Air Platforms

Russians reveal details of UAV swarm attacks on Syrian bases

12 January 2018
One of the UAVs is displayed upside-down to show its IEDs mounted on rails. Source: Russian Ministry of Defence

Key Points

  • Russia says attacks on its Syrian bases involved 13 UAVs.
  • The incident could be a precedent for future swarm attacks

The Russian bases in Syria were subject to the first mass attack by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) on the night of 5-6 January, the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) said in a statement on 8 January.

It said ten small UAVs were detected by air defences at Humaymim Air Base and another three at the Tartus naval station. Seven were destroyed by Pantsyr-S short-range air defence systems and the other six were intercepted by electronic warfare units. Of the latter, three were landed outside the base, while the other three exploded when they hit the ground.

The MoD said that analysis of the recovered UAVs showed that they were guided by GPS and altimeters and could have been launched from up to 100 km away. It added that they carried explosive devices fitted with foreign-made fuzes.

Major General Aleksandr Novikov, the head of the Russian military’s UAV development and construction department, gave a briefing in Moscow on 11 January during which he identified the village of Al-Muzarah, just over 50 km northeast of Humaymim and nearly 100 km from Tartus.

Two recovered UAVs were displayed during the briefing showing the aircraft were homemade, rather than commercial off-the-shelf or hobby types. They were powered by small combustion engines and their wings were made from polystyrene reinforced with wooden slats.

One was seen with racks for four releasable improvised explosive devices (IEDs) under each wing, although Maj Gen Novikov said each aircraft carried ten such munitions. He said they weighed around 400 g and contained the powerful explosive PETN. They appeared to have artisanal impact fuzes.

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