During the past two years, Russian air defense and electronic warfare systems deployed at Hmeymim air base in Syria shot down or disabled over 100 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) launched by militants, Defense Ministry Spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said on September 27.
“Terrorists are trying to break through the Hmeymim base’s air defenses. If we speak about figures, 118 unmanned aerial vehicles of terrorist groupings have been destroyed over the past two years, including 58 drones since January 1 this year,” Major-General Konashenkov said.
A majority of UAVs was launched from the Idlib security zone including the areas of al-Lataminah and Khan Sheikhoun. The most recent attack on Hmeimim airbase took place on August 11 and September 3. The August attack involved five attack UAVs and one control drone. The September attack involved two UAVs.
“This raid involved two drones. Moreover, they approached the air base from different directions. Characteristically, one drone came from the area of the Mediterranean Sea. That is, apparently the drone was launched from a vessel,” the military spokesman said.
Major-General Konashenkov noted that the temporary calm may be related to the liberation of Khan Sheikhoun and Al-Lataminah, where workshops for assembling drones and sites for their launches were found.
The military official noted that terrorists are actively modernizing their attack UAVs, especially navigation and control systems. He said that the employment of such equipment requires serious technical training of operators.
The Russian side also revealed that militants have in-fact launched a serial production of such UAVs. Militant UAVs are used in a swarm formation (when one control UAV manages attack UAVs). Some UAVs are equipped with cameras and air pressure measurement units. The estimanted range of the newest UAVs is 250km. Their service ceiling is 4.5km. The previous variant of the UAVs had a range of 120km. There was also a version with a range of 50km.
Major-General Konashenkov said that Russia is concerned that some third party is supplying militants with military technilogies related to the UAV production. He did not name a particular state or an organization. However, the list of possible militant supporters is relatively short. The two main suspects are intelligence services of the United States and Turkey.
Despite a high intensity of UAV attacks carried out by militants, Russian forces have appeared to be capable of repelling them successfully thanks to the layered air defense and an extensive usage of EW systems.
According to the Russian military, air defense systems deployed at Hmeymim airbase can strike targets at a range of 250 km. The deployed air defense regiment’s tasks are to defend facilities on the territory of the Hmeymim airbase and the Tartus naval facility against strikes by unmanned aerial vehicles and rocket shells, as well as against tactical aviation and cruise missiles.
“A layered air defense system has been set up here. It comprises S-400 long-range surface-to-air missile systems and Tor-M2 and Pantsyr-S1 short-range complexes,” the commander of the air defense regiment commented.
He noted that these capabilities allow to strike all types of air targets at a range of 20 km to 250 km.
“The Tor-M2 anti-aircraft missile system and the Pantsyr-S1 surface-to-air missile/gun complex effectively cope with the tasks of striking small-size unmanned aerial vehicles with a small radar cross section, and also fast-speed shells of factory-produced and improvised multiple launch rocket systems actively employed by terrorists,” the regiment commander said.
According to him, the radio-technical battalion’s radars, as well as the reconnaissance capabilities of the regiment’s command post and the anti-aircraft missile battalions gather all the data on the air situation.
“Combat operations are controlled in the fully automated mode, from the time of detecting air objects and locking them on to the time of making a decision to destroy air targets,” the regiment commander said.