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The Military Transportation

Russian Military Base Attacked By Drones (bellingcat.com) 183

A Russian military base in Syria was recently attacked -- 20 miles from the frontline. The only video of the attack is from a Facebook group for a nearby town, which identifies the noises as an "anti-aircraft response to a remote-controlled aircraft," while the Russian Ministry of Defence claims at least 13 drones were involved in the attack, displaying pictures of drones with a wingspan around 13 feet (four meters).

Long-time Slashdot reader 0x2A shares a report from a former British Army officer who calls drones "the poor man's Air Force," who writes that the attack shows "a strategic grasp of the use of drones, as well as a high level of planning." The lack of cameras on the drones suggest that they are likely pre-loaded with a flight plan and then flown autonomously to their target, where they dropped their payload en masse on a given GPS coordinate... The lack of any kind of claim, or even rumours from the rebels, indicates that whoever is producing these drone and launching these attacks has a high level of discipline and an understanding of operational and personal security...

Although some regard the threat from commerical off-the-shelf and improvised drones as negligible, they have the power to inflict losses at both a tactical and strategic level... Although the plastic sheeting, tape and simple design may belie the illusion of sophistication, it seems that the use of drones, whether military, commerical off-the-shelf or improvised, is taking another step to becoming the future of conflict.

The article notes there's already been four weaponized drone attacks in Syria over the last two weeks, which according to CNBC may be part of a growing trend. "Experts said swarm-like attacks using weaponized drones is a growing threat and likely to only get worse. They also said the possibility exists of terrorists using these drones in urban areas against civilians."
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Russian Military Base Attacked By Drones

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  • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Sunday January 14, 2018 @02:47PM (#55927497)
    A "swarm" of a dozen of these big beasts, as reported, should be pretty easy for modern radar systems to spot, no?
    • Carbon fiber and balsa wood have low radar returns.

      About the only metal would be the engines, electronics and bomb casings. All of which should be well under a radar wavelength in size.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Except, these drones were detected on radar and shot down by radar guided missiles and radar guided AAA.

        The myth of the "wooden plane" having no radar signature is stupid enough that people with any sort of technical background shouldn't fall for it. The An-2 is not only not stealth, it is a giant obvious beacon to AAA. Carbon fiber, metal struts, propellers, wing skin, wooden beams - all of this reflects radar.

    • A "swarm" of a dozen of these big beasts, as reported, should be pretty easy for modern radar systems to spot, no?

      If they are low, slow, and mostly made out of plastic, then no, they would not be easy to pick out of ground clutter.

      How are you going to use doppler radar to differentiate between a drone going 80 km/hr at 3 meters AGL, and a truck?

      The attack was coordinated with a rocket attack, so your radar would be dealing with shrapnel, smoke, and debris which would add to ground clutter. If the attackers were smart, they would have loaded the rockets with some chaff.

      TFS says they were "swarm-like", but TFA does not

    • Probably not. They're not commercial metal drones but homebuilt wood and cloth by the looks of it, not much radar signature.
      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        Catch is by playing at amateur build, they end up being very low performance and all they will do now is antagonise reciprocal returns, except others might not choose the amateur game and on their side, well, nobody likes the Americans any more and it wouldn't take much of a bounty to get them all sorts of criminals to act that the Americans foolishly trained, it tends to be the regions hobby, so picking up a quick buck for turning Americans into sitting ducks, well.

        Expect high performance military drones

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      The Western thinking is Russian electronics cant keep its systems locked on and tracking so many drones at the same time.
      That defensive weapons systems would need a reload time and so the nations backing the terrorists would get to see what the timing and what defensive systems could do.
      Russia would be looking for any other nations electronic intelligence collection in the area at that time.
  • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Sunday January 14, 2018 @02:52PM (#55927533) Journal

    I just designed and built a similar, though smaller plane from scratch. Based on the reported wingspan of three to four meters, we estimate the payload capacity at around 6kg.

    Based on my experience with people professional pyro, I'd say that a 6kg weapon using a simple explosive like black powder would be a dangerous item to have laying around the house, but not particularly effective as a military weapon. (Remember most of the weight is the casing, it would be less than a kg of explosive composition.). Modern military explosives are significantly more powerful, and much harder to make, if the people launching these have access to a good supply of military explosives.

    • by arth1 ( 260657 )

      Based on my experience with people professional pyro, I'd say that a 6kg weapon using a simple explosive like black powder would be a dangerous item to have laying around the house, but not particularly effective as a military weapon.

      2 kg of C4 and 1 kg of non-explosives like radioactive materials, mercury or anthrax could be very effective, depending on what the target and strategic goals were.
      And remember the V bombs used against Britain. The major object was to instil fear; if they blew up something of strategic value, that was just a bonus.

      It seems like better defences against drones might be prudent.

