High flight intensity - and zero accidents
The most expressive indicator for assessing the effectiveness of military pilots is the ratio of the number of combat missions to the number of losses incurred during this. Purely statistically, losses in the combat use of any troops, including aviation, are inevitable. But if we consider what is happening in this sense with the Russian air group in Syria, truly amazing things will come to light.
During the operation, according to official data, more than 28 thousand combat missions and about 99 thousand assaults on militants were made. The losses of the Russian Air Force in Syria today are as follows: three planes (shot down by Turkish F-16 Su-24, as well as Su-33 and MiG-29K Admiral Kuznetsov cruiser) and five helicopters.
It is important to distinguish between what is combat (incurred in a collision with the enemy) and non-combat (outside such collisions) losses. For example, the fighters from “Kuznetsov” fell, apparently, without any external influence, but several Russian helicopters were brought down by Syrian fighters from the ground.
And yet, strictly speaking, all the aircraft lost by the Russian Air Force in Syria can be taken out of the brackets and not taken into account in our statistics. Su-24 was shot down by a Turkish fighter under unexplained circumstances. As for the Kuznetsov wing, it made only a few hundred sorties - that is, a fraction of a percent of the total, and the high accident rate in this case speaks more about the sad state of Naval aviation, and not about what happens to the air group at Hmeimim airfield.
For comparison, in more than nine years of the war in Afghanistan, almost a million sorties were flown, during which 107 aircraft and 324 helicopters were lost. In other words, with rough rounding, for every one hundred thousand sorties in Afghanistan, the USSR Air Force lost 10 airplanes and 30 helicopters. If the same proportion had been maintained in the Russian Air Force during an operation in Syria, the losses of Russian aviation would have to be two to three aircraft and about a dozen helicopters. Leaving aside the important fact that in Afghanistan, Soviet aircraft flew in real and heavy anti-aircraft resistance from the ground, which our pilots in Syria practically do not have.
And if we recall even more ancient times, namely the Great Patriotic War, it turns out that then up to 60% of the Soviet aircraft were lost without any enemy impact - as a result of accidents and catastrophes.
Revival after the collapse
In Syria, the VKS used: front bombers Su-24M, Su-34 multi-purpose fighters-bombers, long-range Tu-22М3 bombers, strategic bombers Tu-95, Tu-160, attack aircraft Su-25, multipurpose ones, as well as ones, as well. Su-27S, MiG-30 fighter-interceptors, Mi-35, Mi-31, Mi-8H, Ka-24 helicopters, A-28 long-range radar detection and control aircraft, integrated reconnaissance aircraft Tu-52Р, electronic surveillance aircraft and REB IL-50M214. According to the General Staff, the number of units of the VKS in Syria during the operation has never exceeded 20 aircraft. This is about one regiment. It can be noted that this is not a regular air regiment of the Russian Aerospace Forces, but a conditional “team” - pilots from various departments from all over the country are involved in the air group.
“There was not a single catastrophe or serious flight accident with aircraft that flew from Khmeimim airbase and from other airfields in Syria,” military expert Viktor Murakhovsky confirmed to the newspaper VIEW.
“There were cases when the enemy shot down helicopters of army aviation. But this is an inevitable loss when the enemy is saturated with automatic anti-aircraft guns and large-caliber machine guns. There were cases of launches on helicopters and man-portable air defense systems, and anti-tank guided missiles, ”said the source. “As regards the front-line aviation, they did not have any losses, with the exception of a“ backstab ”from the Turkish Air Force,” he added.
Judging by official data, the VKS had no non-combat losses at all. There were also no reports of equipment failures as a result of accidents.
It should be called without exaggeration a phenomenal indicator. Russian military pilots, according to official data (and there is no reason not to believe them), did not make a single critical error in Syria that would lead to the loss of a car. None of the apparatus used by the Russian Aerospace Force of the Russian Federation in Syria has ever critically failed from a technical point of view. But the fact is that technology inevitably fails, and people inevitably make mistakes, the art of a commander is only to minimize this effect as much as possible. At least, that's exactly what military pilots think. The operation in Syria completely refutes this until recently unshakable postulate.
