On the night of January 5, a swarm of explosives-laden small drones, apparently controlled by Syrian rebels, attacked two Russian bases in western Syria, the Kremlin confirmed on Thursday. Authorities claim that Russian defenses destroyed or disabled all of the drones before they inflicted any damage on the bases.
But the threat from small, cheap, numerous, and armed unmanned aerial vehicles isn't going away. The next swarm could be bigger and more dangerous.
Ten of the drones, which the Kremlin described as "aircraft-type," assaulted Khmeimim air base, where Russia stages most of its air power in Syria. A rebel artillery attack on Khmeimim on December 31 reportedly damaged or destroyed several Russian warplanes.
Meanwhile, three drones attacked Russian facilities at the nearby port of Tartus. Russia intervened in the Syrian civil war on the side of the Syrian regime starting in late 2015.
Each of the drones carried 10 one-pound bombs under its wings, the Kremlin said. The Russian defense ministry published photos of, it claimed, intact bombs and drones Russian troops captured during the assault.
The Kremlin claimed that a Pantsir-S air-defense system shot down seven of the drones while Russian electronic-warfare specialists hacked six of the UAVs and ordered them to land, but three were destroyed when their explosives detonated. The Russian army recently commissioned its first dedicated counterdrone unit equipped with powerful electronic jamming systems.
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