What is the mechanism for the use of aviation weapons against ISIL militants? How reliable is the information about the location of their bases, ammunition depots, control points? How, finally, will we respond to the “stab in the back” of our Su-24M? The first deputy chief of the operational department of the Air Force General Staff (1997 – 2003), leading advisor to the Federation Council Committee on Defense and Security (2003 – 2013), Major-General Igor Semenchenko, answers these and other questions of the MIC.
- Igor Gennadievich, we present the tasks assigned to our pilots in Syria. But as far as their decision corresponds to the composition of the aviation group?
- Before answering this question, a few words about the Syrian Arab Republic. This is a country where various religions harmoniously coexisted in society, no one was in conflict with each other. Everyone found a common language. There are families consisting of Muslims and Orthodox. Those and others are very warm to the Russians, Russia.
As for the group of Russian aviation, it is more than 50 aircraft. First of all, these are Su-24M front-line bombers - deeply modernized vehicles with modern navigation and aiming tools that allow targeted strikes. This is a Su-34 - new multifunctional front-line bombers with modern airborne sighting and navigation systems and weapons. Su-25CM attack aircraft - aircraft with armored protection of the pilot and engine, which adequately passed Afghanistan. Su-30 CM multifunctional fighters. Attack helicopters Mi-24P and Mi-35, transport assault Mi-8AMTSH and transport Mi-17, as well as UAV-type reconnaissance aircraft. All this is extremely reliable machines with good interoperability, ease of management.
The composition of the aviation group of the Air and Space Forces of Russia speaks directly about its goals and objectives. These are military ground infrastructure facilities of the terrorist group ISIS. In particular, combat positions, command posts, factories and workshops on explosives and IEDs, large warehouses of military equipment, ammunition, fuel and lubricants, special equipment and food, hidden bases that were previously mothballed or carefully disguised, transshipment and strong points, points control with communication centers, caravans with weapons and ammunition, terrorist training camps, bridges, other objects.
I would especially like to note that the level of combat readiness and skill of Russian pilots is as high as ever. They are equipped with everything necessary for delivering combat strikes against ISIS ground infrastructure military facilities.
The Russian air group is based at the Khmeimim air base, which is protected by ground troops, located at the Syria International Airport. Basil Al-Assad.
- How did the combat tasks performed by the flight personnel, for example, in the Afghan campaign, differ from those solved in Syria?
- If you say one word - almost nothing. Although it is necessary to state that in any operation there will always be its own nuances, features and novelty of aviation complexes and combat missions.
The Afghan campaign, despite many miscalculations and mistakes, for the domestic Air Force has become perhaps the most successful and effective over the post-war thirty years. Su-25 attack aircraft flew as much as no other combatant pilots in the world. If we talk about the contribution of the Air Force in any military campaigns, the familiar phrase of the infantry has long been known: "Without aviation, there is no effective work on the ground."
In Afghanistan, in addition to front-line bombers and attack aircraft, in combat operations with the Mujahideen, long-range aviation was also noted, which once was assigned the combat task of destroying the Ahmed Shah azure deposit in the region of Jarm. Revenues from the sale of lapis lazuli fueled the militants, and the decision to "reconstruct" the fields with high-explosive aerial bombs turned out to be more than reasonable. Long-range bombers worked on a given object from a height of 11 thousands of meters, putting the bombs not just side by side, but literally in the meter. The difficulty consisted in the fact that the area of their discharge and the goal itself were at the level of almost seven thousand meters and to carry out massive and accurate bombing in this area is the same as to get into the bottle neck from a pistol while driving a motorcycle.
The June 10 bombing in the Jarma area was one of the most successful bombing campaigns in the entire Afghan campaign.
