Over the past week, Syrian government troops reported on several successful operations, in particular in the north-west of the country in the so-called enclave of Salma, where in November last year a Russian front-line bomber Su-24M was shot down. However, while completely clean the area from the militants failed. But thanks to decisive and vigorous action, the troops loyal to Assad were able to take the city of Salma.
The victory of the Syrian Arab Army (CAA) went with great difficulty. And yet it should be noted: compared with last year's battles in the same area, in fact, a positional meat grinder, when at the cost of heavy losses government troops took a minor knoll to be knocked out from there, the professionalism and skills of the Damascus armed formations are steadily growing.
The CAA owes its success to the Russian military and not only the special-purpose aircraft factory, but also to advisers, specialists who train personnel and help them master the newest types of weapons and military equipment.
Our military were called to Damascus as advisers and worked in the country long before the outbreak of the civil war. Quite a large number of Syrian soldiers were trained in Russian military schools, in particular in the Combined Arms Academy.
According to the representative of the Ministry of Defense of Russia, familiar with the pre-war situation, the main problems of the CAA were an elementary shortage of trained people, low staffing of units and divisions. “If the officer corps is well prepared, then with the sergeant, and especially with the rank and file problems were enough. In fact, there were no brigades, regiments, etc., deployed in the state of wartime. In the event of war, they were planned to be manned with conscripts from the reserve. All specialists are communications operators, gunners, engineers, etc. turned out to be so only on paper. In fact, these are just guys with machine guns who couldn’t really shoot, ”the interlocutor of the“ MIC ”assesses the situation.
The military-political leadership of Syria was supported in a high degree of readiness by only a few mechanized brigades, the Republican Guard and special forces. But even in these units and subunits, staffing levels rarely exceeded 70 percent.
“Two Syrian special forces divisions had excellent training before the war. True, in our understanding, it is rather an analogue of the Airborne Forces. The Republican Guard is well equipped with both equipment and personnel. In fact, this army in the army. The guards and artillery, and units of the airborne troops, special purpose - all his own. The CAA was staffed for the most part with conscripts, and the Republican Guard was mostly professional military, ”explains the Defense Ministry spokesman, familiar with the pre-war Syrian army.
It is noteworthy that with the participation of the Russian advisers to the CAA, prior to the beginning of the civil war, she conducted exercises to deploy several divisions, when personnel were called up, removed from the storage of equipment, etc.
Since the beginning of the first battles in 2011, the number of Russian military advisers and specialists has decreased dramatically. In particular, judging by the photographs of the radio-technical center on Tal Al-Khar near Dara, captured by the Syrian Free Army in 2014, the Russian Armed Forces military personnel had not been at the facility for a long time. Although not all Russian contingent left Syria. Our specialists continued to assist the armed forces of Damascus, teaching servicemen to use and exploit the weapons and military equipment transferred to them, in particular, the Smerch and Uragan MLRSs.
Causes of loss
The main problem of the Syrian army in the civil war was the high loss of trained personnel. Soldiers, sergeants and officers not only died in battles. A rather large percentage went over to the side of various opposition and terrorist groups.
SAA command tried to compensate for the shortage of military personnel by massive use tanks and other armored vehicles. Suffice it to say that until recently, the government’s T-72, T-55, BMP-1, fighting in urban areas, appeared on video and photo chronicle as a symbol of the Syrian civil war.
The leadership of the country tried several times to solve the problem of lack of personnel, conducting partial mobilization. To no avail. As a result, the bet was made on the volunteer units that are being formed in the districts and settlements, whose fighters must weapons in the hands to protect their homes and families.
But if in the remaining units and divisions of the CAA, at least, combat training was organized, then the volunteers are ordinary civilians, without the required fighting skills, simply armed with the government and fighting terrorists. Although of the volunteers, only a small part directly participated in the hostilities. The bulk of them primarily serve at roadblocks and patrol the territory. Another serious problem is that volunteer units fight only on their own land, in the area from where they are recruited, and refuse to obey orders to transfer them to other areas.
With the start of the operation of the Armed Forces of Russia in Syria, government forces could not change the situation. Despite the massive use of armored vehicles and artillery, there was not enough trained personnel to secure success.
According to the Military-Industrial Courier, at the same time with the deployment of a special purpose air raid and the creation of the Khmeimim airbase at Basil Al-Assad International Airport, the Russian leadership in the fall of 2015 increased the number of military advisers and instructors who now had to solve two important tasks. First, to create more or less prepared units from scattered detachments and battalions. Secondly, to establish a system of evacuation and repair of wounded armored vehicles.