All this looks all the more surprising because from 1991 to the last few years, the RF Air Force was in a state of permanent and even catastrophic collapse. Dozens of famous air regiments and divisions were disbanded, airfields were abandoned, flight schools were closed, for decades the troops did not receive new equipment, thousands of pilots were dismissed from the Air Force, and the rest could not rise into the sky due to the lack of spare parts and fuel. And suddenly, against this background - such unexpectedly decent performance in Syria.
What made it possible to achieve such incredible results - not only the absence of losses, but also the high number of sorties and the effectiveness of defeating the enemy?
According to most experts, the success of VKS owe three factors.
First: a high level of technology and staff
Effective actions of the videoconferencing editor-in-chief of the magazine “Arms Export”, an employee of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, Andrei Frolov, explained the novelty of the Russian equipment, as well as its high-quality service. “Machines are used there either by the new production or by those that have undergone repairs and upgrades,” he told the newspaper VIEW.
The Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force (2002 – 2007), Hero of Russia, Army General Vladimir Mikhailov, believes that the high quality of Russian aircraft, the high level of pilot training and the flawless work of all personnel involved in the preparation and organization of flights contributes to the success of the WACS in Syria. "The technique is very reliable," - said the source. “The Americans were shocked when they learned about the number of sorties we performed. They do not understand this, ”he added.
“The main reason for success is the return of due attention from the military-political leadership of Russia to the combat readiness and technical equipment of the Russian Armed Forces,” the former commander-in-chief and Murakhovsky echoed. A new level of battle management was demonstrated, the expert noted and added:
“From the national center of defense of the country, the task force interacts in real time with the command of the group in Syria and the VKS, which work directly on the battlefield. It receives a real-time picture of the drone, with some space tools, radar data. In general, a gigantic control system of a completely new type, which we have never had before, and it was not in the Soviet Army. ”
The expert pointed out that the command of the group is represented by combined arms commanders, the operational groups of military advisers that operate with Syrian formations and some units are also general military commanders.
“I would also note the actions of our logistics system, which in this remote theater of operations was able to provide normal conditions for people and equipment, an uninterrupted supply of the entire nomenclature, from fuel, ammunition to equipment,” said Murakhovsky.
The second factor is intelligence.
As you know, all types of intelligence work in Syria. At the beginning of 2016, the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, said that ground forces, including the best fighters of the Chechen special forces, were helping to fight aviation against ISIS *. In addition, the former commander of the Special Operations Forces (SSO) Alexey Dyumin admitted to “Kommersant” that he personally carried out combat missions in foreign countries, most likely referring to Syria.
There are reconnaissance groups, special forces, as well as local agents, the Syrians also transmit some information, Frolov lists. “Of course, no reconnaissance strikes are delivered, except for strikes that are carried out in the so-called free hunting mode. Such tasks are also set, ”the expert added. “Both unmanned aerial vehicles, radio reconnaissance aircraft, and Tu-214P, which have side-looking radars, and satellites are all used,” he said.
Murakhovsky also emphasizes the great importance of intelligence. “Both space, and air, and radio intelligence, and military, and deep-seated — which, for example, MTR provide, and undercover, are involved. For each goal, a card is drawn up, where sources are indicated, the accuracy of the data, and so on, ”he explained.
“It is known that we strike blows at important targets and only upon confirmation from several sources, including technical means of reconnaissance. And with the confirmation of a high degree of reliability, ”said the source.
The expert recalled that these data were needed not only for the VKS, but also for the Navy. "To use high-precision weaponfor example, the “Caliber” is the same; one must have accurate reconnaissance, navigation and topographic and geodetic data, ”he noted.
