Translated by Ollie Richardson for Fort Russ
6th November, 2015
Despite the fact that Russia’s military operations in Syria began only 1 month ago, regular combat reports from the Russian Ministry of Defence have already become a part of everyday life. Amidst the domestic public storm of emotions, accompanied by thousands of propaganda pieces on Assad’s political opponents, victorious or apocalyptic predictions about the prosptects of a military operation, we can now begin to sum up the interim results of the onset of the Syrian government forces with the support of the Russian aviation.
- The results of the first week: 151 sorties, destroyed 79 objects.
September 30 – 20 sorties, 8 objects destroyed;
October 1 – 18 sorties, destroyed 12 objects;
October 2 – 28 sorties, destroyed 19 facilities;
October 3 – 20 sorties, 9 objects destroyed;
October 4 – 20 sorties, destroyed 10 objects;
October 5 – 25 sorties, 9 objects destroyed;
October 6 – 20 sorties, destroyed 12 objects.
- The results of the second week: 360 sorties, destroyed 344 objects + Operation 26 “caliber.”
October 7 – 26 launch of “caliber” of data on the aircraft not;
October 8 – 22 sorties, destroyed 27 objects (only night departures);
October 9 – 67 sorties, destroyed 60 objects;
October 10 – 64 sorties, destroyed 55 facilities;
October 11 – 64 sorties, destroyed 63 of the object;
October 12 – 55 sorties, destroyed 53 objects;
October 13 – 88 sorties, destroyed 86 objects.
- Results of the third week: 276 sorties, 332 of the object destroyed.
October 14 – 41 sorties, destroyed 42 objects;
October 15 – 33 sorties, destroyed 32 objects;
October 16 – 36 sorties, destroyed 49 facilities;
October 17 – 39 sorties, destroyed 49 facilities;
October 18 – 39 sorties, destroyed 51 objects;
October 19 – 33 sorties, destroyed 49 facilities;
October 20 – 55 sorties, destroyed 60 objects.
- The results of the fourth week: 334 sorties, 558 of objects destroyed.
October 21 – 46 sorties, destroyed 83 of the object;
October 22 – 53 sorties, destroyed 72 of the object;
October 23-26 – 164 sorties, destroyed 285 objects;
October 27 – 71 sorties, destroyed 118 objects.
- On 28 October – 2 November: 447 sorties, 630 of objects destroyed.
Here is a geographical analysis of the use of Russian aviation: The main attacks were made in the area between Hama and Homs, as well as in the northern provinces of Syria, which are under the control of the largest groups, “Jabhat al-Nusra”, “Jaish al-Fatah”, “Ahrar Al-Sham “,” Liwa al-Tawhid “, etc. In these provinces are the full force group “Jaish al-muhajirin” (including the breakaway organization, such as “Jund Caucasus”), complete with members from the North Caucasus, Georgian and European Chechens.
It is the “northern front” that represents the greatest danger to the government in Damascus, as the line of contact between the terrorist and government forces is close to the province of Latakia, which today is home to the bulk of the population, both local and displaced from the captured jihadists territories. This province also has access to the Mediterranean Sea, which explains the increased interest in it on the part of Islamic groups.
The priority of this direction for the Russian aviation and government forces is also due to the fact that these militants groups have a direct land connection with Turkey, which in this conflict acts as a reliable supplier for technical equipment of terrorists. Without the active support of Ankara, Doha and Riyadh, carried out across the Syrian-Turkish border, the fighting capacity of groups in Idlib and Aleppo is highly questionable. Also in these provinces are located strategically important transport hubs and major industries (cotton, filature, metal, cement, etc.), which provide the militants more or less stable income.
But of particular interest is the data on the objects destroyed. Today, statistics is as follows:
or as a chart:
Many commentators and military-political observers have reacted to the regular reports from the Ministry of Defense with a certain degree of skepticism, which is due to the average level of informativeness of the daily reports. In particular, the videos are accompanied by modest notes, which contains terrain and objects which are relevant to the air strikes. Since some strikes are on objects located underground, on videos the crosshair “sight” is not consistent with the explosion, so many were quick to draw the conclusion that the aircraft is missing its intended target.
Immediately there were doubts about the reliability of the daily reports. For example, militants can not have so many command posts and fortifications. And if they can, why did the Syrian air force or US-coalition not destroy them before? However, everything has its explanation.
