Chronicle of dive bombers
A year ago, on September 30, Russia launched one of the largest military campaigns in its modern stories. Its goal was to destroy the terrorists of the Islamic State banned in Russia and to move towards a political settlement of the crisis between supporters and opponents of President Bashar Assad. However, the key points of the operation, which was originally planned as a short-term one, were so achieved and were not, and Syria turned into a place where the geopolitical interests of Russia and the USA collided.
The decision on the use of armed forces in Syria was not easy for the military and political leadership of Russia. On the one hand, the government army, exhausted by the ongoing civil war, could not provide decent resistance to radical Islamists, who by the beginning of 2015 had been freely operating in the country and, according to Vladimir Putin, were a threat to the national security of the Russian Federation. On the other hand, Syrian President Bashar Asad was considered an ally of Russia in the Middle East, but there was no benefit from such friendship. Nobody had any illusions about five years ago about a promising market for military products. The last contract for combat training aircraft Yak-130 was concluded in 2011 year, but was never implemented; the agreement for the supply of C-XNUMPPMU-300 is broken, as head of the Rostec state corporation Sergey Chemezov admitted to Vlast, due to the “lost time”; and the delivery of 2 fighters MiG-12М / М29 stopped remembering a couple of years ago.
But the Syrian leader, who was considered legitimately elected in Moscow, had a lot of geopolitical enemies, and they were all strong. The United States, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel — Bashar Assad did not like any of them, and some even hinted at the direct connection of the head of the Syrian state with the Islamists. But in Moscow they did not have such data, and the leadership of the country did not intend to believe the unsubstantiated accusations.
A high-ranking diplomatic source, Vlast, claims that the decision to introduce military contingent to Syria was made taking into account several factors: from the results of an analysis of potential threats from the Russian Federation conducted by the special services to Vladimir Putin’s reluctance to repeat the mistake that Moscow made regarding Libya in 2011. There were risks to the country's image: just over a year ago, Crimea became part of Russia, which the Western countries regarded as an "act of annexation", and therefore the introduction of a full-fledged military contingent to Syria would provoke new attacks on Russian foreign policy. “This question was constantly on the agenda,” the interlocutor of the “Authority” said. “The Americans freely embodied their“ peacekeeping mission ”in Syria, mowed Syrians in bundles, illegally bombed its lands and all who were there, but they did not send their ground troops there , preferring to do all the dirty work on the ground by someone else’s hands. "
Assad was ready to make any concessions, just to get power support
Perhaps this is why the Kremlin decided to limit itself to non-contact methods of warfare. It was relatively safe (it was believed that the Islamists did not have air defense systems) and a much cheaper option than keeping army units in a remote theater of operations. By August 26, 2015, the plan was approved at the highest level: Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and his Syrian counterpart Jasem al-Fredge signed an agreement on the deployment of the Russian aviation groups at the Khmeimim airbase for an indefinite period to fight terrorists. But in order to emphasize the legitimacy of the actions of its armed forces, the Kremlin needed to receive an official request from Bashar al-Assad. This would mean that Russia - the only one of all the countries fighting in Syria, operates within the framework of international rules. The document ended up with Vladimir Putin only on September 29th. But this was not connected with bureaucratic or other difficulties - diplomats say that Assad was ready to make any concessions in order to get power support. This month was necessary for the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation to prepare for hostilities.
The operation in Syria was actually the first full-fledged military maneuver since the five-day war with Georgia in 2008. Seven years later, the Syrian campaign was to not only become an exam for the Russian armed forces, which Anatoly Serdyukov had begun to reform, but also a serious test for Sergei Shoigu himself - and therefore preparation for it was carried out with the utmost care. During August-September, the build-up of forces and equipment began: large landing ships (in particular, Novocherkassk, Korolev, Saratov, Azov and Caesar Kunikov), and then Turkish ferries bought on an emergency basis received the status of ships of the Russian Navy, they began to transport ammunition, fuel and lubricants and special equipment from Novorossiysk to the Syrian port of Tartus. The planes of the military transport aviation were doing the same in parallel. Having saved enough weapons, the military had to relocate combat aircraft and helicopters. Despite the measures of heightened secrecy (the entire transfer took place against the background of the exercises "Center-2015"), the American satellite systems found an increase in the Russian military presence in Latakia, but for some reason they did not prevent this from happening in the Pentagon. By 30 September airbase Hmeymim has formed a complete mixed-aviation group of more than 50 machines (Su-30SM bombers Su-34 and Su-24M, Su-25, Mi-8 and Mi-24P and reconnaissance aircraft ).