“The objectives that reconnaissance ground special forces, reconnaissance groups - this is close, tactical depth. They mainly work for ground, government troops, for rocket troops and artillery, ”Lieutenant General Valery Gorbenko, the former commander of the 4 Army of the Air Force and Air Defense, explains to the VIEW newspaper. - At the operational depth these are already satellites, drones plus agents. Unmanned reconnaissance assets make it possible to track the actions of igilovtsy in real terms, to determine the locations of congestion.
Gorbenko recalled that in our aviation a rule has been in effect for a long time: before the flight, two targets are assigned to the aircraft - the main and the reserve.
“But thanks to the data from the drones already in the air, not only targeting can take place, but also redirection. This allows for very accurate strikes with both guided and unmanaged means. Accuracy increased by several times, almost a hit with deviations of one to two meters. Immediately evaluate the results of strikes. Just an increase in accuracy led to an increase in overall efficiency by several times, ”said the general.
The third - all kinds of troops are involved at once.
As Murakhovsky emphasized, the high efficiency of the air forces is ensured by the fact that they operate in Syria not alone, but with the support of all the other branches and types of troops. “Both the MTR and the Navy operate very effectively and successfully, using, for example, Caliber missile systems. Despite equipment issues fleet with modern ships, he, together with the VKS, ensured uninterrupted high-speed operation of the so-called Syrian express, that is, the delivery of equipment and logistics from Russian ports to Latakia, ”Murakhovsky believes. Do not forget about meteorological and medical support.
However, Anton Mardasov, head of the Middle East Conflicts Research Department of the Institute for Innovative Development, considers the role of the Navy, unlike the role of the videoconferencing system, to be not completely successful.
“Actually, the aircraft showed itself remarkably: both pilots, and helicopter pilots, and fighters. But there were conflicting moments on the campaign of "Admiral Kuznetsov." The use of an aircraft carrier for the modern fleet is, of course, not the strongest experience. This campaign had more training and combat missions - a groundwork for the future, ”he told the newspaper VIEW.
According to Mardasov, Russia's stake in the restoration of the regular Syrian army also played an important role in the success. As the expert explained:
“At the time of its intervention in the Syrian conflict, Iran began to create a militia, that is, parallel to the military Syrian units of the structure. Russia chose a different path - it immediately began to “pump up” precisely army structures. Of course, there were supplies of weapons to the militia, but the bet was made on regular units, more precisely, on what was left of them. ”
As Murakhovsky confirms, our tank crews, gunners, communications men and a whole number of other officers are training the Syrian military.
“The high level of operational art and tactics that the Syrian army has never demonstrated before has been achieved thanks to our help,
including in the training of commanders of staffs and military specialists, ”the interlocutor emphasized. Murakhovsky emphasizes that all three victory factors mentioned by experts are important in the complex, if one of them failed, there would be no need to speak about any defeat of the enemy.
The war revealed a number of weaknesses VKS
Our military are trying not to distribute information about problems in the VKS, including in order not to please the militants, military expert Anton Lavrov told the VZGLYAD newspaper. “Only the factor of problems is known,” he pointed out. However, some of the press previously reported.
In particular, high-precision cruise missiles at first in some cases simply did not start. "There are problems with aviation technology, in particular with regard to the use of air-based cruise missiles," Major General Anatoly Konovalov, deputy commander of Long-Range Aviation, admitted in December 2015. However, this technical failure was later eliminated.
“This is a common problem associated with the development of military infrastructure,” said Anton Lavrov. “Even satellite-guided missiles and bombs require deployed ground-based correction functions to increase accuracy.” Apparently, this was not done immediately and took some time. ”
In March 2016, sources at the United Aircraft Building Corporation and the VCS reported that during the operation, the equipment of the newest Su aircraft was malfunctioning. Failures occurred in the aircraft control system and engines. However, these failures, as reported, took place on the "little things" and "were generally uncritical." In this regard, they were able to eliminate along the way, and they did not have any serious influence on the actions of aviation.
However, many problems have not yet been handled. And one of the main things is connected with high-precision ammunition.
