back to article Russia claims it repelled home-grown drone swarm in Syria

The Russian Defense Ministry has reported that its forces in Syria have been attacked by a swarm of GPS-guided drones carrying improvised explosives. The attack took place on the night of December 5, with 13 drones were picked up on radar. Ten aimed themselves at Russia’s Hmeymim air base and three more headed for a logistics …


                1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

                  Re: RE: "the missile to fly upside down it would immediately crash"

                  Eric "Winkle" Brown (often mentioned in this parish) was one of the test pilots responsible for developing counters to the V1 attacks.

                  He says in his book (Wings on My Sleeve) that you didn't have to touch wingtips, I think you had to fly with your wing beneath the V1 and that caused its to rise - as you were effectively generating extra lift. Then it slowly tipped over.

                  Incidentally there was another reason for the wing tipping. I don't think it was the V1s going boom when they hit the ground. There was the obvious problem of the fighters being slower - or similar speed, making interception harder. Also you had to blow them up when on a collision course.

                  So the big problem was they had huge warheads that would probably destroy the intercepting fighter in the explosion. Even in 1944 fighter combat was at very close ranges. Guns were sighted for only a few hundred yards. this isn't an ideal distance to blow up a half tonne warhead at a closing speed of about 800 knots.

                  There was another cunning plan too. Newspaper reports of the explosions were doctored, to suggest the V1s were landing long - falling the other side of London. As were intelligence reports from the large stable of double agents the British were running. That was operation double-cross I think?

                  This convinced the Germans to change their navigation settings, and left a lot of V1s dropping short in Kent.

                2. Dr Dan Holdsworth Silver badge

                  Re: RE: "the missile to fly upside down it would immediately crash"

                  Get just ahead of the V1 and move in towards it; the tip vortex of the aircraft wing will do all the damage you would want, without detonating the V1 immediately.

          1. anothercynic Silver badge

            Re: RE: "The thousands of German V1 attacks on southern England"

            +1 on h4rm0ny's book recommendation!

            Empire of the Clouds is mega!

    1. emmanuel goldstein

      You've been thinking an awful lot about this! Slightly worrying.

  1. ZanzibarRastapopulous Silver badge

    Pantsir-S anti-aircraft missile system

    The UK doesn't have an equivalent of this.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pantsir-S anti-aircraft missile system

      Thanks to defence spending cuts, all MoD kit is pants-er than everyone else's.

    2. hammarbtyp Silver badge

      Re: Pantsir-S anti-aircraft missile system

      The UK doesn't have an equivalent of this.

      Yes it does


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Pantsir-S anti-aircraft missile system

        Oh no it actually doesn't. Firstly C-RAM Phalanx is basically a ship turret welded into a semi-mobile building, whereas Pantsir-S is an actual armored fighting vehicle able to move about the battlefield.

        Secondly the MoD has contracted to have their C-RAMs turned back into shipboard turrets so they can provide their fashionable new aircraft carriers with at least a modicum of protection. The squaddies are getting new entrenching tools as a replacement.

      2. ZanzibarRastapopulous Silver badge

        Re: Pantsir-S anti-aircraft missile system

        While CRAM might make for a nice AA gun, the Russian doobry can plug things at 50,000 ft and 20 miles away.

  2. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Low tech

    and lack even landing wheels.

    What would be the point of having ones?

    The lighter the drone the heavier carried load

    1. ZanzibarRastapopulous Silver badge

      Re: Low tech

      The V-1 didn't have landing wheels either.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reminds me of the story of WW I when the UK government invited ideas from the public on how to combat the new Zeppelin airship bombers.

    A man explained his idea for a pilot to drop a stick of explosives from a plane onto the airship. After several rounds of technical objections from the air force officer he had refined his idea to a streamlined explosive device with an automatic fuse - to be carried under the plane. At which point the officer said "Like those?" pointing to the anti-Zeppelin bombs under a nearby plane.

    1. Vinyl-Junkie

      The officer was Arthur "Bomber" Harris, at least according to J.E. Morpurgo's biography of Barnes Wallis. This led to a lasting distrust of "boffins" on Harris' part and goes a long way to explaining why the RAF resisted Wallis' designs for so long.

  4. aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

    "Russia claims..." yeah right and we believe everything the Russians tell us....

    1. h4rm0ny

      We're not at war with Russia, you know. (Despite the best efforts of the USA). And Russia have done more to combat ISIS in Syria than we have so... why not?

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Unclear to me whether this is ISIS or the brave democratic resistance to the dreadful tyrant Assad (with or without assistance from CIA). Russia is on the side of the d.t. Assad. We are on the side of the b.d. resistance. For now. The d.t. Assad having been elected is one of the little problems with all this. My actual interpretation is that Christian countries (U.S., Canada Europe, United Kingdom) saw a way to wreck a Muslim country and slaughter the population, and in those terms it's gone very well.