It should be noted that the problem of the return to service of failed military vehicles by the 2015 year faced the Syrian command very acutely. As the terrorist squads became saturated with relatively modern anti-tank weapons, the weapons and military equipment of the government troops grew, which were often not compensated for by the supply of “Syrian express” (the informal name of military aid to the Russian Federation - AR). According to sources of the Military Industrial Courier, familiar with the situation, the main material losses of the Syrian government forces are padded armored vehicles thrown on the battlefield, which can not only be evacuated, but also restored and returned to service.
It is clear that with such an attitude towards evacuation and repair, even continuous military assistance, including the supply of new T-90 tanks, heavy flame-thrower and artillery systems, will not save the situation.
Return to service
The Russian military department is trying not to advertise the presence of our military advisers and specialists, but does not deny it. As already noted, currently in various social networks and video hosting sites there are a lot of stories about the work of the Russian military in Syria (“MIC”, No. 1 – 2, 2016 - “Footprint of our infantryman”). The field of activity for them is huge. So, in the video, where the instruction of the Syrian volunteer snipers, mastering the treatment of SVD, is shown, a very low training of fighters is striking.
According to the Military-Industrial Courier, in general, work with volunteer formations turned out to be the most difficult. Despite the fact that many of the militiamen have had several years of war behind them, few people can shoot accurately, move competently on the battlefield, not to mention poor physical fitness. Commanders-volunteers, mostly chosen by the fighters themselves from the most authoritative, in their opinion, colleagues, are often unable to make decisions correctly in a difficult situation, competently lead the staff not only in battle, but also in everyday life.
A major problem remains the discipline of the personnel, who stood throughout the war at various checkpoints and were not willing to engage in normal combat training. Also, according to available data, the problem of ex-territoriality remains unresolved. The militias are ready to protect only their homes and do not express a desire to move to other areas.
In fact, volunteers have to be trained from scratch. First, individual training, then later coordination in the composition of the branches, platoons, mouth, only after that - the entire battalion.
Government regular troops not only have a richer combat experience, but also much more disciplined. But in the units and subunits of the CAA, there is still a shortage of competent officers and sergeants, because for almost five years of civil war, the regular army, as already mentioned, suffered very serious losses.
But if the individual training of her fighters is at a sufficiently high level, then it is necessary to act as part of the squad, platoon, company and battalion, like the militia, in fact, from the basics, to teach the military, even from special forces regiments.
Another problem of the Syrian regular units and units - low staffing. According to reports, in platoons from 20 to 30, a man in the state of "live" fighters is sometimes not a dozen, including the commander.
Not less difficult for the Russian military advisers and instructors was the organization of interaction between the commanders of brigades, divisions and military command bodies. Until recently, the fighting in Syria actually represented the chaotic movements of militias, individual companies and battalions of the regular Syrian army in different directions, often without even a single concept.
According to the interlocutor of the Military-Industrial Courier, familiar with the situation, the disunity of the pro-government forces was the biggest problem. In particular, gunners and pilots in most cases acted independently, without regard to the ground forces.
The exact data on how long the combat training cycle of one SSA battalion or militia detachment lasts are not disclosed. It can be assumed that we are talking about a period of at least six months. In particular, if the first units and subunits of the pro-government forces under the leadership of Russian instructors began to prepare in September 2015, then their debut became the battles in the “Salma enclave”, which became the indisputable success of the attackers.
The Syrian units and units undergoing training receive not only new field uniforms, but also body armor, protective helmets, in particular, Russian 6 B43, 6 B45 and 6 B27, both directly from the factory and from the stocks of the Russian army. For example, the 6 B45 bullet-proof vest, previously transferred from the warehouses of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, with the unused last name of the former owner, was taken from the deceased Syrian was used by militants of an IG prohibited in our country as proof that they allegedly killed a Russian soldier. Judging by the photo and video chronicles, the Russian military are handing over to the Syrian colleagues also small arms: machine guns, machine guns, sniper rifles.
As vehicles, pro-government troops receive the Sadko GAZ-3308 two-axle truck, which had previously been replaced by the Mustangs in the Russian army and transferred to storage bases. Unfortunately, part of the gas, if you believe the photos, common IG, fell into the hands of the militants of this terrorist organization as trophies during the recent battles in eastern Syria.
