The analysis of terrorists’ drones captured in Syria has shown that they cannot be made in an improvised manner, head of the Russian General Staff’s department for the development of unmanned aerial vehicles Maj. Gen. Alexander Novikov said.
“The creation of drones of this class is impossible in an improvised manner. Their development and usage involved specialists, who had undergone special training in the countries manufacturing and using systems with unmanned aerial vehicles,” the general said.
The assembly and usage of unmanned aerial vehicles is a difficult engineering task that demands “special training, know-how in various scientific areas and practical experience in creating these devices,” he said.
Special software is also needed to use these drones, the general noted. For efficient usage of ammunition information on exact target location and such parameters as altitude, flight and wind speed is required. This information cannot be obtained from the Internet, Novikov stressed.
The explosives from the bombs
Moreover, the explosives from the bombs carried by drones that attacked Hmeymim and Tartus bases in Syria cannot be made in makeshift conditions. There are several places where this substance is manufactured and one of them is Ukraine, according to Novikov.
“Preliminary analysis has shown that the main explosive used in the bombs was pentaerythritol tetranitrate (also known as PENT, PENTA or TEN), which has a far higher yield than hexogen. This explosive is manufactured in a number of countries, including Ukraine’s Shostka chemical agents plant. It cannot be made in makeshift conditions or extracted from other ammunition,” he said.
Novikov said special tests were being made with the aim to find out the country of origin.
Drones used by terrorists carried explosives stuffed with ball bearings, according to Novikov.
“Drones’ weapons deserve attention. These are improvised explosive devices weighing about 400 grams, and stuffed with striking elements – ball bearings with a striking radius of up to 50 meters,” the general said.
Route of the drones
Russia’s military has deciphered route data from the drones that attacked Russian bases in Hmeymim and Tartus in Syria, confirming that they had been launched from one place.
“The slide shows deciphered data from the captured drones on their programmed and real flight routes and points of dropping munitions. One drones was equipped with a video camera and designed for controlling and adjusting the strikes if needed,” the general said.
Militants in Syria earlier used drones only for air reconnaissance, but isolated incidents were seen when they were used for attacks, Novikov stated.
“Up until recently, gunmen used drones mainly for air reconnaissance. Only isolated incidents were fixed when they were used for attacks,” he said.
The drones (or unmanned aerial vehicles – UAVs) that tried to attack Russian military facilities in Syria’s Hmeymim and Tartus in the small hours of January 6 were following a preprogramed route and the bombs they carried were equipped with contact detonators, the editor-in-chief of the Bespilotnaya Aviatsiya (Unmanned Aviation) magazine, Denis Fedutinov, has said.
“I believe that the drones Islamic State terrorists used to attack Russia’s military base Hmeymim in Syria had been made in makeshift conditions from components available on the market of civilian products and often used to build aircraft models. The UAV’s airframe is the cheapest part of the system. Most probably the drones followed a pre-programmed route and were GPS-navigated. Apparently, the bombs were dropped when the drones reached certain coordinates. The bombs were equipped with contact detonators,” Fedutinov told TASS.
He remarked that the UAVs’ control system was the most complex and costly component.
“In fact, the UAVs’ control system, which may have been based on the available solutions, too, for instance, those provided by MicroPilot company, was the most complex and costly component. As for other expensive components, such as an optical-electronic observation system and a communication channel for transmitting reconnaissance data, they might have been absent altogether,” Fedutinov speculated.
He described this weaponized UAV configuration as a low budget one.
“Apparently, it was also unreliable, but a large swarm of drones may pose a threat to an unprepared target,” Fedutinov said.
About countermeasures against such attacks the analyst said that traditional air defense weapons might not be always effective enough.
“Firstly, small drones may prove a no easy catch for such systems designed to fight large aircraft. Secondly, the target is far less costly than the counter-weapons. It looks like radio-electronic warfare means, including anti-drone systems will play a major role,” he said.
Protection of Russian military facilities
Novikov noted that Russia had created multi-layered defenses at its Hmeymim and Tartus bases in Syria to detect and destroy the entire range of terrorists’ weapons by firepower and electronic warfare measures.
“It is necessary to note that the Defense Ministry of Russia is constantly monitoring the use of all types of armaments and military hardware by terrorists on the territory of Syria and is developing the required counter-measures,” the general said.
“This fully applies to unmanned aerial vehicles. For the purpose of countering their use by terrorists, in-depth systems have been created at the Hmeymim airbase and the Tartus naval facility with the detection, firepower and electronic warfare destruction and suppression capabilities,” he said.
These measures helped reliably thwart a terrorists’ drone attack on the Russian military facilities in Syria overnight to January 6, he said.
Photos: Alexei Peslyak/TASS