A Russian defense official has doubled down on prior claims that the United States was behind a prior massive drone attack against Khmeimim Air Base near Latakia (alternately Hmeimim), which has further come under sporadic waves of attack by small armed drones which have appeared increasingly sophisticated.
Vladimir Shamanov, head of the lower parliamentary house's defense committee and a former airborne troops commander, warned, according to a translation of his Tuesday statement by Russian Market:
In case of another U.S. drone attack on Russian Military Base in Syria, Russia is ready to shoot-down that plane.
The threat was made against an American spy plane possibly being in the area near Syria to coordinate any future attack. Last week the Kremlin said, based on new intelligence provided by the Russian defense ministry, that a major attack on Khmeimim last January was coordinated by a US P-8 Poseidon surveillance plane.
The nighttime January 8th attack which involved 13 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in total — 10 approached Khmeimim while 3 attempted an attack on the naval facility in Tartus. That significant attack came after a prior New Year's eve drone assault actually damaged Russian jets parked at the airbase.
Last weekend President Putin himself addressed the uptick in drone attacks especially over just the past two months while in discussions with the leaders of Germany, France and Germany in Istanbul, according to TASS:
Terrorists continue attacks in Idlib, with dozens of drones shot down near the Russian military base in the country in the past two months or so, Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters after a four-party summit on Syria held in Istanbul on Saturday.
"Russia reserves the right to support the Syrian government if terrorists carry out provocations from the Idlib zone," Putin said. "Quite recently - I have informed my counterparts - artillery strikes were delivered from the Idlib zone in the direction of Aleppo. In the recent six weeks to two months, our air defense has shot down 50 aerial vehicles near our base in Hmeymim."
Though at the Istanbul summit the Russian president stopped short of blaming the U.S. for coordinating the attacks — something that Pentagon officials have vehemently denied — the words came just days after Russian Deputy Defense Minister Colonel General Alexander Fomin went public with details of a Russian intelligence report at a plenary session of the Beijing Xiangshan Forum on security last Thursday: "Thirteen drones moved according to common combat battle deployment, operated by a single crew. During all this time the American Poseidon-8 reconnaissance plane patrolled the Mediterranean Sea area for eight hours," the deputy defense minister said.
These latest threats "to shoot down that plane" also follow the mistaken downing of a Russian Ilyushin-20 reconnaissance plane in mid-September with 15 crew members on board after Israel launched a massive attack on Syrian government targets. Following the incident, for which Israel expressed regret, Russia had vowed an "adequate response" and effectively declared a "no-fly zone" in the area of its assets in Syria, and further moved forward with transferring S-300 air defense systems to the Syrian government.
With Russia's heightened rhetoric of late, it appears to be anticipating the next potential major incident over the skies of Syria — only this time Moscow has raised the stakes as it vows to follow through on attacking American or other foreign aircraft behind attacks on Russian bases and aircraft in Syria.