According to our estimates, over the past six months, with the help of Russian advisers, they underwent training, as well as at least one SSA brigade and several battalions (detachments) of militias re-equipped and received new equipment. Our military experts and advisers have achieved serious success in training the Syrian troops. Units loyal to Damascus are already beginning to organize interaction not only with each other, but also with aviationartillery, etc. True, so far we have seen an increased professional level only among the troops operating mainly in the Salma region, where, most likely, according to the decision, the main efforts are concentrated.
But you can not underestimate the enemy. While the Syrian troops were successfully advancing near the Turkish border, in the east of the country, in the Deir Ez-Zor area, the Igilovs counterattacked the troops loyal to President Assad, not only pushing them off, but also taking a large number of trophies.
One of the most acute problems of the Syrian Arab army is the traditionally low culture of maintenance and repair of military equipment. The low general level of training of the personnel did not allow to properly exploit the rather varied weapons and military equipment park.
The technical illiteracy of the operators suffered not only such complex models as anti-aircraft missile systems, but also much simpler ones - tanks, towed artillery guns, infantry fighting vehicles. According to the representative of the Russian Ministry of Defense, who was familiar with the pre-war situation, due to improper storage and operation of artillery systems, most of them were constantly experiencing leakage of recoil fluid, armored vehicles and radio stations did not work on armored vehicles. The batteries were constantly stolen, and those that remained in stock, almost did not hold a charge. Not only the crews of tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, armored personnel carriers, calculations of self-propelled guns, but also the commanders of units and subunits, as well as their technical deputies, did not monitor the oil level in the engines, the refilling was not carried out on time. Despite the great dustiness, the filters did not change, at best they were cleaned manually.
At the end of 1990 - the beginning of 2000 - s, Syria upgraded about two hundred T-72 tanks, installing Italian TURMS-T fire control systems with a laser range finder and a ballistic computer on them.
Such "seventy-second" armed elite units of the Republican Guard, differing from the Syrian Arab army more prepared and technically competent personnel, and yet to the beginning of the civil war survived no more than two dozen vehicles. And the Italian MSA TURMS-T due to improper operation and poor maintenance failed first.
With the start of full-scale battles between the loyal Assad formations and anti-government units, our specialists continued to carry out their tasks, although a significant part returned to their homeland. The number of military specialists has increased slightly since the moment when the “Syrian Express” began to work actively in 2012. We are talking about large-scale deliveries of Russian arms and military equipment to government forces. The name is given by analogy with the famous "Tokyo Express" (imperial delivery fleet assistance to the troops fighting on the Guadalcanal in 1942), since large landing ships were used to transport various cargoes to Syria, crossing from our Black Sea ports to Latakia and Tartus. Damage was transferred to T-72, BMP-1, armored personnel carriers, GAZ-3308 "Sadko", MLRS "Grad" and other samples.
According to the military industrial complex, after the transfer of the Smerch and Uragan multiple rocket launchers to the pro-government forces, the Russian specialists trained the military not only to use these complex systems, but also to carry out their maintenance and maintenance. True, the low level of technical training of CAA personnel, as well as the often unjustified use of vehicles in battle, with which the commanders compensated for the lack of infantry, led to heavy losses.
In most cases, tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and armored personnel carriers, which received minimal damage, simply threw themselves onto the battlefield without attempting to evacuate them. At the same time, in the CAA reserve, there was still a huge amount of units of equipment that were still faulty since the pre-war times, which after restoration could be sent against the terrorists. According to the well-known “military industrial complex”, observers estimate that the Syrian military has developed a kind of stereotype: why regret weapons and military equipment, if you still send a new one.
Inflated from the north
At the end of the summer of 2015, the newest Russian BTR-30 armed with 82-mm automatic cannon appeared at the pro-government formations. It is not entirely clear who drove the armored personnel carriers - the Syrian military personnel or Russian instructors. On video clips distributed on the Web, Russian speech is sometimes clearly heard.
If the use of the BTR-82 was still sporadic, the appearance of the T-90 tanks in the CAA attracted close attention from domestic and foreign media. The exact number of "nineties" transferred to Damascus is unknown, but according to the "MIC", there are no more than two dozen so far. The new tanks came from the presence of the Russian defense department, which, in particular, is indicated by the characteristic tricolor deforming coloring scheme of combat vehicles.
