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. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Other peoples' money only goes so far

    "Every now and then, reports give me this nagging feeling in the back of my head that it might also be our western taxes that fund terrorism in places like Syria, so I wish they'd spend it on prettier drones"

    You know, sometimes you have to get your priorities straight.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Other peoples' money only goes so far

      reports give me this nagging feeling

      That nagging feeling will become even more nagging when they start flying those things into malls, Jewish (or "wrong muslim") kindergartens in your own city. Which if we continue funding them they will. It is not a matter of if, it is a matter of when. There is a saying around those parts of the world - you do not feed a rabid pariah dog. It will still bite you.

      The sole difference will be that the kindergarten will not have an electronic warfare specialist at hand or a Kashtan CIWS to deal with it.

      By the way, the bomb is an off the shelf one (probably a bomblet from a cluster munition), someone welded a hook to it in a workshop. It is significantly LOWER tech than the drone itself. It is also the reason why they picked 'em. The drone itself is mostly plastic and wood - minimal radar footprint. It was the bomb and/or active communication that gave it away.

      It is also technically the right approach. I find it quite funny when idiots rant about the dangers of someone putting something on an off-the-shelf quadcopter. They really have no clue of how little range and carrying capacity does one of those have compared to a model aircraft with a proper petrol engine.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Other peoples' money only goes so far

        The funny thing is that the public, especially the press, seems to have a bit of a motivation problem when it comes to naming responsible parties. I wonder if people might get a bit weary paying taxes so their government can support unpleasant elements abroad to further their geopolitical delusions and then use even more taxes to establish oh-so-expensive systems of total surveillance in our so-called free countries which then of course fail completely to avert the fallout, if they were ever meant to. People might develop minor trust issues. So it is probably for the best to tell them too much.

        Back to those "drones". As you say, on a technical level, the whole thing is rather smartly done. Pretty smart for those rabid pariah drug fiends in Syria.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The shape of things to come

    It won't surprise me if it is not that long before we get attacks using drones here.

    Then all of them will be banned.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: The shape of things to come

      Only for PR value. You can strap a much heavier bomb to yourself, than you can fit on a drone. Or even just carry it in a rucksack and leave it somewhere on a timer.

      The whole death-cult thing is a huge disadvantage to these terror groups. Obviously it increases the horror of their attacks, and makes planning a lot easier. But the problem with killing all your people whether the mission succeeds or fails, is that you can never build up experience.

      Obviously in Al Qaeda and IS there are leaders who are not called by God to get blown up. Although they are often called by Allah to live in relative luxury and send other people to their deaths. But most of the efforts in the West don't seem to have built much of a command network to plan the next lot of attacks, or train the next lot of people. That's obviously going to make higher tech attacks a lot harder.

      The IRA got good at bomb making because they protected their bomb makers. They often didn't even go on the missions to plant them, so even if everyone was caught - they still had the skills and experience on hand.

      1. JohnG

        Re: The shape of things to come

        "You can strap a much heavier bomb to yourself, than you can fit on a drone."

        Yes, but a drone can go places where you can't. A drone could carry some nasty chemical or biological agents, that might be more devastating than a bomb.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: The shape of things to come

          Chemical and biological weapons are incredibly short range unless you have very expensive and complex delivery devices. And usually lots of them. It's nothing you can knock up in a shed.

          The only chemical attack in Syria that killed lots of people was the one in the suburbs of Damascus that Cameron lost the vote in parliament over. That used something like 1,500 little artillery/mortar projectiles to get the gas spread around. You can't do stuff like that without massive infrastructure and resources.

  3. adam payne

    While this sounds scary the pictures posted of the drones by the Russians raise some serious questions about the efficacy of the technology used. While the home-made bombs look authentic the drones themselves look cobbled together and low-tech.

    Low tech but no less deadly.

    1. MyffyW Silver badge

      I'm certainly not going to draw any conclusions on military efficacy from what it looks like.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        A grand old British tradition

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Low tech is often very effective. Unfortunately many military types are awed by technology and think that it is a solution to many problems.

      Being creative is really the lethal skill here.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I don't really see why they would have gone to all the trouble of building a bomb release system into their improvised drones, nor why they would spend time and effort making such pretty looking bombs when the rest of the drone was more sensibly lashed together with whatever would do for a one-way trip. A simple explosive pack in the fuselage and an impact fuse would make more sense. I suspect we're looking at a simple improvised drone attack bigged up for Russian propaganda purposes here.