In addition to the pilots, military personnel of the 810th Black Sea Brigade were transferred there fleet (Sevastopol), 7th Airborne Assault Mountain Division of the Airborne Forces (Raevskaya village), as well as special operations forces. The first two were supposed to provide protection for Tartus and Khmeimim, and the rest - if necessary - to conduct sabotage and rescue operations. Representatives of industry, who were to carry out operational control of weapons, and military police officers, on whose shoulders lay the tasks of law enforcement, were seconded to Khmeimim. The total number of personnel reached, according to expert estimates, from 1500 to 1900 people. The air base itself was covered by Buk-M2 and Pantsir-C1 air defense systems and modernized Syrian complexes (they were also repaired by experts from the Russian Federation in advance). Unmanned aerial vehicles (such as Orlan-10), Wolf armored vehicles, BTR-82A armored personnel carriers were deployed there, Tanks T-90S, TOS-1A heavy flamethrower systems, as well as Urals and KamAZ trucks.
With these forces, Russia began a military air operation, which, according to high-ranking Kremlin and military officials, was planning to launch an offensive by the Syrian army. A year later, they refrain from such formulations in Russia.
“No matter how much bombing you can achieve, we initially understood this and planned these actions only in coordination with the Syrian armed forces,” the then head of the presidential administration, Sergei Ivanov, admitted to journalists, adding that only the Syrian army should fight on the ground. A year later, it became clear that the estimates regarding the combat readiness and training of the Syrian army were overly optimistic. According to Vlast, even at the preliminary consultation stage, the Syrian Armed Forces headquarters operated with numbers up to 130 thousand troops, but after the start of the operation it turned out that no more than 25 thousand people could actually fight. This state of affairs radically changed the alignment of forces: it was necessary not only to cover government troops at the time of the attack on militant positions, but also to provide them with support on the ground, which would mean a fundamental change in format from a military-air operation to a full-scale one with all the ensuing consequences. The Russian leadership could not take such a step, so they had to look for emergency ways out of the situation in the field. For example, gunners-gunners were sent to the Hamrat region of Homs province, who carried out fire adjustments against the enemy from six Msta-B howitzers, which were sent there to reinforce the government army. The measures taken partly helped: the Syrian command was able to mobilize all the available resources, but this was still not enough for a radical change.
A big mistake was to consider the militants of the "Islamic State" savages with a gun
The work of the Syrian command and command staff of military advisers, created by the General Staff of the Syrian Armed Forces, stabilized somewhat. It was with their direct support and with great difficulty that the 4 th assault corps were assembled, which on October 8 launched an offensive in Al-Gab and the mountains of northeastern Lattakia. Parallel to this, Russian negotiators, who arrived in Damascus to coordinate efforts, were forced to persuade troops of Syrian mercenaries to begin hostilities against the Islamists. According to military sources, "Vlasti", it was these mercenaries who turned out to be the most trained fighters, with whom the achievements of the government troops are directly related. Without them, the latter could hardly conduct not only offensive operations, but even defensive operations.
It was a big mistake to consider the Islamic State militants as savages with an automatic weapon: in fact, they turned out to be very prepared tactically and materially. According to Russian intelligence, the militants have fully mastered the artisanal production of poisonous and explosive substances, large-caliber guns, mortar systems and heavy artillery.
An officer of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces says that until recently, the option of creating several battalion-tactical groups from among the most trained Syrian troops was considered. They were supposed to be used as a decisive force in large-scale clashes (before that, under the command of Russian military advisers, they had to undergo training), but due to disagreements between different ethnic groups - Alawites, Sunnis and Shiites - they did not succeed. Despite personnel problems, a number of operational and tactical successes were nevertheless achieved: for the first time in four years of hostilities, the Syrian army, together with the "patriotic opposition", liberated several hundred settlements. The Quaires airbase was unblocked, the strategic points in Latakia were cleaned, and Palmyra was liberated. However, it is impossible to talk about a strategic turn: the Islamists are not defeated, do not ask for mercy and continue to attack defeated positions or hold major points. The latter includes Aleppo - once the second largest city in the country. Despite the numerous attempts by the Assad army to take it by storm, none succeeded.
