Thirteen home-made drones carrying bombs descended on Russian forces in Syria in the first confirmed swarm attack

On the night of 5 January and into the early hours of the next day, Russian forces in Syria came under attack by a “massive application of unmanned aerial vehicles”, says the Russian Ministry of Defence. It is the first announced use of a swarm of drones in a military action, but is unlikely to be the last.

According to reports, 13 small drones descended on Russian forces, but none did significant damage. Seven were destroyed by anti-aircraft defences and the others were brought down using electronic countermeasures to hijack or jam the drone’s controls and land them intact.

The captured aircraft seem crudely made, with a wooden undercarriage and plastic sheeting, powered by a small liquid-fuel engine. Under their wings, the drones carried several locally made bombs fitted with 3D printed plastic fins.

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