The reserves of free-fall bombs (for example, FAB-250 M-62 and OFAB-250) are, almost figuratively, unlimited in our country, but there are not enough high-precision ammunition, said Lavrov. In this regard, such weapons “have to be used practically from the factories, since no reserves have been created,” the expert explained.
We managed to reduce the severity of the ammunition problem due to the fact that, since the beginning of last year, the X-35 cruise missiles were used, as far as is known, (they had not been tested in combat before). The nuance is that this rocket is anti-ship. The specific trajectory of the flight, as well as the characteristics of the characteristics of the radar homing head, significantly complicate shooting at ground targets. This is possible, although very expensive.
The best would be the use of adjustable bombs (CAB), which are much cheaper than precision weapons. But the fact is that the reserves of the CAB in Russia are not so great, since for a long time it was believed that such armament would be needed in rare cases.
In addition, in Russia there are not too many pilots who can use the KAB. Separately, it is worth noting that KAB-500С is by no means cheap, at a cost it is equal to a premium class car. Therefore, according to the press, such bombs had to be spent economically - a rare target in Syria was honored with more than one CAB, which is sometimes not enough to ensure destruction.
The Americans faced a similar problem with the widespread introduction of precision weapons (1990-s). For them, the solution was the introduction of JDAM - a set of equipment based on GPS technology that converts existing free-fall bombs into all-weather adjustable ammunition. Given the huge reserves of FAB and OFAB for our country, this could be a relatively inexpensive and simple way out of the situation, but nothing like this has been created in Russia yet. At least in open sources about the creation of such equipment was not reported.
Badly missing drone drone
In this regard, greater emphasis is still being placed on cheaper weapons - unmanaged, Lavrov said. Such bombs are harder to hit on moving targets, he pointed out and added:
“We are not NATO and for the time being we do not operate with exclusively precision weapons. On the one hand, it reduces costs, on the other hand, it makes our planes much more vulnerable. Obviously, the hunt for mobile targets - armed pick-ups and just small groups - carries a risk for pilots. ”
After all, you have to fly at low altitudes with the risk of running into the fire of anti-aircraft machine guns, hand grenade launchers and MANPADS. Here, shock drones could have come in handy. Here are just a similar Russian technology is still in the testing phase. “There is a very big problem with drone drone attacks - there are none,” Lavrov stressed. China and even Iranian drones are fighting in Syria and Iraq. “They are using improvised LIH drones and Kurds - anyone, but we are still in development, and it’s unclear when they will appear,” the expert complained.
But partly this problem was solved. “In recent months, the use of helicopters has become more active, and with the defeat of moving targets it has become better, according to my impressions,” Lavrov noted. "Yes, and there are much more guided weapons," he added. Attack helicopters partially blocked the niche of UAVs, but there are not so many of them in Syria. “They are more vulnerable, especially during the day, and cannot long be in the air, patrolling,” the expert said.
Identified the operation in Syria and another flaw. It turned out that the tactical and technical characteristics and the number of tanker aircraft cannot provide Russian aircraft on long-haul flights. We have a massive shortage of tankers, as well as pilots who are ready for refueling in the air, Lavrov said. But for the war in Syria this is not particularly important, the expert pointed out, since for all the aircraft deployed on the base of Hamim, except, perhaps, for the Su-25, the range there is quite affordable. However, this problem was revealed during the mass transfer of the VKS to Syria in 2015 and the withdrawal of part of the troops in 2016, when the planes were not refueled in the air, but were limited only to outboard fuel tanks.
“The strikes from the air and from the sea against the groups and infrastructure of the terrorist organizations IG ** and Dzhebhat-en-Nusra were accurate and powerful, effective,” President Vladimir Putin said in May 2016. “At the same time, and we will need to focus all our attention on this, the operation in Syria has revealed certain problems and shortcomings. For each problematic issue, a thorough investigation should be conducted, I mean a professional investigation, the most thorough analysis, and then measures should be taken to eliminate these problems. ”