U.S. Attacked Russia's Syria Base With Drones, Defense Ministry Claims

'Thirteen drones moved according to common combat battle deployment,' deputy defense minister says, noting that drones switched to manual guidance upon encountering Russian electronic countermeasures

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Drones shot down by Russian forces over the Khmeimim Airbase in Syria, January 2018.
Drones shot down by Russian forces over the Khmeimim Airbase in Syria, January 2018.Credit: Russian Ministry of Defence

Russia's deputy defense minister on Thursday accused the U.S. of coordinating a drone attack on Russia's Khmeimim Airbase in Syria in January 2018.

"Thirteen drones moved according to common combat battle deployment, operated by a single crew. During all this time the American Poseidon-8 reconnaissance plane patrolled the Mediterranean Sea area for eight hours," Alexander Fomin told the Beijing Xiangshan Forum on security, according to the Russian state-run TASS news agency.

The minister noted that the drones switched to manual guidance upon encountering Russia's electronic countermeasures, indicating that they were not controlled by Syrian forces, but a "technologically advanced country that has access to such tools; they cannot be made in the Syrian desert," Fomin was cited as saying.

US Navy P-8 Poseidon taking offCredit: Darren Koch/Wikimedia Commons
Crewmembers at their work stations inside the cabin of a U.S. Navy P-8Credit: U.S. Navy, Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric A. Pastor

Fomin reportedly noted that the drones were not controlled by some “sort of peasant, but a proper Poseidon-8  which has modern equipment. It undertook manual control."

The Kremlin said on Thursday that it was very alarmed by the report from the Russian Defense Ministry. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he could not rule out that President Vladimir Putin would raise the alleged drone attack with U.S. President Donald Trump. The two leaders are expected to meet in Paris on November 11.

This was the first time Russia has openly accused the U.S. of involvement in in the incident since the January attack.

Immediately following the incident, Russia's Defense Ministry displayed a pair of drones that it said were captured following the attack on the Khmeimim base, saying the attack required know-how indicating it was carried out with outside assistance.

After the attack in January, Putin said Moscow knows who helped stage the attack on the Russian bases, but he didn't identify the country allegedly involved, saying only that it wasn't Turkey. Putin said the drones looked primitive but contained high-tech elements allowing precision satellite guidance and release of munitions.

He added that those behind the attack were aiming to thwart the Russia-Turkey-Iran agreement on de-escalation zones. These were provocations aimed at thwarting earlier agreements, Putin said.

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