On 31st October, an airstrike was reported in the village of Nahla in Syria’s northern Idlib province. Since fighting in the area calmed somewhat last spring, airstrikes have steadily declined and have become rather rare. Syrian war planes have become largely absent from Idlib’s skies. This may be changing, however, as for a second time this year a new, and yet to be officially unannounced, suicide drone has been used in against rebel forces.
The drone targeted a M114 artillery piece used by rebels from the National Liberation Front, a coalition of rebel groups backed by Turkey. Grainy video from the scene was released, but the quality is so bad it is impossible to decipher whether the piece was damaged beyond repair. A truck beside the piece was also hit, but it is disputed whether or not the occupants were civilians or militants.
This new weapon was seen previously in July in an attack on Sarmada. It appears as if this drone is undergoing combat testing considering its extremely limited usage. The development of this drone may be in response to increased airframe attrition on systems currently in service with the Syrian Air Force, as well as a response to the growing presence of Turkish anti-air assets in Idlib. The Syrian Air Force traditionally prefers to use Su-24 and L-39 jets to carry out airstrikes in Idlib. These craft fly relatively low, and have in the past been shot down by anti-aircraft guns. With MANPADS and air defense systems, like the Turkish HISAR now being present, using attack aircraft is increasingly a waste of planes and pilots.
This suicide drone appears to be based off of the Israeli Hero series. These drones may have been used against Syria in the past and, though the wings appear to be different, there are similarities. The drone was likely produced with help from Iran, who has a large domestic drone industry. Indeed, it is likely that many of the components of this new weapon came from Iran, such as the camera. The true composition of this as of yet unnamed weapon will remain unknown until one can be recovered in-tact or it is announced by the Syrian Army themselves.