Russia admits airbase came under attack from 13 armed drones

9 Jan 2018

A close-up of one of the captured drones in Syria. Image: Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation/Facebook

The Russian military has admitted that it successfully repelled 13 armed drones that were aimed at its bases in Syria.

We now have confirmation that drone warfare is no longer restricted to battles between nation states, and can now be done by groups capable of arming and programming drones to attack distances of up to 100km away.

In a statement published to its Facebook page, the Russian Ministry of Defence said that its security systems surrounding the Syrian air base of Khmeimim and the naval port in the city of Tartus successfully repelled 13 “unidentified small-size air targets” in what it called a terrorist attack on 5 January.

The ministry said that of the 13 drones, six were intercepted and taken control of by members of Russia’s electronic warfare unit, while the other seven were shot down using its anti-aircraft missile systems.

Of the ones that were hijacked by Russia’s military, three were landed outside of the base and subsequently examined and decoded, which helped to reveal information on its launch site.

Confirming it was the first instance of a mass drone attack launched from more than 50km away, the estimates are that the drones took off from a location of about 100km away from the bases.

The military is now conducting an investigation into how those who conducted the attack were able to obtain these sophisticated weapons, which included pressure transducers, altitude control servo-actuators and “foreign detonating fuses”.

Russia drone

One of the drones captured by the Russian military. Image: Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation/Facebook

“The fact of usage of strike aircraft-type drones by terrorists is the evidence that militants have received technologies to carry out terrorist attacks using such uncrewed aerial vehicles in any country,” the ministry said.

The Khmeimim has found itself under attack on a number of occasions as the conflict in Syria rages on, with two Russian military personnel killed during a mortar attack on New Year’s Eve. The Russian military denied that the attack damaged its aircraft.

Russia has been in the region since 2015 to bolster Syrian president Bashar al-Assad as he attempts to maintain power in the face of a bitterly contested civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands and left millions displaced.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic