The Kremlin has said it is concerned about a report by Russia’s Defense Ministry that a US spy plane was in control of a drone attack on Russia’s Khmeimim Airbase in Syria in January.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov made clear that the military has analyzed all available data and has drawn the necessary conclusions before saying that the drone attack on the Russian airbase was directed from a US P-8 Poseidon surveillance plane.
“This is undoubtedly a very alarming report,” he noted.
All further details will be provided by the Defense Ministry. But President Vladimir Putin may raise the issue with his US counterpart Donald Trump when the opportunity arises.
The Kremlin’s response comes after Colonel General Alexander Fomin, the deputy defense minister, had reportedly addressed the January drone attack during the Beijing Xiangshan Forum, a high-profile conference on defense and security.
According to the top defense military official, 13 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) had approached Russia’s Khmeimim base at the time when the Poseidon plane was traversing skies over the Mediterranean. When Russian electronic countermeasures were turned on at Khmeimim, the drones continued their flying mission in manual mode.
He said the drones were not manned “by some peasant,” they were flown from “a standard, well-equipped P-8 Poseidon,” which had manual control over the UAVs in question.
When these drones came across Russia’s electronic warfare measures, they pulled back from the kill zone and began receiving some commands via satellite communications, General Fomin explained. Someone, he said, “guided the UAVs to the so-called holes [in Russian defenses],” which they utilized before being downed by Khmeimim’s surface-to-air missiles.
The incident occurred overnight on January 8, involving 10 UAVs targeting Khmeimim itself. Three more drones attempted a strike on the Russian naval facility at the Syrian port city of Tartus. All 13 craft were then engaged by the Pantsir-S1 air-defense system.
Three enemy drones, overridden by the Russian electronic warfare team, landed intact outside Khmeimim and were later inspected by the military. It was the first time that Syrian militants had used remote-controlled top-notch weaponry in the war. The Defense Ministry said the drones had been acquired “only from a country possessing state-of-the-art technologies.”
The Pentagon tried to rebut the Russian allegations at the time, with spokesman Adrian Rankin-Galloway claiming “those devices and technologies can easily be obtained in the open market.”
The January attack was not the only one of its kind. Russian air defenses at Khmeimim have dealt with intruder UAVs on numerous occasions throughout this summer. No drone managed to get close to the facility.