    • In my payload estimate I forgot to account for how far they are going. If they take off from the front line, 20 miles away, they'll burn very roughly a kilogram of fuel (could be half that, or twice that). So figure 5kg of payload.

      The fuel burn over such long distance for a craft that small will significantly affect CG unless it's carefully designed to have the tank right at the CG. That makes design and flight harder.

    • I'd say that a 6kg weapon using a simple explosive like black powder would be a dangerous item to have laying around the house, but not particularly effective as a military weapon. (Remember most of the weight is the casing, it would be less than a kg of explosive composition.).

      I don't think you grasp why so much weight is in the casing... which is to produce shrapnel. The low percentage of explosive filler isn't a bug, it's a feature - because a higher percentage of explosive means a lower weight of fra

      • > I don't think you grasp why so much weight is in the casing... which is to produce shrapnel.

        First, what in the world would make you think I don't know why I build my casings the way I do? Second, you are mistaken about the reason. With a low explosive such as black powder, flash, etc casing thickness is all about the pressure developed. Unconfined, these explosives don't so much as explode as burn quickly. The explosion comes from what's essentially a pressure vessel explosion. The burning composit

        • > I don't think you grasp why so much weight is in the casing... which is to produce shrapnel.

          First, what in the world would make you think I don't know why I build my casings the way I do?

          I don't give a rats ass about why you build your casings the way do you. Your casings aren't the topic of discussion here. Military weapons are the topic of discussion.

          With a low explosive such as black powder, flash, etc casing thickness is all about the pressure developed.

          Nobody with an IQ over the freezing point o

          • Nobody with an IQ over the freezing point of water is talking about low explosives

            Go back and read your own post that I replied to. Maybe read this part:

            explosive like black powder

            Black powder is a low explosive, btw. You're ranting maniacly without even reading, even your OWN posts.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'd say that a 6kg weapon using a simple explosive like black powder would be a dangerous item to have laying around the house, but not particularly effective as a military weapon. (Remember most of the weight is the casing, it would be less than a kg of explosive composition.).

      From my reading, professionally made HE munitions of all sizes from grenades to 1000kg bombs all seem to have around 45% explosive content by weight, with the rest being casing.

      godel_56 with mod points

      • Yes, high explosives don't require confinement to explode, or much confinement. As I said, they are also much more difficult to make or acquire especially to make safely.

        Which is why I discussed the two separately, saying "simple explosives like black powder", flash comp, etc ...
        If they have ready access to modern high explosives ...

        I can make LE at Walmart or Home Depot, using items readily available in those stores. HE is a different animal. If I tried to make HE from readily available ingredient

      • When I was in the Navy back in '72, I ran across a manual that described, among other things, a 16" turret. If memory serves, a bombardment round weighed 2200#, of which 500# were HE, and the rest was there to hold it together until impact. I don't think that shrapnel was a consideration, because I don't remember it being mentioned. Armor Piercing was far heavier, weighing in at 2700# with a 150# bursting charge, and most of the mass devoted to a thick nose that used momentum to force its way through arm
    • by Bert64 ( 520050 )

      You don't need a huge amount of casing for a few kg of black powder, and these groups do generally have access to far more powerful explosives too.

      Depending what the target is, you don't need a hugely powerful explosive anyway.. A small one capable of launching ball bearings at high speed (which seems to be what they used) is enough to kill or injure soldiers, and enough to damage equipment like planes. Soldiers are also less likely to be wearing body armor if you take them by surprise at their base.

      A small

  • by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Sunday January 14, 2018 @02:56PM (#55927569)

    "Build quality terrible! Would not bomb again!" ;)

  • it's only a matter of time when drones will be used in Western cities for terrorist attacks. And I doubt it'll be a long wait, because we have no real deterrent or countermesure. It's about as efective as a suicide bomber, without having to use up a suicider.

    • by arth1 ( 260657 )

      Yeah, a drone popping a bag of flour over a packed sports stadium could easily cause hundreds of deaths.

      The best way to prevent terrorism is to not piss of people so much that they become terrorists. For each preventative measure that can be put in place, two new approaches to killing people can be found. That is simply not a war that can be won.

  • by burtosis ( 1124179 ) on Sunday January 14, 2018 @03:00PM (#55927605)
    You can't put technology "back in the box" and drones are here to stay. This type of weaponry has been in a popular viral video [globalnews.ca]. Swarms of small drones can be quite dangerous, though we are maybe 20ish years behind on the on board processing shown in the linked video and it's uncertain how you would design a power source light yet powerful yet stores tons of power to give them enough run time. Unfortunately, drone weapons like these [vice.com]don't suffer from needing overly complex processing nor mission run time and can tide us all over 'till true Armageddon arrives.
  • Wait until somebody catches on to modding a large Styrofoam model into a UAV. Fly it nice and high and it might look like a bird on radar if it shows up at all. Fly a bunch of them like a flock of birds, maybe even paint them to look vaguely like something indigenous to the area just in case... then let them drop on their GPS target.

