Spy equipment discovered near Russian military base in Syria

One of the fake rocks on Al-Nami islandBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Sophisticated intelligence-collection devices hidden inside faux boulders have been discovered on an island situated across from a Russian naval base in Syria. The devices were found on Al-Naml, an uninhabited islet of only 150 square meters, which overlooks the Syrian port of Tartus, site of a major Russian naval military facility. According to Al-Manar, a satellite television station affiliated with the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah, the fake boulders were carefully placed on Al-Naml by Israeli commandos during a nighttime operation. Television images showed a system of satellite dishes and cameras, which appear to be connected to custom-made batteries via a series of cables. The imitation boulders, which conceal the electronic surveillance devices, seem to have been carefully designed in order to blend in with the surrounding rocks and brushes on Al-Nami. Al-Manar said on its website that at least three such devices were “discovered by local fishermen”. It added that the camouflaged contraptions appear to be aimed at tracking the movements of Russian vessels sailing to and from Tartus. Moreover, the devices appear to be capable of transmitting pictures of vessels to Israel in real time, via satellite. The naval base at Tartus was first leased to the Soviet Navy by the Syrian government in 1971. In response, the Kremlin forgave a multi-billion dollar debt owed by Damascus. Today, Tartus constitutes Russia’s sole military facility situated outside the regions of the former Soviet Union. It is also Russia’s only naval base in the Mediterranean, and many strategic analysts consider it as the primary geopolitical justification behind Moscow’s support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. No information has been released about how long the espionage devices were present on Al-Nami before their discovery last week. In early March, media affiliated with the government of Syria accused Israel of planting a number of spy devices disguised as rocks, which were found near “sensitive sites” in the country. The government-owned Syrian Arab News Agency, which published photographs of the alleged spy devices, said they were discovered at an unspecified region on Syria’s Mediterranean coast. Video footage and photographs showed what appeared to be large-sized faux rocks. Nestled in their hollow interior were cameras, microphones, transmission devices, as well as large batteries, which seem similar to those discovered on Al-Nami last week.

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10 Responses to Spy equipment discovered near Russian military base in Syria

  1. Paul says:

    The device communicated via satellites using two BGAN units, not a satellite dish. It feasible that duplex control was exercised in real time to select/follow intel targets. It’s also feasible that there was more than visual intelligence being taken, SIGINT/ELINT being of great use and easily selected using wideband receivers and active antennae.

  2. TFH says:

    This technology is being found by general public or journalists, one suspects it is antiquate.

  3. Pete says:

    The “rocks” were probably discovered by the Russians, who are accustomed to detecting them in Moscow http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-16614209 . Hence the Russians would expect Western countries to plant them near other sensitive Russian assets. Its likely the Israelis would pass on the take from its Syrian “rocks” to the US etc.

  4. Paul says:

    Pete, the ‘Russian rock’ you refer to used wifi on freqs between 2400 – 2483.5 MHz and emmited a very weak signal, around 100mW RF; it’s possible that a passer by suffered some interference but with the device in passive mode its more likely there was a tip off and the area put under surveillance.

    One discovery does not make anyone an expert in that field [although the Russians will have the same ECM/RDF/SIGINT etc capabilities as Britain/US and others. They may have sold the same to the Syrians - as they did in the past to the Cubans. An entire unit at Lourdes, no less].

    The BGAN transmits powers between 2.5 to 12 W RF on freqs in the L band 1626.5MHz to 1660.5MHz with the nominal power being 10W. It’s likely the unit was more switched off than on and used a modified mode of transmission taking no more than a second or so to make its transfer.

    It’s more than feasible the product would be passed on to friendly countries, after all whose satellites are being used to commun icate with the BGANs?

    TFH: Nothing antiquated about a BGAN or whatever is connected to it. It’s an example of state of the art off the shelf equipment being used on a niche requirement.

  5. Peter Wallerberger says:

    Paul – I can quite understand the use of BGAN units – but – these units in a fixed position surely could use the Ku band ?? In some respects it could be more powerful – line of sight etc ??
    Even useing L Band some types of ‘uplink data bursts’ or even realtime video would be on frequencies lower than 1626 MHZ ?? (although the power used would be alot more than
    10W )
    Ku band also enables infrad red capabilty?
    Maybe the units operated on both L and KU bands dependant on the downlink commands issued for specific missions.

  6. Pete says:

    Thanks Paul

    I wonder how the Russians and their friendly countries are using this technology against the West?

    Pete

  7. Paul says:

    Peter, I don’t see what the advantage is using a band where the frequencies are ten times higher and are subject to degradation by atmospheric clutter. L Band is near enough to commercial RF useage [mobile phones, navigation, commercial links] so the signal would be able to have a certain amount of anonymity due to the volume of communications around it [as the Cohens did in Ruislip when transmitting ---- US Base nearby bristiling with comms]. Ku is used very differently and would not have the volume of transmissions. Anything sent would be very prominent.
    Also look at the BGAN; its easy to set up and allows for offset error up to 50%, which is a lot. It’s made for the ordinary bloke to point and squirt, Ku would need specialist attention.

  8. Harry Mahan says:

    I personally think they could of done a better job with that rock, if that’s a real photo. KD4WCG

  9. Tom Hill says:

    The main image that you are using of the spy rock is from Lebanon during a 2010 discovery.

    http://intelnews.org/2010/12/20/01-617/

    2010

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12012452

  10. Paul says:

    Harry CT Just a library photo I suspect AR K

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