        1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          I don't really see why they would have gone to all the trouble of building a bomb release system

          1. If they are using an off-the-shelf autopilot package it is likely to have objections to being flown into the ground.

          2. They are using an off-the-shelf bomblet from a cluster munition. That has to hit the ground at a reasonable speed and the correct angle for the detonator to work. If you just crash the drone into the ground you may not get the correct result. This type of model aircraft is SLOW. In addition to that the bomb has to be mounted near the centre of gravity so its front and propeller serve as a crumple zone.

          3. The other alternative - integrating an high explosive package into the drone itself including detonator, etc requires significantly more effort and facilities you simply do not get in a Al Qaeda workshop (under whatever name they call themselves today so we can sponsor them) - for that you need a testing range and some proper explosives handling facilities. The result is also likely to be less reliable compared to an off-the-shelf munition.

          So whoever built it actually knew what they were doing. That is the scary part here.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            2. They are using an off-the-shelf bomblet from a cluster munition.

            Do you have a reference for a cluster bomb munition that looks like that? Because I've never seen one like it, and I can't really think why anyone would design one in such a low-drag form and with such a poor packing density. These are more like it.

            1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

              Do you have a reference for a cluster bomb munition that looks like that?

              AO-1Sch is one example. There are several others. I cannot dig out the exact one, but it does look like something which I have seen before. Russian or Chinese by the way. Just cannot remember the exact reference.

              I can't really think why anyone would design one in such a low-drag form

              Russians do - there is a number of submunitions for their newer multiple rocket launchers, etc which are closer to a conventional bomb in shape than what USA or UK refer to as a typical cluster bomb submunition. I believe the Chinese have copied them as well.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Do you have a reference for a cluster bomb munition that looks like that?

                AO-1Sch is one example.

                Sorry? Here are some pictures of AO-1Sch submunitions - and they're as high-drag and butt-ugly as all the rest I've seen!

                1. Voland's right hand Silver badge


                  So am I. I swear I have seen something very similar somewhere once upon a time in Eastern Europe. I just cannot dig out of my brain the exact reference of what it is.

                  I do not think the bomb part is a DIY - I am pretty sure I have seen it somewhere. It looks waaay too familiar. Just cannot remember :(

                  1. emmanuel goldstein

                    They look like modified mortar rounds to me.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Not sure about your point 1, having built a couple of drones, all equipped with off-the-shelf autopilots, there has never been any objection from the autopilot about flying into the ground. In fact it is the one thing that the software (or maybe the operator...) excels at.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          " A simple explosive pack in the fuselage and an impact fuse would make more sense. "

          No need to make something when there is a proven object already to hand. A release mechanism is a complication - but gives a chance of recovering the delivery vehicle. That appears to be the more difficult part of the system to construct.

      2. Anonymous South African Coward Bronze badge
        Thumb Up

        Refer to "Superiority" by Arthur C Clarke.

      3. anothercynic Silver badge


        @Anonymous hits it on the head.

        All's fair in love and war, and the low-tech approach is what most guerilla warfare uses (IEDs in Afghanistan/Iraq, traditional weapons and cheap guns in Somalia, now cheap RC 'drones' in Syria).

      4. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Low tech is often very effective

        Indeed. A bow and arrow can kill you almost as easily as a rifle.. Just ask the French!

    3. h4rm0ny

      A low-tech device that does the job is better than a high-tech device that does the job for one simple reason: For the price of a single US$500,000 device, you can get thousands of cheap ones.

      If you can build a model plane out of balsa wood and a cheap motor with enough range, that's what you do. Besides, the sophisticated part of these was the guidance systems which aren't shown in these pictures.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge

        A guidance system could be an RPi with a 9-axis IMU and GPS module attached... and open source software to power it. Convenient for hobbyists, but that's what terrorists are doing, apparently, by repurposing hobby equipment as weapons of terror. I could cobble one together myself [and probably write the guidance control software for it]. I'm very familiar with IMUs and GPS because of a customer project I've been working on for a while, and it wouldn't take a "schmott guy" very long to figure out how to build something evil with the same tech. (yeah, 'Nize hat').

        And the bombs were probably stolen or purchased via the black market.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Even lower tech

      Take one completely standard donkey, add a GPS system and some means of steering the donkey, and inducing it to move forwards (servo-motor plus whip being the obvious solution).

      Deploy donkey plus guidance plus explosive payload. There you go, instant heavyweight suicide bomber.

    5. JohnG

      Then there was the comment about a lack of landing gear. Why would such a device need to land in a controlled manner?