The Tu-160 bomber aircraft launches X-101 airborne cruise missiles against militant targets in the provinces of Aleppo and Idlib, November 20 2015 of the year
Last year showed that Russia did not have a truly reliable military allies in the region. The created coordination center in Baghdad (it included the military from Syria, Iraq, Iran and Russia) was used only for exchanging intelligence, as well as coordinating targets for strikes. The Iraqi military had enough problems with the "Islamic State" on its territory, the Iranians helped to bring Lebanon's "Hezbollah" to military action, which, having lost about 1400 fighters, began to take a much more selective approach to participating in joint operations with the army of Bashar al-Assad. Small units of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps took part only in several clashes, after which they refused to fight. Relationship tensions arose after the parties failed to agree on the permanent deployment of aircraft at the third Hamadan air base in Iran. "The Russians are interested in showing themselves as a superpower and guaranteeing their role in determining the political future of Syria. And of course, they showed a certain amount of posturing and non-Dental behavior," Defense Minister Hossein Dehgan told 22 on August 2016. Although Russian officials stated that there was no need to continue using the facility, unofficially, the military recognized that the Iranian side, which had just gotten rid of the sanctions regime, simply did not want to shine in this story. And the plans of the Russian military to deploy there arsenals with high-explosive fragmentation bombs such as OFAB-250-270 and OFAB-500 threatened to turn into new problems.
Entering the Syrian campaign, the Russian army hoped not only to secure the title of peacekeepers, but also to test the latest models of military equipment and weapons in combat conditions (see the reference below). According to Vlast, it didn’t do without difficulties here: in particular, several times the Su-35С fighters recorded failures of onboard systems, at least once the plane couldn’t fire an air-to-ground cruise missile suspension, but it was all uncritical and subsequently eliminated. Representatives of the industry, specializing, for example, in the production of aviation weapons, do not have to complain: for them the war in Syria is a guaranteed order for many years. For example, a number of enterprises belonging to the Tactical Missiles Corporation have been working around the clock for almost a year.
Moreover, if the creation of an aviation group in Khmeimim or the firing of terrorists with cruise missiles such as Caliber-NK or Caliber-PL was a deliberate step, then the deployment of strategic aviation in the person of Tu-22М3, Tu-95MS and Tu-160, deployed in Syria the Triumph anti-aircraft missile systems C-400 or the short-term transfer of Iskander tactical complexes was a reaction to the tragic events. It can be assumed that, depending on the state of the Syrian troops, sooner or later all the same it would turn out to be in Syria, but their direct connection with the October-November 2015 incidents of the year is obvious. Then, we recall, the militants of the "Islamic State" committed a terrorist attack aboard the Kogalymavia Airbus-A321 aircraft en route from the Egyptian Sharm el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg. And then Turkish Air Force fighters shot down a Russian Su-24M bomber, allegedly crossing the Syrian-Turkish border.
The ships of the Caspian Flotilla for the first time carry out combat launches of Caliber cruise missiles from the Caspian Sea, October 7 2015
In addition to the technical aspects, the military pursued another goal in Syria: at all the major exercises of recent years, they worked out the transfer of personnel from permanent places of deployment to unfamiliar training grounds to create heterogeneous connections there. According to high-ranking sources of the authorities in the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, all the units coped with this task, and the head of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, Valery Gerasimov, said with satisfaction that the experience of the Syrian campaign was taken into account during the Kavkaz-2016 major command and staff exercises .
The air operation in Syria has become a serious test for Russia in the international arena: from its very first day, the Russian Space Forces were constantly accused of bombing opposition representatives, not terrorists. But all the charges and diplomats, and the military categorically denied.
By the beginning of March 2016, the composition of the air group in Hmeimim exceeded 70 machines: it seemed that in the short term, the Ministry of Defense would bring their number to hundreds and begin an intensive shelling of the positions and infrastructure of the militants. However, instead, Vladimir Putin decided to begin the withdrawal of the main forces and assets from Syria, ordering to leave there only the weapons and equipment necessary to protect the group and fire on the terrorists. During the week, the composition of the air group is reduced to 40 aircraft, and soon the presidents of Russia and the United States agreed to introduce a truce regime in Syria, the main purpose of which was to separate the "moderate opposition" from the terrorists. The logic was simple: you need to make lists of opposition groups, in which the blows should not have been dealt to either side. If we single them out, we could designate areas and provinces where the terrorists are located for joint attacks.