We can not forget about the unique operation in Afghanistan to destroy the cluster of Mujahideen in combat positions (about four thousand). Six Tu-22М2 bombers and a whole Tu-16 air regiment were raised into the air. In addition to the “rangers” in 35 minutes, 60 Su-24 front-line bombers joined. A distinctive feature of the most massive departure for the whole history Afghan war was and the process of dropping bombs. The first were the long-range bombers that carried the OFAB bombs on 60, followed by the rest. The result was more than expected.
The air forces practiced bombing of the Mujahideen objects on the principle of “nine-tone calling” - a point drop of the most powerful of the FAB-9000 bombs available at that time, which long-range pilots had to place directly into the roof of the desired object.
- What is the novelty of the use of combat aircraft in Syria?
- This is primarily high-precision weapons, modern means of objective control, satellite navigation and reconnaissance, additional exploration with the help of UAVs, modern on-board avionics, new sighting and navigation systems, etc.
The main means of destruction for the suppression of groups of ISIL are high-explosive, adjustable bombs and guided missiles of all classes, under certain conditions of hostilities and other types of ammunition are used - volume-detonating and concrete-breaking.
A special place in the Syrian aviakampaniya is the use, as already said, the UAV for additional exploration purposes. As well as effective means of observation, equipped with the most modern cameras with a variety of modes that can work at any time of day with minimal risk of being detected.
We should also note the military aircraft used in Syria. Along with the ultramodern Su-34 front-line bombers, whose targeting and aiming systems can deliver an air-to-air missile literally through the air vents to terrorists, the Su-24M with a variable sweep wing are also working in the sky. These aircraft only superficially remind that the development of a unique front-line bomber was carried out in the USSR. Its electronic “stuffing”, which is responsible for targeting, aiming and using weapons, fully corresponds to the set combat missions, is a modern product of the Russian defense industry.
The main part of the Russian aircraft sent to Syria is equipped with the latest domestic development of the Specialized Computing Subsystem (SVP-24). The idea behind this system is to provide not accurate homing at the target of the ammunition, but the correct conclusion to the point of discharge of unmanaged means of destruction of their carrier. By this, our system is fundamentally different from the American concept of turning conventional bombs into precision weapons - JDAM. The United States installs on the free-fall bombs kits, providing them to aim at the target according to GPS data, turning them into manageable ones.
SVP-24 provides for combining the target with the location of the carrier, adjusted for the flight path of the bomb, calculated by the on-board computer complex taking into account the hydrometeorological conditions and its ballistics. Conventional ammunition acquires performance, commensurate with precision weapons. Meanwhile, in a combat situation, additional factors are imposed that significantly reduce the accuracy of the bombing. These are errors in establishing target coordinates, which can reach several meters. Additional several meters of deflection introduces determination of the place of the carrier according to GLONASS data in the combat zone. Coordinates may be somewhat distorted during sharp maneuvering in the area of the target. The absence of complete information on the hydrometeorological situation and the state of the air environment also has an effect.
Taking into account these factors, we can estimate the accuracy of the combat use of free-fall bombs using SVP-24. The probability of getting into a small-sized protected underground structure is 30 – 40 percent, and damage to poorly protected ground objects with an average caliber can reach 60 percent. Having on board 12 – 16 medium and large caliber bombs, equipped with SVP-24 Su-24М is capable of destroying up to two point objects of the military infrastructure of ISIL in one flight. Apparently, it is for this reason that on each affected object there is on average a little more than one sortie.
- How is the exploration of the area and the identification of bases of militants?
- To obtain reliable information about the location of terrorists and the results of fire destruction, space and aerial reconnaissance (UAV) assets are actively used, and intelligence information from Syrian partners is used, for which an operational group of the Ministry of Defense of the Syrian Arab Republic is deployed at the Hmeimim airbase. Only on the basis of confirmed data received from various sources are aviation strikes against targets of terrorists planned.
