Russia is prepared to shoot down any US plane coordinating UAV attacks on its Hmeimim Air Base near Latakia, Syria, according Vladimir Shamanov, head of the lower parliamentary house’s defense committee, former Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Airborne Troops.
“In case of another U.S. drone attack on Russian Military Base in Syria, Russia is ready to shoot-down that plane,” Shamanov said.
Shamanov’s remarks followed an announcement by the Russian Defense Ministry that a US Posiedon-8 reconnaissance plan coordinated a drone strike attack on the airbase.
According to reports the airbase has further come under waves of attacks by small armed drones, which appear to be increasingly sophisticated.
On October 25th, Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said that a US reconnaissance aircraft had coordinated the attack on the Russian airbase in January 2018.
“Thirteen drones moved according to common combat battle deployment, operated by a single crew. During all this time the American Poseidon-8 reconnaissance plane patrolled the Mediterranean Sea area for eight hours,” the deputy defense minister said.
The official also said that the U.S. had supplied Syrian militants with equipment that allowed them to access radio frequencies operated by Russian aviation.
“Only a technologically advanced country has access to such tools; they cannot be made in the Syrian desert,” Fomin added.
At the time of the attack it was blamed on radical Islamists by the Russian Ministry of Defense. The January 8th attack included 13 drones in total, 10 of which approached the airbase, while 3 attempted an attack on the naval facility in Tartus.
On October 28th, Russian President Vladimir Putin also addressed the increase in drone activity, especially in the last two months when Russian forces reportedly downed 50. He spoke to reporters following the 4-way summit on Syria between France, Germany, Turkey and Russia.
“Russia reserves the right to support the Syrian government if terrorists carry out provocations from the Idlib zone,” Putin said. “Quite recently – I have informed my counterparts – artillery strikes were delivered from the Idlib zone in the direction of Aleppo. In the recent six weeks to two months, our air defense has shot down 50 aerial vehicles near our base in Hmeymim.”
As soon as the reports regarding the drone attacks were made in January 2018, the Pentagon rejected any accusations that US forces were involved in them. Spokesman Marine Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway said on January 9 that “any suggestion that U.S. or coalition forces played a role in an attack on a Russian base is without any basis in fact and is utterly irresponsible.”
Furthermore, Russia air defenses at the Hmeimim airbase shot down two attack drones launched by militants operating in Syria’s Latakia province, Maj. Gen. Alexei Tsygankov, head of the Russian Center for Syrian Reconciliation claimed on August 10th.
“Over the past 24 hours, the air defense units at the Hmeimim airbase detected two unmanned aerial vehicles [UAVs] launched from the territory controlled by illegal armed groups in the north of Latakia province,” Tsygankov said at a daily briefing. “Both aerial targets were destroyed at a safe distance from the base.”
Thus, the airbase appears to be under frequent and sporadic drone attacks. They are also reportedly mostly blamed on militant groups and not US activity.