Firstly, the military infrastructure objectives hidden under the ground, have existed in Syria since the 1980s. This is due to the preparation at request of the Syrian government for the inevitable (as it seemed) war with Israel, which at that time had the most efficient aircraft in the region. Since the possibility of Syrian air defenses were relatively scarce, Damascus decided to remove military infrastructure (command posts, ammunition depots, communication centers, etc.) under the ground. Construction of bunkers is relatively cheap and highly effective, as has been demonstrated repeatedly by Palestinians in Gaza.
Underground fortifications by the Syrian army go down a few floors and have a layered defense system with developed transport infrastructure. Dozens of underground tunnels lead away from the entrance to the nearest towns. The rooms themselves have lighting, wired telephone, elevators, ventilation and beds for hundreds of soldiers.
Since the beginning of the war in the territory of Syria, the vast majority of bunkers and underground shelters (warehouses for ammunition) were in the hands of insurgents. Syrian air force did not have ammunition available (and the corresponding sighting and navigation systems) with the necessary damaging effect. Russia is also using concrete-piercing bombs, which were used in the attacks on the terrorists command centers.
The effectiveness of Russian air strikes on terrorist command posts and communications nodes can be estimated using the data on liquidated terrorist groups and commanders over the past month. If one trusts the information published in the press and terrorist accounts in social networks, the vast majority died as a result of Russian bombing, as they themselves report.
In the table below we can see an indirect confirmation that the overwhelming part of the team structure was destroyed during the air strikes, as the “working” provinces (Aleppo, Idlib, Latakia, Hama and Homs) account for the bulk of killed commanders. Despite this, the ferocity and intensity of the fighting in Quneitra, Deir ez-Zor, Daraa and Damascus are as high as in the area of the aviation activity.
Returning to the data, it should be noted that the terrorist groups in Syria have two sensitive and vulnerable places: coordination (team headquarters and communication centers) and supply (transport hubs, ammunition depots and factories for their production). From the start of the entire operation it was clear: for obvious reasons faction’s fighting capacity falls with each destroyed commander. Russia’s task is to ensure the continuous rotation of the administrative board. The staff resources of the terrorists is not unlimited, particularly in terms of its permanent reduction. The clearest evidence of a direct link between the effectiveness of a terrorist organization and regularity of elimination command structure is an example of “al-Qaeda” in Iraq (2006-2008) and the “Caucasus Emirate” in the run-up to the Sochi Olympics.
However, in the long list of the problems of terrorist groups in Syria, the first place deservedly took the issue to ensure stable financial support for the terrorists and weapons with the necessary ammunition. Unfortunately, the main weakness of the terrorists is tough to eradicate since the bulk of the military cargo goes from Turkey through the channels of civil traffic, that is used to transport the usual freight wagons. To determine exactly what is in the back is almost impossible. The only solution to this problem is it control the Turkish-Syrian border, on what is likely to take more than one month.
Accordingly, the result of their adjustments to the issues of material and technical equipment of fighters is only possible within the framework of the destruction of the military warehouses and factories for the production of ammunition and equipment repair shops.
It is also necessary to understand that the destruction of a warehouse or a factory on the secondary sector of the front, for example in a sparsely populated village located at a distance from major transportation hubs, can make significant adjustments in the balance of power in this sector of the front. In this case, it is hard not to think about the unenviable fate of terrorists caught in the cauldron between Hama and Homs. Since large logistics channels are now controlled by government forces, and Russian aviation systematically and methodically targets military infrastructure (including warehouses and factories) on the ground, the chances of survival of this group every day becomes closer to zero. In particular, after the execution of two air strikes in the early and mid-October armories, the number of anti-tank missile launch complexes TOW in the region declined slightly.
Returning to the skepticism of some commentators and military-political observers in relation to reports of the Russian Ministry of Defense, and in particular to the claimed number of terrorists killed in fortified points (600), we note that the Arab countries have their own idea of a military fortification. As history shows, so-called “fortified areas” in Syria (and Iraq) is a simple checkpoint with “engineering structures” scattered along the perimeter, with concrete blocks, sandbags, and gun emplacements on both sides. Next there are small buildings and military equipment. Similar “strong points” were observable in the South East of Ukraine in the spring and summer of last year.
In general, the joint work of Russian aviation and the Syrian army during the past month can be assessed positively.
The Russian Airforce has destroyed the military infrastructure the ground of the enemy. This is being done because the Syrian Air Force capabilities are severely limited. The second stage will involve a large-scale military operation with the active support of aviation, aided by advanced communications surveillance of the enemy. The third step is the isolation of areas of operations – brewing cauldrons.
We can assume that in November and December, we will watch the third stage. Fortunately, Russia has great experts on cauldrons.