Moscow signaled on Wednesday, February 8, that it has started – or is about to start – supplying precision weapons to the Syrian military in order to boost its capabilities against the Islamic State organization.
It came in an announcement by Ilyas Umakhanov, deputy chairman of the Russian Federation Council, who said, “Russia will continue an asymmetrical response (to terrorism) in Syria, which may include the regrouping of forces and means…and of course the supply of high-precision weapons to the Syrian government.”
He added that “It is impossible to defeat terrorism only by efforts of one country. Terrorism has assumed a global character and, having achieved obvious victory in one place, there is no reason to create additional vacuums where terrorists can resume military operations.”
It is clear that Umakhanov was referring to two main topics:
1. Military cooperation by the US, Russia, Syria and Turkey in the war against ISIS, with the first signs already visible on the fronts in northern and eastern Syria.
2. Russian estimation of the need to supply the Syrian military with the most advanced weapons to ramp up its capabilities to the same level as those of the other militaries taking part in the war against ISIS in Syria.
According to Russian media reports on Feb. 8, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said recently that more than 160 types of advanced weapons have been tested in the course of Moscow’s military intervention in Syria, which started in September 2015. The reports did not specify where or when Shoigu made the comment.
DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources reveal the types of weapons that the Russians have decided to send the Syrian army.
They include small drones armed with precision bombs; shoulder-fired, laser-guided antitank and antiaircraft missiles; “loitering munitions” which follow their targets after being dropped from planes; small unmanned vehicles for clearing tunnels; advanced night vision equipment; laser and infrared sights; intelligence systems for locating targets; and long-range sniper rifles.
Loitering munitions combine the traits of missiles, drones and bombs. They are dropped from a plane and then controlled by a soldier on the ground or in the air. They can fly for many hours as long as they have enough fuel and electricity. The munitions use a GPS system to show their precise location, and are usually fitted with a video camera which shows targets in real time in high resolution, even in poor weather conditions or at night, via remote control.
As soon as the target is identified, the bomb is directed to its target, such as the window of a building, an armored vehicle or a group of fighters. In addition to the target, all of the bomb’s sensors are destroyed when the bomb explodes.
Russia’s announcement was a complete surprise to the highest levels of the Israeli government and military. During the six years of the Syrian civil war, the IDF, particularly its intelligence bodies and its air force, made great efforts to prevent the flow of such precision weapons to the Syrian military and to the Iranian and Hizballah forces in Syria.
But now that the Russians have announced that they will provide those weapons to the Syrian military, it is obvious that some of the arms are bound to fall into the hands of the Iranians and Hizballah.