Tag Archives: drones

Is Incirlik airbase in Turkey being used to direct military and communications aid to Syria's rebels

According to an interesting article recently published by Reuters Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have set up a secret base in the Turkish city of Adana, some 100 km (60miles) from the Syrian border, whose purpose is to direct arms and communication aid supplies to Syrian opposition forces.

“It’s the Turks who are militarily controlling it. Turkey is the main co-ordinator/facilitator. Think of a triangle, with Turkey at the top and Saudi Arabia and Qatar at the bottom” said Reuters source based in Doha.

“The Americans are very hands off on this, U.S intel(ligence) are working through middlemen, middlemen are controlling access to weapons and routes.”

As mentioned above, Adana is close to the Syrian border but also is home to Incirlik airbase, a strategic U.S. military installation located some 8 km from the town.

It is unclear whether the alleged “nerve centre” is located within the confines of the huge airbase.

However, since the base is believed to be used along with other airports in the Gulf area (as Al Dhafra, in the UAE) to launch spy missions over or near Syria, the proximity of the “rebels support center” to the American drones raises some questions: are drones being flown from Incirlik providing the “middlemen” with the intel they require to provide logistics and communications to the rebels?

An MQ-1B Predator from the 414th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron sits on the flightline Feb. 14, 2012, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. (U.S. Air Force photo) Note the lack of markings on this drone: a typical feature of robots operating in “hot areas.”

Indeed Obama administration has publicly admitted that it is providing “non-lethal” assistance to Assad’s opposition by means of communication equipment, even if some reports claim he has given the go ahead to clandestine support to Syria’s rebels.

In the meanwhile, the Free Syrian Army has reportedly obtained nearly two dozen shoulder-fired missiles, weapons that could be used against regime’s helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.

According to NBC News, the MANPADS (of Soviet origin) have been delivered to the rebels via Turkey.

On Jun. 22, a Turkish RF-4E Phantom was mysteriously downed by a Syrian Air Defense battery after violating Syria’s airspace.

Written with David Cenciotti

An entire Syrian Air Defense Battalion defected, (possibly) bringing some new anti-aircraft weapons in rebel hands.

On Jun.10, several reports coming from Syria gave the news that an entire Syrian Air Defense Battalion, the 743th based at Al Gantoo, near Talbiseh, had defected.

Even if the Battalion consists of about 140 soldiers, just a few of them were at the site located to the north of the city of Homs when talks with the Free Syrian Army started, and only 10 agreed to join the FSA.

The site is believed to host SA-6 SAMs, the videos uploaded on Youtube by the opposition forces only show SA-2 Guideline batteries.

However, the Assad forces attacked the site and destroyed all the equipment  in order to prevent the rebels from using the ammunition and weapon systems found there.

Even if the Syrian helicopters dispatched to get rid of anything that could be used by the FSA, might have destroyed the mobile SAM stations, some anti-aircraft weapons were possibly captured by the rebels: some of them, including a ZSU-23-4 Shilka, could soon be used against the regime’s drones (reportedly used to monitor UN observers) and Mil Mi-8/17 Hip gunships that have ruled the Syrian sky so far.

Watch this: mini-drone spots looter inside church damaged by powerful earthquake in northern Italy

On May 20 a powerful earthquake followed by a second major tremor on May 29, hit northern Italy (especially Emilia Romagna region).  The death toll of the quakes is 17 and 350 are the injured ones.

Furthermore, more than 15,000 people were made temporarily homeless as several buildings collapsed or were severely damaged in what is the deadliest quake in Italy since L’Aquila in 2009.

Among the other assets involved in the rescue operations, providing in-flight surveys and collect imagery of the damaged buildings, there is also a quadrotor mini-drone, produced by the Italdron, a small Italian company founded by three friends.

Equipped with small high-definition camera, the tiny ‘bot is controlled with a sort of big remote control (see some images here).

It provides low-quality live video feeds even if it records HD footage as the ones you can see below.

The first video shows what was later identified as a looter (highlighted, min 01:00) moving inside a collapsed church at San Felice sul Panaro, near Modena.

Here’s another video recorded by a Italdron, showing the damage caused by the devastating quakes on May 20 and May 29.

Iraq to buy Predator drones to protect southern oil platforms

Iraq’s Navy has already purchased U.S. drones to protect its southern oil platforms, from where most of the OPEC nation’s oil is shipped.

This is what an official from the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq, which is part of the U.S. embassy, said to the Reuters on May 21.

Although no more details about the number of the purchased drone have been disclosed, what it’s certain is that they will be used to protect the oil infrastructure, that went under Iraqi forces responsibility since 2005 and are without a proper aerial surveillance since the U.S. has left the country in December 2011.

With crude exports forecast expected to reach 2.85 barrels per day by the end of the year, the oil infrastructure, and the oilfields around Basra, remains one of the main insurgents’ targets. That’s why the Iraqi Government has bought the robots and started training its engineers to be able to operate them  by the end of 2012.

Most probably, the drones purchased by Baghdad are unarmed RQ-1 Predators UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) used to detect suspect activities in typical ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) missions.

Since they should be operated by the Iraqi Navy, it must be assumed they will be extensively used above for maritime surveillance around the oil rigs in the Persian Gulf.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

Covert US drone operations tracked in real time, via Twitter. Exposing tactics too.

The social networking medium of Twitter is becoming a bit of a nightmare for covert CIA drone operations in the Yemen.  In fact, in near real time, each time a drone is heard or spotted, locals tweet robots’ targets, details and whereabouts to their followers, using the Yemen hastag (#Yemen).

On May 18, MSNBC has run an interesting article in which it describes an attack on an alleged convoy of militants near the town of Shibam.

Although supposed to be covert, the strike was reported as a “missile strike on car in Wadi Hadhramaut” within minutes. Furthermore, a series of tweets published in the day prior to the strike, about drone suspiciously circling in the area during daylight (as opposed to the usual night activity), gave a hint that could have spoiled the subsequent deadly attack.

What becomes apparent when MSNBC describes the attack, is also the tactics being used against the terrorists: Shibam, a town with around 30,000 occupants, was plunged into darkness minutes prior to the missile attack, implying considerable influence in the hunt for these targets.

Even if only 2 percent of Yemen’s population has Internet access, the U.S. are quickly becoming aware of the problem of instant news afforded by the local populace armed with Twitter. However, news of reconnaissance activity conducted ahead of a strike or account explaining the actions preceding the attacks can be more dangerous than the news that a strike is in progress.

This could lead the drone operators to operate with more discretion, at higher altitude and distance from the robots’ targets.

On the other side, terrorists could use twitter to spread false news to try to divert deadly Predators, Reapers (or F-15E Strike Eagles…..) from Djibouti, elsewhere.

Provided that Al Qaeda terrorists are among the 2 percent Yemeni using the Web.

Written with David Cenciotti

Image credit: Air Force