    Military bases putting up walls of lead are going to be VERY unpopular with the surround area where said lead walls will eventually drop.

    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

      That's okay, they've got lasers now.

      And if you mistake an actual flock of birds for drones, you've got dinner.

  • by quonset ( 4839537 ) on Sunday January 14, 2018 @03:02PM (#55927613)

    These drone attacks came not long after a mortar barrage at the same base in Hmeimim, Syria. In that attack, two Russian soldiers were killed and seven Russian jets were either damaged or destroyed [bbc.com], with another report saying up to ten planes were hit. Of those confirmed damaged, only two returned to operational service.

    Whoever is behind these attacks has a high level of sophistication and operational awareness. With the ease of making and using drones, expect to see more such attacks and in even greater numbers.

    • greater numbers.

      Sand People! I knew it.

    • Football stadiums, open air concerts, Times Square on New Years Eve...

      I'm surprised it's taken this long.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Re "Whoever is behind these attacks has a high level of sophistication and operational awareness"
      The range is the tell that another nations security services helped the terrorists plan their actions.
    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      Whoever is behind these attacks has a high level of sophistication and operational awareness.

      I would not be surprised if they are linked and even done by Ukraine, while the real person behind it is Russia. Funding this so they can say they need to invade that country.
      It is something I see Russia capable of doing. It worked in the past, it will work again. It is enough to keep others out of the region.

  • Its only a few steps to automating vehicles and magnifying your potential payload about 1000x. Scale the Tech with Relays. Any first year electronics student could do it.
  • " Although the plastic sheeting, tape and simple design may belie the illusion of sophistication, "

    The only people who care about that are the Drone Design Fashion Police.
    The rest just doesn't want bombs to fall from the sky or worse, fly into building via doors and windows.

  • Begun This Drone War Has

  • Soon it will take over.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    If 10 drones are coming and need to shoot 10 patriot missiles, it gets a little expensive. Especially if it happens every other day. Also, it's not really sure current defenses work really well against a swarm.

    Maybe the old-style anti-aircraft weapons can be brought back into action.

    • Maybe the old-style anti-aircraft weapons can be brought back into action.

      That was my first thought too. Put a bunch of 20mm machine guns on proper mounts and the drones will have a hard time getting through, especially when you consider that unlike WW II bombers, drones don't try to take evasive action.
      • Maybe the old-style anti-aircraft weapons can be brought back into action.

        If a Bofors and a half can shoot down a drone and a half at a klick and a half, how many do you need to defend yourself with?

  • These drones literally grown on trees, which is how the Russian separatists were able to get hold of so many of them without needing to get them from the regular Russian army.

    I guess it must be the same in Syria too.

    • These drones literally grown on trees, which is how the Russian separatists were able to get hold of so many of them without needing to get them from the regular Russian army.

      I guess it must be the same in Syria too.

      Sure. And they smell good. Made out of cedar of Lebanon.

  • by labnet ( 457441 )

    They should check carefully if they have 'property of CIA' inscribed anywhere.

    Actually, on a side note: Some of the chips that are needed for drones (ARM controllers, IMUs) have serial numbers (such as mac addresses). Could track the supply chain!

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Nothing will be found physically that will point back to another nations design as in the average parts used.
      The real finding will be in the command and control, the range and level of accuracy given the range.
      Another nation helped with that.
      Any other nations electronic intelligence platform in the area watching Russia respond.
      What radar first spotted the drones, what was the next system to be turned on. What defensive systems got used at what range to stop the terrorist drone attack.
      Reload times, ra
    • by Agripa ( 139780 )

      They should check carefully if they have 'property of CIA' inscribed anywhere.

      Just look for the FAA drone registration number. This is a solved problem in the US at least.

  • In world war 2, aircraft could only fly to altitudes at about 30,000 feet. This was considered 'high altitude'. The USAAF (US Army Air Force) would drop bombs using the "Norton Bomb Sight" which was considered a high precision instrument, and top secret. Its accuracy: about 3/4 of a mile. 3/4 of a mile was considered "right on the pickle barrel". Up to about 1970, accuracy didn't improve that much, until GPS and "steerable tail kits". Then you could take a "dumb" world war 2 style bomb, and stick a G

  • Several NGO's have been working at the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots [stopkillerrobots.org].

  • I seem to remember reading Hitler claimed that Poland attacked some German border posts and as proof displayed the bodies of the dead German defenders. Based on that he declared war on Poland, thus starting WWII.

    Of course the dead bodies were those of executed convicts and the attacks were just set up to give him an excuse to invade.

    So now Putin (I presume) is claiming an attack on Russian forces. So letâ(TM)s see who the prime mover behind all the âoeFake Newsâ in the world will decide to bl

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