After a siege that lasted for almost three years, the Abu ad-Dukhor air base eventually 9 September 2015 was captured by the rebels, mostly from the Al-Nusra Front. The air base kept the longest siege in the civil war in Syria, but its fall was inevitable in the end. Abu ad-Dukhor is now the eighth air base in a row, which fell in front of numerous groups opposing the ruling regime. The Syrian air force still has 15 operating air bases from which it is possible to carry out sorties.
Although it was often rumored that there were operational aircraft and helicopters that made flights over the Syrian province of Idlib, the last operational aircraft left Abu al-Dukhor a month before its fall. Fully aware that the capture of the base is inevitable from a tactical point of view, its retention is meaningless (the rare appearance of military thought in the ranks of the Syrian high command), it was decided to evacuate the remaining few serviceable MiG-23МФ, MiG-21МФ and MiG-21bis aircraft to the air base Hama Although it’s spectacular and impressive at first glance, most of the 18 abandoned aircraft captured on Google Earth, as well as in photographs and videos, were written off 10-15 years ago. The fall of Abu ad-Duhor will not have a special impact on the ability of the Syrian air force to control the Syrian sky.
Since the Abu ad-Dukhor air base was completely cut off from the rest of the territory held by the authorities, the task of supplying the air base was in the hands of the Syrian air force, which mainly used An-26 and Mi-8 / 17 to deliver everything that was required from food to weapons, and as the militants approached the perimeter of the airbase, even for more dangerous tasks. Several helicopters were destroyed, destroyed or damaged over the years, along with the loss of two MiG-21 and one An-26.
The storming of the Abu ad-Duhor air base coincided with a powerful anomalous sandstorm that raced across the Middle East, which prevented the Syrian air force from making sorties to support its defenders. The moral depletion of the defenders, caused by the nearly three-year siege and constant shelling, as well as the numerical superiority of the militants, all of this, ultimately, led to the seizure of the airbase. While most of the defenders were captured or killed, a small group of them nevertheless leaked onto the territory controlled by the authorities. The commander of the Abu al-Dukhor airbase, Ihsan Al-Zahuri, was reportedly killed in action.
Abu ad-Duhor was home to the 678 squadron flying the MiG-23MS, the MiG-23MF and the MiG-23UB, and an unknown squadron flying the MiG-21MF, the MiG-21bis and the MiG-21UM. Undoubtedly, one of the most difficult combat aircraft in stories combat aviation, MiG-23MS, was delivered to Syria back in 1973. In the early 2000s, their life has already expired (although it has already been extended). 678 squadrons gradually phased out operations at about the same time, and in 2005 the MiG-23MS aircraft were officially decommissioned. Of the vehicles capable of take-off at the airbase, there remained a pair of MiG-23MF, several MiG-23UB and MiG-21. One of the MiG-23MS with the number "1614" in the best times in the photo below.
The first serious attempt to seize Abu ad-Dukhor was already made on 30 on April 2013, when fighters of the Syrian Free Army managed to penetrate the air base's perimeter. However, its defenders successfully repulsed this attack, preventing the first rehearsal of the seizure of the air base. Immediately the defensive orders of the defenders were strengthened and in the following months all attacks were repelled. Even before these events, 7 March 2012, soldiers of the Free Syrian Army bombarded the airbase with 9M131 anti-tank missiles (9K115-2 Metis-M), damaging one of the already defective MiG-23MS, which they had encountered again, and the fires were defeated by the fire, and the fires of the defective crews of the Syrian Army XNUMX (XNUMXKXNUMX-XNUMX Metis-M)
The perimeter of Abu ad-Dukhor base is almost five kilometers, it is almost impossible to defend without any tall buildings, from which a flat plain can be seen surrounding the airbase. Therefore, most of the villages and farms around the airbase have already been razed to the ground so as not to give shelter to the rebels. The 13 Fortified Aviation Shelters (HAS), most of which are currently empty, were turned into strongholds, where defense groups of defenders with various light and heavy weapons kept their defenses. Large-caliber machine guns and anti-tank guided missiles were installed at the top of the HAS, since the surrounding terrain was perfectly visible from them. The presence of these HAS played a significant role in the nearly three-year survival of the airbase.
Defenders could count on some support tanks and armored combat vehicles attached to several roadblocks along the perimeter of the base. This technique could also be deployed as a quick reaction force. Indeed, although under siege, the defenders of Abu al-Duhor left their airbase several times with the aim of raiding enemy positions, mainly to neutralize the artillery of the militants. In their attacks on the air base, the fighters of Al-Nusra Front (among them there were many peasants from the rural province of Deir ez-Zor who fled from the Islamic state) lost several tanks that the defenders of the air base used against their former owners.