There is such a feature in the actions of Russian aviation. To exclude civilian casualties, targets for strikes are assigned only outside settlements. More than 1600 departures and more than 2000 targets hit - for more than a month, Russian aviation has been hitting the positions of terrorists in Syria. During this period, dozens of warehouses with ammunition and military equipment, food and clothing, training camps for terrorists, factories for the manufacture of explosives, command posts with communications centers and other objects of the military infrastructure of terrorists were destroyed.
- The result is impressive. And yet, why, in your opinion, did the Supreme Commander recently demand an increase in the number of combat missions?
- It took, I think, for several reasons:
- due to the growing number of confirmed intelligence data on the infrastructure of terrorist groups;
-to stop the offensive of terrorist militants and significantly reduce their combat potential;
- undermine the material and technical base of the militants, disorganize the command and control system;
- destroy the military infrastructure of ISIL;
- to bring panic into the ranks of militant terrorist groups, to create prerequisites for their retreat and defeat.
As an example of the intensity of growth in the number of departures can be cited and such. During the day, the air group of the Russian Aerospace Forces 71 made a sortie and struck 118 objects. Positions of militants in the provinces of Idlib, Homs, Hama, Aleppo, Damascus, Lattakia were subjected to bombardment. In the area of the settlement of Salma, the command post and a large ammunition depot of terrorists were destroyed.
Strikes were also made on the hidden objects of the militants, which were mothballed or carefully camouflaged. These are first of all bases, transshipment and strong points, and also KP. On the outskirts of the village of Misraba in the province of Damascus, the control point was destroyed with a communication center of the terrorist group Jaish al-Islam.
Initially, Russian pilots made about 20 sorties in a day, gradually increasing their number. Since the beginning of the operation, the tactics of the air group has changed. Now, combat pilots have gone to work alone, attacking several targets during a sortie.
- Could you elaborate in more detail on the characteristics of aviation aids, which are now used, in particular, such as adjustable AF-500, 250, 270 aerial bombs, and others. How modern is this weapon?
- The Russian aviation group of the VKS uses a wide range of ammunition in Syria. Each type of missile or bomb meets specific tasks.
FAB-500 - unmanaged universal high-explosive aerial bomb. It is widely used to defeat various targets: military-industrial facilities, railway junctions, power facilities, fortifications, manpower and military equipment of the enemy.
OFAB-250-270 - unguided high-explosive fragmentation bomb is designed to destroy enemy personnel, weapons and military equipment.
BETAB-500SP - a concrete-attack bomb with a jet accelerator. It is used from any (including small) heights to defeat reinforced concrete shelters (bunkers) and runways. Punches the ceiling thickness to 550 millimeters.
KAB-500 - high-explosive guided (adjustable) aerial bomb refers to high-precision weapons with the principle of "dropped-forgotten." It is designed to destroy stationary ground and surface targets such as warehouses, military industrial facilities, ships in the stands. It can be used around the clock in any weather.
In contrast to foreign analogues, the main model of the CAB is not built on GPS / GLONASS satellite navigation, but on the recognition of the terrain by a television head. GOS KAB uses not the object itself, but landmarks in order to know its exact coordinates and be guided to a target that does not stand out from the landscape. This makes it more reliable in terms of the use of modern means of electronic warfare, when the signals GPS / GLONASS can be suppressed.
KAB-250S (LH) - the most compact in its class corrected aerial bomb. It is equipped with both a satellite coordinate reception system and its own thermal imaging seeker. Modification of the LH allows you to direct ammunition with laser targeting.
The X-29L, an air-to-surface aviation guided missile with an increased high-impact and fragmentation factor, is equipped with a laser seeker. The target object is illuminated by the laser, which is guided, while the rocket perceives only the desired wavelength of light, which ensures high stability of target acquisition.
X-25 ML - air-to-surface missile finds a target with a semi-active laser homing head. The attacked object can be illuminated by an airborne or ground target designation station. Designed to defeat small objects, including mobile objects.
