Russia Says Bases in Syria Attack by Swarm of UAVs
(Source: Forecast International; issued Jan 09, 2018)
DAMASCUS --- The Russian government says a swarm of drones was used to attack its bases in north western Syria. The attack took place on the night of January 5-6.

Russian air defenses in the area detected 13 unidentified small-sized aerial targets, believed to be unmanned air vehicles (UAVs), approaching its military bases. Ten were targeting the base, while three were approaching Tartus. Russia has a naval base in this city.

A Russian electronic warfare (EW) unit intercepted six of the drones. Seven other targets were destroyed by Russian-operated Pantsir-S mobile air defense systems.

Russian officials say the attack resulted in no damage or loss of life in the camp.

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US Spy Plane Circled Between Russian Airbase & Port Facility During Syria Drone Attack – MoD
(Source: Russian Television; posted Jan 9, 2018)
Moscow has noted “strange coincidences” surrounding a terrorist attack on a Russian airbase and port facility in Syria, in which guided combat drones were deployed by militants. These include a US spy plane spotted in the area.

The Russian Ministry of Defense consciously didn’t point any fingers when talking about the January 6 attack on Russia’s airbase and port facility in Syria, the Tuesday statement said, but added that technology used in the attack was telling.

Advanced training in engineering in “one of the developed countries” would be necessary to program the principal controllers and bomb-release systems of an aircraft-type combat drone, the statement stressed. “Not everyone is also able to get exact [attack] coordinates from the space surveillance data,” it added.

The ministry noted that a US Navy Poseidon reconnaissance aircraft was flying over the region between the Russian bases in Latakia and Tartus for some four hours around the time of the drone attack. An earlier Pentagon statement allowed the Russian military to “take a new look at some strange coincidences” surrounding the incident, it said.

The Saturday attack targeted both Khmeimim Airbase and the maritime logistics facility in the city of Tartus, and involved as many as 13 combat drones. The assault was successfully repelled by the Russian anti-aircraft defense systems and electronic warfare specialists.

It was the first time terrorists had used such sophisticated technology in the conflict, the ministry said, adding that the technical assessment showed that the drone could have been obtained “only from a country possessing state-of-the-art technologies.”

Earlier on Tuesday, the US said it was “concerned” over the incident. Pentagon spokesman Maj. Adrian Rankin-Galloway, however, claimed that “those devices and technologies can easily be obtained in the open market.” He later also told Sputnik that the US already saw what it called “this type of commercial UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] technology” being used in Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) missions.

Russia has repeatedly warned that US military supplies aimed at supporting “moderate” Syrian militants eventually end up in the hands of terrorists.

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U.S. Denies Involvement in Drone Attacks on Russian Military Facilities in Syria
(Source: Radio Free Europe; issued Jan 09, 2018)
The Pentagon has rejected Russian insinuations that U.S. forces were involved in recent drone attacks against Russia's air base and its naval facility in western Syria.

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."

The comments come after Russia's Defense Ministry noted in a statement the "strange coincidence" of a U.S. military intelligence plane flying over the Mediterranean near the Hmeimim air base and Tartus naval facility at the moment of the attacks.

"Hardly anyone could have obtained the exact coordinates [for the attacks] based on space-based reconnaissance," it also said.

The statement came a day after the Defense Ministry said that 13 armed drones were used to attack its facilities in Hmeimim and Tartus overnight on January 5-6.

The ministry said seven of the unmanned aerial vehicles were shot down and the six others were forced to land without inflicting any casualties or damage.

'Rebel Faction'

A monitoring group, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the attacks were carried out by an Islamist rebel faction that operates in Latakia Province, where the Hmeimim base is located, according to the Associated Press news agency.

Russia has given President Bashar al-Assad's government crucial support throughout Syria's civil war and has long been at odds with U.S. support of certain rebel groups in the Syrian civil war.

The conflict has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven millions from their homes since it began with a crackdown on pro-democracy protests in 2011.

More than 40 Russian military personnel died in Syria since Moscow launched a campaign of air strikes in September 2015, in many cases using Hmeimim as a base.

During a visit to the air base on December 11, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared victory over "the most combat-capable international terrorist group" -- a reference to the extremist group Islamic State (IS) -- and announced a partial withdrawal of Russian troops.

'All Necessary Means'

Western officials say that the Russian campaign, particularly in its earlier stages, focused heavily on targeting rebels seeking Assad's ouster rather than IS militants.

Asked whether the announcement of a partial withdrawal could have been premature, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on January 9 that the Russian forces in Syria have "all the necessary means" to counter any challenge.

Putin said on December 28 that more than 48,000 Russian military personnel had served in the operation in Syria, and that Russia's presence at Hmeimim and Tartus would be "permanent."

On December 29, Putin signed a law ratifying an agreement enabling Russia to expand operations at its naval facility in Tartus.

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