  4. Filippo Silver badge

    So their electronic warfare specialist managed to hack half of them while they were flying in? That's actually pretty awesome. Saves a pretty penny too, given that I'd wager the anti-aircraft missiles outcost the drones by at least three orders of magnitude (which is the whole point of this kind of attack).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Russian tech hacked by Russians?

      Inside knowledge?

      Could it be Russian supplied tech...really wouldn't be surprising givin Putin's record.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Russian tech hacked by Russians?

        "Could it be Russian supplied tech...really wouldn't be surprising givin Putin's record."

        It doesn't necessarily need a government's collusion for arms to reach people who are, or eventually become, the enemy. It has been well documented that Western supplied arms have been found in the hands of groups fighting against the Western-backed forces.

        Arms manufacturers tend to sell to whoever has the money. Even when there are legal proscriptions - it only takes one shady middleman to make the sale appear legitimate.

        Civil wars generally only continue as long as external forces are supplying arms to both sides.

        1. h4rm0ny

          Re: Russian tech hacked by Russians?

          Governments generally have a pretty good idea of who their weapons are reaching. Which is a very different thing from publicly admitting it or it being done legally. And when weapons end up in "the wrong hands", it's as often simply a matter of time and shifting allegiances than error. Arms dealers are VERY aware of who governments will be okay with them supplying and who will get them into a very nasty situation.

      2. h4rm0ny

        Re: Russian tech hacked by Russians?

        You're suggesting the Russians are bombing themselves. Quite frankly we know the CIA are present in Syria and have been supplying expertise and equipment to Al Quaeda and similar there. Western assistance to build these is not remotely implausible.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Russian tech hacked by Russians?

          Some Russian news sites reported that the claim about assistance from a foreign government was about the GPS devices used on these drones - apparently, these used military GPS, as opposed to the commercial variant common in sat navs and smartphones and therefore, not items one could buy on Alibaba.

        2. Kernel

          Re: Russian tech hacked by Russians?

          "You're suggesting the Russians are bombing themselves."

          I heard that they were thinking about doing just that, but then a Lieutenat Minderbender turned up from somewhere with an outsourcing deal they couldn't afford to ignore.

    2. DropBear

      "Hacked"? Doubt it. I much rather suspect they locally messed with the GPS signal and somehow confused the heck out of the drones. Maybe it was as simple as spoof-dropping the ground level until the drone crashed into the actual thing that was still where it used to be...

  5. frank ly

    "... but appear to have few metal parts and lack even landing wheels."

    They don't need landing wheels for a suicide mission. The lack of metal parts was probably an attempt to avoid radar detection.

    1. Anonymous Blowhard

      "They don't need landing wheels for a suicide mission."

      Possibly, or it could be an obvious weight saving measure; many commercial miniature UAVs don't have landing wheels. They may even have hoped to recover some of the drones if they'd been successful.

      "The lack of metal parts was probably an attempt to avoid radar detection."

      Possibly, but equally it's also a weight saving measure, and plastics, composites and wood are a lot easier to work with than metal airframe construction techniques.

    2. Vinyl-Junkie

      Re They don't need landing wheels for a suicide mission

      My first thoughts too; I was instantly reminded of the Japanese kamikaze piloted bombs of World War II which also lacked landing wheels, because they would never be required to make one.

      See picture here

    3. Mark 85

      They don't need landing wheels for a suicide mission.

      The lack of wheels also makes sense in that not having them reduces drag which will increase speed, range, and/'or payload. If the aircraft could fly back to base, it could just land in tall grass or even sand. A few repairs and it's ready for action.

      As a side note, during WWII one of the (I forget which one) German rocket planes didn't have landing gear but skids. Low weight and no maintenance to speak of. I won't go into it's success as they were very dangerous aircraft to fly but the landing system seems to have worked.

      1. notowenwilson

        "German rocket planes"

        That'd be the ME163? I believe. Not sure how well the skid worked but I believe they were fairly effective at killing their pilots before they had a chance to land.

  6. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "highly advanced machines"

    Maybe by Russian standards, but they look cobbled together with duct tape and wire.

    That said, how they look has very little bearing when the bombs they carry are dropping on your head.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "highly advanced machines"

      "but they look cobbled together with duct tape and wire.".

      Ah, you're fingering the A-Team.

  7. Lee D Silver badge

    Nailed it.

    Been waiting for this to happen for ages.

    Now, when they say that they took some out with an AA missile, how many missiles for how many drones? I'm guessing that it's a lot cheaper and more practical to launch 1000 drones than 1000 missiles, especially if you only need one to get through and your target doesn't HAVE 1000 missiles.

