Turkey’s killer drones posing Syria air challenge to Russia - Bloomberg

Turkey’s deployment of swarms of killer drones to strike Russian-backed Syrian government forces threatens to bring Ankara into direct confrontation with Moscow, Bloomberg said on Sunday.

Turkey retaliated against the killing of 36 Turkish soldiers by Syrian forces on Thursday by placing an unprecedented number of drones in coordinated action, a military innovation demonstrating Ankara’s technological prowess on the battlefield, Bloomberg said, citing a senior official in Turkey with direct knowledge of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Syria policy. 

The killing of dozens of Turkish troops by Syrian government forces shelling and Russian aerial bombardment in Syria's last rebel-held province of Idlib on Thursday marked the greatest single-day loss of troops for Turkey years.

The Turkish military has since conducted a series of strikes by dozens of the remotely controlled aircraft targeting Syrian bases and chemical warfare depots.

Turkey’s location and destruction of some Syrian missile-defence systems is raising questions about the effectiveness of the Russian-made equipment intended to deter such air attacks, Bloomberg said. 

Turkey was waging an “air campaign run entirely by armed drones backed up” by heavy rocket artillery,  Charles Lister, director of the Extremism and Counterterrorism Program at the Middle East Institute, said on Twitter, referring to video footage of a Turkish drone allegedly showing the destruction of a Syrian army air-defence system. 

“That’s something only Israel had been recorded publicly to have done until now,” Lister said. 

The tactic threatens to bring NATO member Turkey into direct confrontation with Russia Bloomberg said,  as Ankara and Moscow, who back different sides in the conflict, continue to stumble over who should control Syria’s last rebel-held province of Idlib.

Russia has denied it was responsible for Thursday’s airstrikes that killed dozens of Turkish soldiers, but suggested that Ankara may have invited the attack by placing its troops alongside Syrian rebels and not informing Russia of their location.

Damascus has reacted to Turkish drone campaign by declaring on Sunday the air space in Idlib closed, according to Syrian state-run SANA.

But Turkey on Sunday said its forces shot down two Syrian SU-24 warplanes and destroyed three Syrian air defence systems, confirming that one armed Turkish drone was hit.

Ankara is eager to show off its aerial firepower, Bloomberg said, highlighting videos posted by the Defence Ministry showing Syrian tanks and artillery being destroyed in apparent drone attacks.