The Russian Ministry of Defense regularly reports on the destruction of underground bunkers and communications of Islamic State militants * and other terrorist organizations. Such messages are served almost as a critical blow to the enemy. But after all, the underground fortifications created by partisan forces during the recent local conflicts did not just cause an intolerable itch for the conventional war armies. They turned out to be a difficult goal for the bombers, forcing regular troops to create separate units specializing in combat operations underground to counter the "moles".
For the first time this unique squad appeared in the structure of the American army during the conflict in Vietnam. His fighters got the informal nickname "tunnel rats". As you can guess, the "rats" were fighting in underground communications dug by the Vietnamese, the number of which the Viet Cong and their allies brought to unimaginable limits.
The "underground troops" recruited mostly thin and low military personnel, because the Vietnamese burrows were very narrow in size. Armed with a 45 mm caliber pistol, a flashlight and "X-4" soldiers had to penetrate the underground passages and lay explosives in key communications or bunkers. Some sources reported the use of tear gas by grenades as a “rat”.
Howard C. Breedlove, SSG, Photographer; US Army Signal Corps
Howard C. Breedlove, SSG, Photographer; US Army Signal Corps
During the war, American bombers dropped almost seven million bombs on Vietnam, which is almost three times the number of projectiles dropped on Germany during World War II. It would seem that after the use of such firepower, all the underground passages should have turned into mass graves of the Vietnamese. But this did not happen and the struggle against structures of this kind by forces aviation It was recognized as ineffective. The success of the "tunnel rats" showed that the thin infantryman with the "C-4" copes with bunkers much better than the B-52 bomber.
It is worth noting that the image of the "tunnel rat" found its reflection in American cinema. In particular, in such well-known films as "Forrest Gump" and "Platoon".
Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan have repeatedly cursed this underground hydraulic system created by Afghan farmers. The qanats were much more spacious than the Vietnamese burrows. Their main function was water supply, but the Mujahideen found another use for them. Moving in the underground communications, to which a lot of “tributaries” were often added, dushmans managed to almost literally appear from nowhere behind the paratroopers' backs.
At first, the Soviets, like the Americans in Vietnam, tried to use aviation to fight qanats. Aircraft of the USSR Air Force used the bombs of the largest available capacity to try to fill up the underground passages, but as a result, they had to create a land unit for underground combat as part of the 40 Army.
Afghan soldiers at the entrance to the Qariz
Unlike the American military, the Soviet soldiers tried not to climb deep into the ground, leveling the modest range of sorties with a more powerful explosive charge. TNT did not regret the Soviet army - the explosives were placed in karizas with whole boxes.
Infantry flamethrowers were also widely used in the underground war. These are, first of all, LPO-50, and towards the end of the war, and the reactive Bumblebees.
To understand the possible extent of the underground life of militants, you can again turn to stories. For example, during the confrontation of the North and South Koreans in 1950-1953, almost the entire Korean Peninsula was dug up. According to data from open sources, during this conflict, the parties dug up about 10 thousands of underground bunkers at a depth of 40-70 meters, and some command headquarters were built at much greater depths. Most notable is the length of Korean tunnels, reaching approximately 520 km. It is worth noting here that the length of the front line was in the 200 area of kilometers. Air bombardments did not cause such fortifications any significant harm.
A fairly well-developed network of underground tunnels and bunkers was built by Hamas fighters. According to the world media, under the Gaza Strip, they dug a whole underground city, the "arteries" of which diverge in Palestine, as well as in neighboring Egypt and Israel. The Israeli army is trying to fight these communications, but it does not achieve much success.
Hamas fighters in an underground tunnel
Even if it turns out to destroy the entrance to the underground structure, the main tunnel remains unscathed and new “gates” to it quickly appear in another place. Palestinians can also boast a fairly high-quality finish tunnels, Hamas attracts qualified professionals to their construction and widely uses reinforced concrete structures.
Shovels "faster" bombs
Military campaigns around the world have shown that one aircraft cannot cause significant damage to enemy underground communications. Yes, since the days of the “tunnel rats” a lot of water has flowed out and a whole number of air bombs have appeared in service with the air forces of the international coalition and Russian videoconferencing systems. And the number of bombers and attack aircraft involved in the operation against the IS * today cannot be compared with aviation groups during the Afghan and Vietnamese campaigns.
Adjustable aerial bomb KAB-1500
But on the territory of Syria, the war has been going on for almost five years, and all the parties in this slaughter all this time have been constantly drawing up new shelters. Participants in the conflict use entire parks of modern excavators to build a defensive line and create underground utilities. It is likely that right now the Al-Qaida excavator * is digging a new bunker near Idlib, and the captured IG * prisoners have dug up another kilometer of tunnels under the Syrian desert. Poor quality bunkers and aisles are simple and fast. It is likely that they are already in the thousands. Most of these communications are destroyed by concrete-fighting, and sometimes the usual high-explosive, bombs. But there are too few shells falling on them, and on the contrary, the militants have too many shovels and excavators.