Russia says it has downed almost 60 drones in Syria this year

Hmeimim (Syria) (AFP) –


The Russian army has stated that it has so far this year downed nearly 60 drones deployed by insurgents in Syria against its Hmeimim air base, west of a bastion controlled by rebels and jihadists.

General Igor Konachenkov told journalists Friday that 58 drones and 27 missiles were intercepted by Russian forces at the base in the coastal province of Latakia, a Syrian government stronghold and heartland of President Bashar al-Assad's clan.

"The system may seem rudimentary, but it can drop shells from a height of two kilometres", Konachenkov said during a press trip organised by the Russian army in Syria.

Most of the attacks came from the towns of Khan Sheikhoun and Latamneh, both of which were recaptured in August by the Syrian army, which claims to have discovered drone-making workshops in large underground complexes.

But drones have also been launched from other areas of Idlib province, the last stronghold of insurgents in Syria where a fragile ceasefire deal reached last year between regime ally Russia and rebel backer Turkey was meant to prevent a bloodbath.

But an uptick since late April in bombardment of the insurgent-held region, which includes slivers of the adjacent Hama, Aleppo and Latakia provinces, has claimed a mounting death toll.

More than 1,000 civilians have been killed in those raids, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

In Hmeimim, Russia uses Pantsir S1 and Tor-M2 air defence systems to intercept drones, along with state-of-the-art S-400 batteries. Older S-300 models are stationed at its naval base in Tartous, further south.

The insurgents are consistently improving their technology, according to the general, who claims rebel and jihadist drones can now reach targets 250 kilometres away and fly at an altitude of four kilometres, making them more difficult to detect.

On August 11, the Russian base repelled a coordinated attack involving six drones, according to the Russian military.

And on September 3, two drones allegedly attacked from different directions.

Syria's conflict has killed more than 370,000 people and driven millions from their homes since it started with the brutal repression of anti-government protests in 2011.