        Also, I rather think that dropping bombs on military bases doesn't count as "terrorism". Fighting wars is what military bases are for. Granted, the article doesn't say that it is terrorism, it says it was done by terrorists, which is different. It's possibly true because that is who would be particularly good at doing that sort of thing, if "good" is the right word.

        another way to look at it is that war is a kind of terrorism, but people don't like you saying so, the same as when you say that humans are a kind of monkey. Which I think is mainly offensive if you only say that a particular set of humans are monkeys. That isn't true. It's all of us.

        So really when you say "terrorism" you mean "terrorism that isn't in a war". And this is in a war.

        By the way, don't only totally evil countries now have cluster munitions? Including the U.S. and Russia themselves as you say.

        1. iromko

          Turkish proxies

          "Unclear to me whether this is ISIS or the brave democratic resistance to the dreadful tyrant Assad"

          Well, it's becoming clear to me that this attack was performed by Turkish proxies operating in the same region. The indications for that are stern words from Russian authorities towards Turkey and it's proxies (, sorry for posting RT link), and Russian ambassador being summoned by Turkish government yesterday.

          1. Archtech Silver badge

            Re: Turkish proxies

            I would agree with you were it not for the American P-8 Poseidon flying in the near neighbourhood at the time of the attack. Basically a flying operations room.

      2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        We're not at war with Russia, you know.

        We know that. Do they? I get the impression the Russians think they're back in the Cold War. Though a lot of that's for domestic consumption, because Russia doesn't have near the resources the Soviet Union did.

        And Russia have done more to combat ISIS in Syria than we have so...

        No. They really haven't.

        Assad's policy before Russia intervened was not to fight ISIS seriously, but to only fight the other rebels. Which is why ISIS ended up controlling such large areas of territory virtually uncontested. This is also because ISIS was an organisation built in both Iraq and Syria (mainly from Al Qaeda and Iraqi ex army and Ba'ath party people), and was therefore strongest in the border region, which is remote from the areas Assad and his supporters cared about. Or at least had the resources to contest. Most of the Syrian army has spent the war in barracks, because Assad couldn't trust them to not desert. Whcih is why he concentrated on a few loyal units that have taken hideous casualties, and didn't have the ground troops to assault Aleppo until the Iranian Revolutionary Guard could get people on the ground. Plus some Alawite militias and Hizbollah troops from Lebannon.

        Russia did not change this. IS were causing embarrassing chaos in Iran, and were a nice distraction. So in the first month or so of the Russian bombing campaign they hit 90% non-ISIS targets. They even attacked some of the opposition groups who were fighting against ISIS, in order to weaken the defence of Aleppo.

        I'm sure this was partly strategy. Defeat the opposition that could be reasoned with, then leave the West with a choice between backing Assad as he later fought ISIS. But I suspect it was as much a lack of capability to fight on two fronts - and ISIS had much of their attention and forces in Iraq. So why poke the dangerous animal with a stick?

        1. Archtech Silver badge

          Russia is under far more pressure than during the Cold War

      3. iromko

        Troll factory worker detected

        Are you Russian, by any chance?

        Because you've managed to sprout three points of their propaganda in three sentences:

        1) "We're not at war with Russia" - you are lying, if by 'we' you mean EU; Russia in fact wages hybrid war on EU for years.

        2) "best efforts of the USA" - you are trying to implicate USA into anything.

        3) "Russia have done more to combat ISIS in Syria" - you are lying, Russia was in fact too scared to engage ISIS, and mostly fought Assad's enemies, as others commented.

  5. iromko

    Russian Defense Ministry

    Why would any reputable publication cite those disgraced liars from Russian Defense Ministry? They couldn't provide truthful report on anything even if they tried, like it was the case when they gave fake video of Russian airstrike to Putin:

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Russian Defense Ministry

      Why would any reputable publication cite those disgraced liars from Russian Defense Ministry?

      Because "our own" MOD's are actually not that much more competent nor more truthful in general!?

      Just, for one example, read up on the hole hokum about those magical "precision guided weapons" and "targeted drone strikes" - what we have is billions of taxpayers money going down the drain every year on technological complexity and embarrassing cover-ups to achieve pretty much the same ratio between "collateral damage" vs "bad people" as the Dresden Bombings did with far simpler means - apart from all those terrorists that we create by our bungling stupidity with lethal force.

      It just goes on and on with "us", right until we run out of money to feed the migrants we create with our "regime changing" - Russia at least did not do anything similarly stupid for decades after their Afghanistan fiasco, while we carried right on with Afghanistan, Iraq War 2 and then Libya and then Syria (probably), having learned nothing from all the preceding disasters.