Although the air base was hardly able to give the militants a large number of weapons and ammunition, but its capture contributed to a serious increase in their morale. The view of the captured MiG aircraft, whether it is operational or not, remains a symbol of victory. As for useful military booty, Abu ad-Dukhor provided the militants with several tanks, combat vehicles, one ZSU-23 installation, several 130-mm M-46 field guns, anti-aircraft guns, trucks, small arms and ammunition. Since photographing airplanes and helicopters from militants is considered more popular than photographing cars, and also because it is not known how many cars and other property were taken along by escaped defenders, it is difficult to calculate the actual amount of captured military property. For example, ten ATGMs captured in one of the HASs actually turned out to be empty containers from three 9M111 Bassoon, five 9M113 Contest and two 9M131 Metis-M.
As expected, most of the machinery and equipment used to service jet aircraft was also captured. Damage and rust on these vehicles indicates that there were almost no operational fighters at the air base, so they were left without much regret.
Many of the suspended containers for the missiles and the air-to-air missiles used once by the MiG-21 and MiG-23 aircraft based at the Abu ad-Dukhor air base were also found abandoned in all fortified shelters. Since the fuel that must be spent for the removal of these containers and missiles is more valuable than the property itself, it was thrown at the air base. As a result, dozens of UB-16 and UB-32 containers were found there. Although it would be ideal to install them on trucks in order to use them as ground-based rocket launchers, apparently none of the 57-mm C-5 missiles were captured, which turned the UB-16 and UB-32 containers into useless pieces of iron. .
In the photo below, about a dozen sets of launch rails were also captured.
Air-to-air missiles P-23Р with semi-active radar guidance system and infrared-guided P-23T missiles in the photo below. They were intended for installation on MiG-23MF fighters of the Abu ad-Dukhor air base, but most of them are still wrapped in protective covers, and in fact more than 35 years have passed since they were delivered!
Additional weapons MiG-23MF missiles "air-to-air" P-60M short-range. Once used in the war with Israel, they are now gathering dust because in the Civil War they turned out to be completely unclaimed.
Several launchers of false targets and local-made dipole reflectors along with boxes of missiles and rocket containers. A lot of discharged fuel tanks for the MiG-21 and MiG-23 were also found, most of which were apparently used as targets.
Without a doubt, the most interesting, at least useful trophies, are 17 fighters and two helicopters found at Abu ad Dukhor air base. This find is akin to the 18 bonus of MiG-21 planes captured by Islamic State militants in Tabka. The condition of the aircraft varies from "only scrap metal" to almost untouched.
678 squadron left behind many aircraft hulls, 11 MiG-23MS, two MiG-23UB and one MiG-23МФ found in the northwestern part of the airbase. After all, most of the MiG-2000 aircraft that were decommissioned in 23s were thrown here.
The MiG-23UB with the 1750 tail number was recently moved from one landfill (part of which is in the photo above) to another, larger one. Perhaps the rebels expect to restore it, but getting an anti-tank guided missile even more damaged the already derelict plane. On the MiG-23MS (in the foreground) two holders are visible for launch targets of false targets.
Undoubtedly, the most worn-out aircraft with fully faded camouflage paint can be seen in the photo below. There is a sign on his nose indicating that he has undergone a major overhaul and maintenance at a Syrian air force repair facility at Neirab / Aleppo airbase.
MiG-23MF "3677" was the only aircraft of this type, which was not evacuated to Ham a few months ago. The remaining technicians probably could not fix his tail after the ATGM hit and decided to leave him, since he would in any case be useless also for his invaders. It was the third aircraft that the ATGM hit and damaged its tail. Of course, when the planes received damage from an ATGM hit, they became unsuitable for use.
Only four MiG-21 were captured at Abu ad-Duhor (excluding G-21F-13), including two MiG-21МФ, one MiG-21bis and one MiG-21UM. Everyone had already been out of service for at least a year and a half and thus could not be evacuated to Ham.
The photo above and below the MiG-21MF "1518", one of the more or less well-preserved in appearance of the aircraft captured in Abu al-Duhor. In the photo below is the only MiG-XNUMHUM left in the shelter. The second photo of the MiG-21МФ with the tail number "21".
The only MiG-21bis was found in another HAS shelter. The guns were removed from all the planes before the base was handed over; they were probably transferred to Hamu to be installed on several serviceable MiG-21МФ and MiG-21bis.
Two Mi-8 helicopters were also captured. One of them, the Mi-8 "1282", was equipped with a mine setting system and possibly participated in the fighting near Abu al-Dukhor before he ended his life at a local landfill after damage in a battle. In the background, the same MiG-23MS described earlier, with tail tails scattered across the grass.
The second Mi-8 fell victim to an ATGM attack in 2014. The helicopter was shot down immediately after landing, and the subsequent fire turned it into junk, which will never take off.
Despite the large number of aircraft found at the airbase, its capture will not have a significant impact on the air campaign of the Syrian air force. In fact, it can be assumed that the capture gives the Air Force a respite they need so much, given that they are now spared the task of supplying the large garrison that occupied Abu ad Dukhor airbase. However, the fall of the airbase was another important reminder of the fact that survival, not to mention victory, is not so guaranteed by the Assad regime. A fact that did not go unnoticed for his supporters abroad.