Drones used to attack two Russian military bases in Syria were so high-tech they were designed to offset jamming technology, were capable of launching precision strikes and could not have been made without foreign assistance, the defence ministry in Moscow has said .
The ministry’s drone department head Gen Alexander Novikov said the drones used in the weekend’s raids differed from the rudimentary craft earlier used by rebels in Syria.
The attacks required satellite navigation data that are not available on the internet, complex engineering works and elaborate tests, Gen Novikov said.
A Russian officer walks next to drones that allegedly attacked a Russian air base in Syria and were captured by the Russian military – the two drones were put on display at the Russian defence ministry in Moscow
Russia says it repelled an attack by 13 armed drones on its Hemeimeem air base and Tartus naval base in Syria, capturing at least two drones in the process
The drones used in the most recent attacks used state-of-the-art technology, Russia says, and could not have been made without foreign help
The weaponry on the drones including bombs carrying ball bearings, Russia says
Analysts say the drones present the biggest military challenge so far to Russia’s role in Syria
Russian President Vladimir Putin in December announced the partial withdrawal of his forces from Syria in December
‘The creation of drones of such class is impossible in makeshift conditions,’ Novikov said. ‘Their development and use requires the involvement of experts with special training in the countries that manufacture and use drones.’
The ministry said Saturday’s raid on the Hemeimeem air base in the province of Lattakia and Russia’s naval facility in the port of Tartus involved 13 drones. It said seven were downed by air defense systems and the remaining six were forced to land by Russian electronic warfare units.
Of those six, three exploded when they hit the ground and three more were captured intact, the ministry said.
The ministry presented two crude-looking drones at a briefing, arguing they featured state-of-the art electronics.
‘The assembly and usage of unmanned aerial vehicles is a difficult engineering task that demands ‘special training, know-how in various scientific areas and practical experience in creating these devices,’ Novikov said.
He added that the drones required special software and were especially designed so that they could efficiently operate by monitoring altitude, flight and wind speed.
Moreover the explosives they carried were stuffed with ball bearings and are only manufactured in a number of countries – including Ukraine. They cannot be made in ‘makeshift conditions’, the general said.
Although he did not blame any specific country, the defense ministry earlier referred to the ‘strange coincidence’ of a U.S. military intelligence plane allegedly barraging over the Mediterranean near the Russian bases when the attack took place.
The Pentagon has strongly denied any involvement.
The attacks have spurred a flurry of questions over who may be responsible for what amounts to the biggest military challenge yet to Russia’s role in Syria, reported, just when Moscow is seeking to wind its presence down.