In this video uploaded on the 13th of October we see a SPU-143 driving on the runway of Mezze Airbase.
This truck was reported to be a fuel tanker, the 'tank' does not hold fuel though. It holds a Tu-143 reconnaissance drone. This type of drone, along with its SPU-143 launcher, has been based at Mezze since the introduction of the system in 1981. The launchers are visible on the earliest Google Earth images of Mezze taken in 2000.
Five Tu-143 systems were bought in 1980, with deliveries being completed in 1983.(1) A single system normally contains four SPU-143 vehicles. We can see twelve SPU-143 launchers at Mezze in 2007, meaning at least three of those five systems are based there. The remaining vehicles might also be based at Mezze, being hidden inside Hardened Aircraft Shelters.
The initial Tu-143 carried a film camera in a pod, this pod was retrieved after flight for retrieval of the images. A later version could relay her images direcly to the ground station via a datalink.
The Tu-143 was reportedly also used in the 1982 Lebanon War, if such usage really took place is unknown. If it was used, it would have been under Soviet supervision and would probably have marked the first usage of the Tu-143 in combat.
|Mezze AFB. The two arrows are pointing to the unit's base, with the runway acting as a bridge between the two HAS's|
|One of the unit's double HAS's. Clearly showing five drone container equipped SPU-143s. Image taken in 2009.|
|An ex-Ukrainian SPU-143 in launching position. Also note the Tu-143 laying next to the SPU-143.|
|An ex-Czech Tu-143 in a museum. For more Tu-143 images: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Tupolev_Tu-143|