RBC-500 is a one-time bomb cartridge equipped with fully autonomous homing anti-tank warheads that are equipped with dual-mode infrared target coordinators. Designed to defeat modern tanks and other armored vehicles in difficult conditions of natural and artificial interference. Effective against the accumulation of military equipment. After finding the target and determining the point of detonation of the warhead using the on-board computer (approximately at a height of 150 m), a defeat is carried out, the blow is applied to relatively weakly armored areas (roofs of towers and engine-transmission compartments).
ODAB-500 - space-detonating aerial bomb. It is a type of high-explosive aerial bombs. But its effectiveness with a similar caliber is significantly higher.
- What is the current methodology of combat work of Russian pilots in the air?
- Combat work in Syria is based on data from space and air reconnaissance, and only after clarifying all the information received from the headquarters of the Syrian army. Bombing is carried out from a height of more than 5000 meters in order to avoid being hit by portable Stinger anti-aircraft missile systems. Airborne sighting and navigation equipment of the aircraft makes it possible to ensure that terrorists hit any ground targets with high accuracy.
Along with combat work on ground targets, the Russian pilots directly support the advancing Syrian troops, strike at their requests, prevent the supply of terrorist groups and the replenishment of their people. As a result, the number of priority targets has sharply increased, and the amount of ammunition has increased. If earlier Russian planes took two to four precision-guided munitions or four to six conventional bombs, now the pilots are leaving for combat missions with multi-lock holders that allow them to carry clusters of bombs.
Each flight is preceded by a thorough preparation of flight personnel. We study the data of objective control and UAV, images of space reconnaissance.
It should also be emphasized that the free-fall bombs and guided weapons used by Russian pilots on front-line bomber and assault aircraft allow them not to enter the zone of destruction of the ISIL militants, and therefore to be in a safe combat zone.
17 November, for the first time, Russia used in the Syrian operation strategic bombers Tu-160, Tu-95MS, and also 12 long-range bombers Tu-22М3.
The strategic bombers Tu-160 and Tu-95MS in total used more 30 missiles on the positions of the Islamic State terrorist group banned in Russia in the hottest spots in the provinces of Homs, Aleppo, and Raqca. As a result, 14 terrorist facilities were destroyed, including the training camp of ISIL militants, a weapons factory and armored vehicles. The planes worked in groups: one strikes, the other covers it.
The 12 long-range Tu-22М3 bombers carried out a massive bombardment of ISIS’s military infrastructure for the first time. The blow was struck in groups of two Tu-22М3 aircraft using high-explosive fragmentation bombs. As a result, the bases and camps of terrorists in the racca and deir ez-Zor provinces were destroyed.
All of this suggests that Russia acts very selectively in the use of force, but at the same time it is persistent in its task of eliminating terrorists. At the request of the legitimate president of Syria, she was the first to fight with this black force and achieved considerable success, which could not be ignored by the world community. I believe that the leading Western countries should make a more substantial contribution to the fight against world evil, and not try to drag chestnuts out of the fire by someone else’s hands.
- November 24 in the area of the Syrian-Turkish border shot down our Su-24M. Unfortunately, one of the two pilots died ...
- No matter how painful it is to talk about it, but where there is war, there are always losses. This is a harsh reality that we sometimes do not want to perceive.
It is too early to draw final conclusions - it is the prerogative of politicians and the military. Nevertheless, it can be assumed that in this situation (for the time being, I do not take the Turkish side into account) we did not take into account something. Lack of full intelligence could also have an effect. I know this from the experience of my service and work activities. When, for example, the A321 catastrophe occurred, it was only by the fact that almost 150 people were in the seats, and the rest of the bodies were scattered behind the tail of the plane, I realized: the attack.
As for the Su-24M, the investigation is carried out by the competent authorities, which will answer all questions.
We perform international duty in Syria — we fight, and with good results. This is confirmed by means from space, from the air, from the earth and with our own materials of objective control. Two months of fighting did without losses ...
I am sure that the main command of the VKS will take all measures, including non-traditional ones, so that there will be no such emergency.