    This is basically what first popped into my head when GPS + load-bearing drones became a possibility. Not even a professional attack, either. Amateur terrorism. Coming soon to a city centre near you. It's scary stuff.

    Maybe then these things will get some regulation (but that won't stop them either).

    Literally nothing stopping someone making an "art project" of 1000 drones in a warehouse, and then making them fly out... over thousands of kms if necessary, by all kinds of random routes. Landing on a building should they be low on battery, solar panel on the back and off you go again (maybe even with a little fuel for an "emergency" launch if it detects someone approaching / touching it while it's charging back up).

    Program in the same target location to them all, their origin will basically be impossible to ascertain (quite why these one's origin was isn't explained), they would come at you from all angles, over the course of many hours (or could be synchronised to the second but likely to generate attention while they wait around) and you'll never be quite sure if the attack is over.

    It only needs one to get through to cause havoc, it'll generate scary headlines IMMEDIATELY and have a massive knock-on effect, it won't need a ton of funding, or for them even to be carrying anything necessarily, and it'll be hard as hell to knock out 1000 drones all in a little flock that you can't just get with one missile.

    I would also think that rather than bombs, gas would be more effective - much more scary, basically only needs some scary-looking green fogging gas to be heated up to prove proof of concept and scare the life out of everyone, lighter, controllable, doesn't make you explode while you're setting it up, etc. and yet still a viable attack method if you did have some dangerous gas.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Not an AA missile, an AA unit. The Pantsir system can shoot missiles, but it also has good ol' fashion AA guns.

      They most likely used the guns.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The thousands of German V1 attacks on southern England used cheap ram jet drones launched off sledges on short concrete ramps. Simple gyro control - and a distance cut-out aimed them at the approximate target area.

      They were generally slightly faster than any intercepting prop-driven aircraft - and anti-aircraft fire was initially too inaccurate to nail them reliably. It is interesting to see film of batches of anti-aircraft rockets being fired vertically simultaneously in the hope of intercepting one.

      Even after the launch sites in France were overrun - the Allied supply port of Antwerp was the target for future attacks.

      V2 ballistic rockets were also used. Although interception was impossible - they were a much more complicated and expensive device to use than the V1.

      1. Arctic fox

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

        In fact a number of the aircraft stationed at British airbases in S.E. England at the time of the V1 offensive could successfully intercept the V1. The Spitfire XIV, the Mustang III, the Tempest V and the Mosquito could all do this. The biggest challenge to interception was in fact the time window between detection and the V1 being over a densely populated area when shooting it down would probably have caused it to explode when hitting the ground thus negating the point of the interception.

        1. h4rm0ny

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

          Fun and amazing fact: although British pilots were instructed to shoot down the V1s., their gyroscope ceased working if inverted. That is to say that if you could get the missile to fly upside down it would immediately crash. British pilots would sometimes fly alongside the missile and get their wing under its fin and flip it over.

          Interesting book that mentions this: Empire of the Clouds by James Hamilton-Paterson. (No, I'm not touting the book and no connection. Amazon's just the easiest link).

          1. Arctic fox

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

            Yes h4rm0ny. I had in fact forgotten about that trick some of the RAF pilots used. I seem to remember that it involved flying just under the V1 so that the fighter's wing was just under that of the drone and tipping/flipping the V1 over onto its back. Those brillcream boys were crazy/very brave - luckily for us!

            Edit: Sorry, I read your post too quickly and failed to see that you had already mentioned this.

            1. x 7

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

              It wasn't wing-to-wing contact which caused the V1 to flip, but rather flying with the wings just close enough for the Allied aircraft to disturb the airflow over the V1's wing, resulting in loss of lift on one wing and an inevitable stall

              1. h4rm0ny

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

                That's entirely plausible. I don't have the knowledge to say otherwise. But the book I reference I'm fairly certain describes it as physically tipping the V1 over with your wing. It could be wrong. Or maybe both were done.

                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

                  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.

          2. 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!

    3. emmanuel goldstein

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

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    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

      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. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        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.

  9. 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. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Low tech

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

  10. 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.

  11. 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. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            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. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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... :-)

  14. x 7

    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.

  15. DonatelloNobatti


    You are seeing the future of war and terrorism.

  16. 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.

  17. BebopWeBop

    parts and lack even landing wheel

    Not needed!

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    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

      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.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    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,

  20. RobinCM

    Flashy drones

    All the flash but without the bang.

  21. not.known@this.address
    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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