Why the choice was made in favor of the T-90, and not the actively upgraded T-72B3 currently being delivered to the Ground Forces of the Russian Armed Forces, there is no clear explanation. According to the source "MIC", familiar with the situation, preference is given to the "ninetieth" because of its better protection in urban combat, as well as when the enemy uses anti-tank weapons. The elements of the “Kontakt-5” dynamic protection system installed on T-90, in combination with the thickness and shape of the armor, make it possible to more effectively protect the turret from damage from hand-held rocket launchers compared to T-72B3. At the same time, the “Shutter” complex can not only warn the crew of the tank about laser targeting and put a smoke screen on it, but also hit the radiation source by turning the tower in “Transfer” mode at high speed in the right direction.
True, according to the interlocutor of the "MIC", in a city battle situation, a tank is not always affected by RPG fire in the turret, often in the air. In this case, the lateral protection of both the T-90 and the T-72B3 is equally weak. But as the experience of urban battles in Syria shows, with relatively narrow streets and high-rise buildings, the terrorists mostly fire from the upper floors, trying to hit the tank in the least protected, from their point of view, part is the top sheet, a place that is reliably covered on T -90 elements of dynamic protection.
Interestingly, some of the “nineties” transferred to Syria are older machines with the so-called cast turret, although there are modern samples with welded armor. If we compare all the facts, we can assume that the 20-I motorized rifle brigade from Volgograd most likely said goodbye to a part of its “nineties”. She was the only one where the "cast" T-90 still remained. Videos have already appeared on the Internet, where one of the opposition groups allegedly destroys the "ninetieth" anti-tank complex "Tou-2". Representatives of the Ministry of Defense, who were familiar with the situation, did not deny, but did not confirm this fact. Still, with a great deal of confidence, it can be argued that the video impresses the old Syrian T-72.
The training of T-90 tank crews by Russian military specialists, in particular, the development of the OMS and the Shtora complex, took several months. In addition to using onboard equipment, Syrian crews were trained in the maintenance and repair of all elements of the machine. As the interlocutor of the "MIC" said: "In the volumes established by regulatory documents."
In addition to the T-90, the CAA also received the TOS-1A heavy flame-thrower systems, also from the stocks of the Russian army. The training of the Syrian calculations of the “Sun chains” took much less time than the crews on the T-90, due to the fact that TOC was decided to be used only for firing from closed positions. Accordingly, the course of combat training was significantly reduced. In addition, the situation that had developed at the time of delivery to Syria TOC required that Sunsheets be brought into battle as quickly as possible, so the calculations were completed from experienced gunners, who were not hard to retrain.
With the start of the operation of the VKS of the Russian Federation, another major task for our military specialists was the organization of the restoration of weapons and military equipment, including those stored for a long time. According to calculations, known by the "military industrial complex", the pre-war reserves, combined with the previously delivered "Syrian express" machines, are more than enough to fight terrorists. But if the government forces continue to be guided by the principle “Do not regret, they still give them anyway”, then no supplies, especially now, when the intensity of the battles has increased many times, will not save the situation.
Repair on an industrial scale
According to some reports, several factories have already been restored in Syria, where not only tanks and infantry fighting vehicles are being repaired, but also artillery and even air defense systems. Evacuation units were created and trained, taking out damaged and outdated equipment from the battlefield. There were also maneuverable groups sent to Syrian units for repair and maintenance of weapons and military equipment.
In the process of restoring Syrian armored vehicles, its modernization is carried out, in particular, to increase security. Government forces used to build up its artisanal methods in the course of the war, fixing additional sandbags on tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, armored personnel carriers and even self-propelled artillery and anti-aircraft installations, welding various elements, including the anti-cumulative “bed” grids so popular with the Ukrainian military.
At present, the additional booking has ceased to be chaotic and has moved into the category of centralized work, when standard protective elements are installed on the military equipment. But the initiative fighters of government units often self-defend their tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, armored personnel carriers and self-propelled guns so that they turn them into true works of art.
The technical support system created with the help of Russian military specialists is not always effective, although the situation with damaged and evacuated vehicles is improving. A common problem remains weak technical literacy of personnel, especially former militias, who, like before the war, do not always want to engage in difficult and sometimes tedious work.
The complexity of the tasks facing the military specialists is difficult to overestimate - this is the restoration of equipment and the retraining of the wards to new types of weapons and military equipment. It is a pity that on the background of large-scale battles such work is often virtually invisible. But without it, victory in the ongoing civil war is unattainable.