Attempting to distinguish between terrorists and the "moderate opposition" twice will result in failure
It seemed that, despite all the political differences that had arisen at the beginning of the campaign, all civilized countries should have one enemy - radical Islamism, because it was his supporters who destroyed the Russian plane along with 224 passengers over Sinai in October, and in November they carried out the attacks to the death of 130 citizens in Paris. After these incidents, the creation of a broad antiterrorist coalition did not seem so impossible. Harsh rhetoric left the statements of the parties: US President Barack Obama said that he supported Russia's efforts to fight the Islamic State, and Vladimir Putin proposed to create an international coalition against terrorists. As it turns out later, it was just one of the few bright episodes, replaced by serious accusations from all sides in Syria.
The attempt to separate the terrorists and the "moderate opposition" will fail twice: the Pentagon will not provide clear information about the opposition groups, and while the US is in no hurry to fulfill its part of the promised agreements, the radicals will have time to recuperate, largely replenishing their arsenals and resume active hostilities.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu at the highest level is trying to coordinate the actions of the Russian Aerospace Forces and the Syrian army (on the left is President Bashar Asad)
On the eve of the anniversary of the Syrian campaign, the agreement reached on the night of September 10 by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry on a truce in Syria was thwarted: renewed hostilities between government forces and the opposition coincided with the destruction of a humanitarian convoy in Aleppo. This incident was called "an attack on humanity" by the UN. The Russian Defense Ministry claims that the Syrian army could not launch an air strike, since its aircraft, unlike the American attack drone Predator, were not in the air at that time.
In the West, Russian arguments are not heard. During his speech at the UN General Assembly, Barack Obama raised the question of "Russia's responsibility" for existing international crises, saying that Moscow "is trying to regain its former greatness with the help of force." French President Francois Hollande, who spoke in the same place, added that the regime of President Assad and "those behind him," that is, Russia, are to blame for the ongoing war in Syria. And John Kerry said that he had allegedly been in a "parallel universe", listening to the UN Security Council on the report of Sergei Lavrov on the Syrian crisis.
The second year of the Syrian operation begins in the same way as the first: the most severe confrontation between the two superpowers, the clashes between the opposition and the government forces, as well as the radical Islamists who are strong and ready for war. Moscow and Washington had opportunities to negotiate for 12 months, but all of them were missed: the parties realize the importance of an exclusively diplomatic resolution of the crisis, perhaps even coordination, but in fact they don’t go beyond words and promises. So, in the near future, the key players in the Syrian field will finally become the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation and the Pentagon.
Aleppo, once the second largest city in Syria, has been in a combat zone for several years.
What weapons Russia first tested in Syria
In November, 2015, the Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, Valery Gerasimov, reported on the first ever combat use of Russian strategic missile carriers. The 12 long-range Tu-22МЗ bombers, taking off from Russian airfields, attacked the targets of terrorists in the provinces of Rakka and Deir-Ez-Zor. Then the missile Tu-160 and Tu-95MS fired the latest X-101 airborne cruise missiles at militant targets in the provinces of Aleppo and Idlib.
October 7 Russia used the Caliber cruise missiles in Syria. Then four ships of the Caspian flotilla executed 26 launches on the positions of militants "Islamic state". This was the first combat use of such missiles. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reported on the results of the strike at a meeting with Vladimir Putin, which was shown by all state-run television channels. December 8 submarine "Rostov-on-Don" project 636.3, while in the waters of the Mediterranean, struck missiles 3М14К Caliber-PL from a submerged position on the objects of terrorists in Syria.
The operation of the Russian Aerospace Force of the Russian Federation in Syria was the first experience of large-scale use of unmanned aerial vehicles that conducted round-the-clock reconnaissance and shooting of air strikes. On the eve of the operation, the Defense Ministry reported plans to train more 1100 specialists for unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) companies at the State Center for Unmanned Aviation of the Ministry of Defense.
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