavin Williamson told reporters that the Sussex police had requested support from the armed forces.

“We will be deploying the armed forces to give them the help that they need to be able to deal with the situation of the drones at Gatwick airport,” he said.

Williamson added that he could not say how the armed forces would help but said: “The armed forces have a range of unique capabilities and this isn’t something we would usually deploy but we are there to assist and do everything we can so that they are in a position to open the airport at the earliest opportunity.”

Police are still on the lookout for those responsible for the disruptions of flights caused in the Christmas period, with the CEO of Gatwick warning the drone disruption “cannot happen again” at the time of the incident.

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