      So, with such an impressive track record of incompetence and doubling down on failure - why should we take "our own side" more seriously?

      In my opinion it is only "our own" dysfunctions that are making Putin look competent and the Russian authorities truthful, but, it is working.

      If our leadership were not such clowns as they indeed are, they would worry more about that.

  6. MarBru

    Far from being an efficient weapon. Even assuming all of the drones had reached the target and exploded, they would do so over a large area, causing alarm but little damage.

    Likewise Hitler "terror weapons" did not hinder significantly the allied war machine.

    Drones without a sophisticated aiming and targeting system are not better, in fact slower and significantly less damaging, than the kassam homemade rockets that periodically shoot out from Gaza.

    I do think they could only become a significant military treat if used in large numbers by a competent technological and resource rich organisation.

    As a "terror weapon" they could however have their own niche.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Far from being an efficient weapon

      We have not seen the navigation board and sensors package.

      If it is just GPS and it has not been jammed you are looking at sub-10m precision for the hit. There is enough image recognition software floating around now to improve on this to yield a sub-1m hit based on visual recognition from a camera module. Hitting something juicy like a parked aircraft or a tank is really cheap now - you can implement the entire guidance and targeting on a Razzie using off-the shelf components.

      This, however, assumes a properly integrated explosive in the drone. These seem to have used an off-the shelf bomb which needs to be dropped from a minimal altitude of tens of meters to explode instead of that. That is what drops the actual precision, not the drone itself.

    2. anothercynic Silver badge

      Unless they hit those things called jets? Then it's more than just alarm but actual damage... :-)

  7. x 7 Silver badge

    If you're going to write about military issues, FFS get someone who knows what they're talking about.

    Take this sentence: "They also bore a control package and presumably a fuel tank built into the body of the drone, but appear to have few metal parts and lack even landing wheels"

    First, you'd expect a minimum of metal parts in a device which depends on evading radar to reach its target.

    Second, WTF would it need wheels? Its on a one-way mission of destruction, it won't be landing anywhere - except maybe on someones head.

  8. DonatelloNobatti


    You are seeing the future of war and terrorism.

  9. Paul Smith

    Hi tech?

    Hi tech? I don't think so.

    20 minutes on google, fleabay and Ama$on and I think I can source all the parts and knowledge required to build a UAV with a one meter accurate autopilot, 5kg payload and 20km+ plus range for under $750.

  10. BebopWeBop Silver badge

    parts and lack even landing wheel

    Not needed!

  11. DougS Silver badge

    This is what we need to worry about

    What I've been saying for the past decade every time I hear about billions and trillions being thrown away on F35s is that other countries like China and Russia are no doubt developing autonomous drones designed to attack in swarms of hundreds or thousands. Fighters will be useless against them because they've only got a handful of missiles, once those are gone they're sitting ducks. Ground based defenses will be overwhelmed by their numbers.

    As they'll be built by advanced countries and not hacked together by terrorists on a shoestring budget, they'll be resistant to EMF attacks and designed to use dead reckoning if satellite guidance is lost. They might drop bombs, be bombs or simply do their damage via impact (very effective against fighters and bombers if they have a small solid propellant rocket at the rear for a quick boost to supersonic ramming speeds)

    The US is doing nothing (publicly, at least) to counter this threat, because the Air Force is run by former flyboys who think men in seats is the way to wage war. They will be caught with their pants down if the US ever engages in a war with a real adversary, instead of the tinpot dictator of the year club in the middle east.

    1. Adam 1 Silver badge

      Re: This is what we need to worry about

      If this threat is to teach us anything, clearly we must give encryption a backdoor.

      /Logic brought to you by the numpties who run the show.

  12. Archtech Silver badge


    I notice that the article does not mention the Russian Ministry of Defence comments, nor the US Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft that was flying actually between Tartus and Hmeymim at the time of the drone attacks on both.

    If anyone is interested in getting some perspective,

  13. RobinCM

    Flashy drones

    All the flash but without the bang.

  14. not.known@this.address Bronze badge
    Black Helicopters

    "Spy" planes

    Regarding the P8 flying 'nearby', a more relevant question is "Was this the first time it was lurking near the Russian base?" since 'we' often fly as close to 'them' as we can and 'they' often fly as close to 'us' as they can, all without promoting a shooting incident (diplomatic protests are one thing, loss of life and/or hardware is a totally different ballgame).

    A spyplane flying nearby much of the time is a sign of wanting to know what the other guy is up to and trying to catch him as he does something while a spyplane appearing at exactly the same time as an "anonymous" attack is either almost unbelievably stupid or propaganda...


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