Syria: Drone Swarm Attacks Russian Military Bases

 


TRIPwire, 12 January 2018, 0800


On 9 January 2018, 13 unmanned aircraft system (UAS) platforms, or “drones,” attacked Russia’s Khmeimem Air Base and Tartus Naval Facility in Latakia Governate. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, ten of the drones attacked Khmeimim Air Base, while three attacked the Tartus Naval Facility. The drones used improvised air-dropped munitions during the attacks, with ten drones carrying ten munitions each. The munitions allegedly contained approximately one pound of PETN each, with metal ball bearings or BBs used as a fragmentation enhancement. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the drones operated autonomously, possessed a range of 30 to 60 miles, and were possibly launched from the village of Muwazaara, which is located 50 miles from Khmeimim. In addition to their long range, the drones utilized GPS, which helped guide them to their targets, and the platforms were pre-programed to release the munitions over the Russian bases. Also, commercial-off-the-Shelf (COTs) products, such as lawnmower or moped engines were used to construct the drones. Despite the nature of the attack, Russian military forces were able to shoot down seven of the drones with Pantsir-S1 missiles and “hacked” six of the drones, recovering them safely, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. No damage or injuries resulted from the attack. The Free Alawites Movement claimed responsibility for the attack on social media. In its statement, the group claimed to destroy a Russian S-400 missile launcher. The Russian Defense Ministry accused several countries of complicity in the attack. Claiming the U.S, Ukraine, and Turkey all contributed. However, no direct evidence was provided to corroborate those claims. No further information was available.