The mobile short-range AN/TWQ-1 Avenger air defense missile system is probably the best readily available system for protecting US troops in Syria and Iraq from the growing threat posed to them by enemy drones, according to Forbes.
In late February, photos purportedly showing Avengers being transported on a highway from Iraq to Syria emerged on social media. They were likely being brought to US troops in Syria’s eastern Deir Ezzor region.
With its FIM-92 Stinger missile launchers, the Avenger is designed for protecting infantry against low-flying aircraft, cruise missiles, helicopters, and drones.
“Until early last year, bases hosting US troops in Iraq had no air defense systems. Their vulnerability was demonstrated when Iran attacked two of them with ballistic missiles in January 2020, in a retaliatory strike for the US assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike.
The US has since deployed high-altitude MIM-104 Patriot missiles to these bases alongside short-range C-RAM (Counter-rocket, artillery, and mortar) systems, according to the website.
However, the Avenger is arguably a much more suitable system for providing ground forces protection against drones.
In early 2020, US troops deployed in Deir Ezzor’s oil fields were targeted by improvised drones capable of dropping small mortars, munitions which were apparently made using a 3D printer.
In a related context, Iran may seek to conduct or encourage limited, deniable attacks against US forces in response to perceived support to strikes on regional Iranian-affiliated targets, and to pressure the withdrawal of US forces from Syria, according to the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).
The DIA’s findings were cited in the quarterly report of the inspector general of Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), which covers events from late 2020.
The DIA reported that “Russia continued to conduct strikes against ISIS across Syria this quarter in support of the Syrian regime’s counterterrorism efforts.”
It said Iran has continued to maintain a presence in former ISIS territory in eastern Syria in part to protect its logistics routes and also to degrade ISIS’s operational capabilities.
“As the ISIS threat diminishes in Syria, Iran is prioritizing other goals, including pushing the United States out of the region and cementing its influence in the country,” the DIA added.
According to the report, although Iranian leaders were wary of escalating tensions with the United States before the US presidential transition, Iran likely continues to develop plans for operations against American positions across the region, including in Syria.
The DIA assessed that Iranian-affiliated forces probably retain the ability to attack US interests and partners in Syria with little warning.
It noted that Tehran has attempted to recruit local Syrians to collect intelligence on US and Coalition forces in Syria and could attempt to leverage these individuals to conduct attacks on its behalf.