Sunday, 24 August 2014

Tabqa airbase captured by the Islamic State at last




After encountering some setbacks earlier on, Tabqa airbase finally fell to fighters of the Islamic State today. With only one Pro-Assadist obstacle remaining in Northern Syria, the Islamic State's territorial continuity in Northern Syria is closer than ever.

Tabqa is now the third airbase to have been captured by the Islamic State and is the second currently in the hands of the Islamic State along with Kshesh. Tabqa provides the Islamic State with numerous anti-aircraft guns and radars. Although several MiG-21s were captured intact, it is deemed unlikely that the Islamic State will be able to use them.

While the initial three assaults were slowed down and then repelled by a combination of minefields and the involvement of the Syrian Arab Air Force (SyAAF), which brought in fighter-bombers, attack helicopters and resupplied the base with transport planes, the ground forces on the base remained limited in numbers. The renewed, fourth offensive broke through Tabqa's main defence line, after which the SyAAF was powerless to stop them.

The losses at Tabqa reveal the main weakness of the Islamic State: A lack of surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) to destroy or prevent enemy aircraft from flying over its territory. While there aren't any SAMs to capture in Iraq, such weaponry is available in Syria. Although MANPADS are scarce in Northern Syria, Deir ez-Zor still houses two SAM sites with 2K12 Kub mobile SAM systems. While the 2K12s are too complicated to use for an inexperienced crew, former operators can be forced to man these systems for the Islamic State.

The continued efforts by the SyAAF to save Tabqa from capture by the Islamic State were significant. Yet now it seems this expensive operation was all in vain. It did not only cost precious amounts of fuel, but also tonnes of ammunition used by the SyAAF's fighter-bombers and attack helicopters on positions of the Islamic State.

The assault on Tabqa airbase largely came as unexpected as it was thought Kweres airbase would be next on the list. The reason for focussing on Tabqa instead might have something to do with the status of this base.

Strategically located, the fall of the base provides a free card for the Islamic State to expand their base of operations deeper into Syria. Although a renewed offensive on Aleppo might seem a more obvious move for the Islamic State, there is now nothing in between the Islamic State and Tadmur airbase (Palmyra) and T.4 airbase, housing the SyAAF's Su-24 fleet.

Also, while Tabqa still houses operational fighter-aircraft, Kweres is nothing more than a runway littered with plane wrecks and troops only capable of defending the base, already being under siege and preparing for the imminent assault since December 2012.

While most of the planes at Kweres are either incapable of performing interdiction sorties, damaged or destroyed by the Islamic State's mortar fire pounding the airbase in the last months, Tabqa is home to 12 squadron and another unknown squadron flying MiG-21bis, MiG-21MFs and MiG-21UMs

The airbase was also home to various Mi-8/17, Mi-25 and SA-342 'Gazelle' detachments, mostly being used for barrel-bomb attacks and resupplying the besieged bases of Division 17, Regiment 121, Brigade 93 and Kweres airbase.

Lastly, Tabqa houses eight munition bunkers, four anti-aircraft positions with a total of twenty-four anti-aircraft guns and five radars. Two PRV-13s, one P-14, one P-35/37 and the modern JY-27 radar system remained undamaged after the the initial three assaults, probably because the Islamic State wants them intact.

These radar systems are responsible for detecting aircraft in Northern Syria. If that capability is lost, the Pro-Assadists will lose any grip of what plane enters Syrian airspace via the North. A gap that can't be filled.

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The spoils of Regiment 121, captured by the Islamic State
The spoils of Brigade 93, captured by the Islamic State

22 comments:

  1. Seriously, who writes these articles? Criminal terrorist savages of ISIS are called as "fighters" and legal government "pro-assadist"? Is "Oryx" a terrorist supporter or maybe spokes person for the terrorists? My last question of the same subject just just deleted, no answer. Expect the same here.

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    1. Your comments get removed because they are set up in the same non-constructive and aggressive mindset you display here. Terminology in articles on Oryx Blog has been thoroughly discussed by its authors to be as objective as possible. "Criminal terrorist savages of ISIS" are called "fighters of the Islamic State" because that's precisely what they are. "Fighters for the legal government" are called "Pro-Assadists" because there hasn't been a functioning central government in Syria for several years, and because the concerning party is fighting for the side led by Bashar al-Assad. Please refrain from posting further comments in the same vain; as you mentioned they will just continue to be removed.

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    2. Majority of Syrians are on side of the government, certainly not in the side of the Jihadis. Calling them as "Assadists" and Jihadi crazies as "fighters" is just not balanced, constructive or truthful. I really suggest this blog drops the use of the loaded and biased terms. Cheers.

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    3. Syria still have a central govt that doesn't control the entire country and they have the support of majority syrians and anti-Assads are mostly non-syrians
      calling NDF Assadists is acceptable
      but calling the Army is not really acceptable and its easier to call them as SAA,SyAA or NDF anyway

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    4. bawwww, this useful, informative blog full or original content isn't using the precise language my political orientation demands, bawwww

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    5. Way to be terrorist apologists, from Australia.

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    6. way to be a hyperbolic goonbag from the internet.

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  2. Anon your an idiot, the assads have ruled over the majoirty sunni's for 40 plus years with brutal tyrannical behaviour. They killed over 40,000 in hama in 1982 backstabbed the pal's in lebanon and were ruthless bloodthirsty criminals. Their only credit is they are godless and love vices so i guess thats OK, this war shows that assad only allies are shia's and christians all minorities who benefited from the regime as well as sellout sunni's who are irrelevent. Remember this an insurgency cannot grow without local support the US learned that in vietnam, afghanistan and iraq and now assad has learned that from syria. One thing positive out of all of this is those sunni arab regimes are next and if they fall the US will probably go down to i.e PETRODOLLAR connected to the saudi royal family the backbone of the US empire.

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  3. Has any photographic evidence come out of Tabqa indicating Islamic State managed to capture any intact aircraft or SAM systems?

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  4. All muslims should rhank Allah for His Help...please pray 2 rakat nafil salat..
    Duaas needed from all muslims for the establishment if khilafat to destroy Israel...too many muslims are being killed and humiliated in palestine brothers please pray..khilafat is the only last hope...for us palestinies

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  5. Answered my own question: A member of Islamic State poses on top of a captured Mig-21 fighter at Tabqa Air Base.

    http://www.militaryphotos.net/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=224202&d=1408916170

    The calls for U.S intervention against Islamic State forces in Syria will only grow after this.

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  6. A question worth asking is how sustainable is the SyAAF?- they seem to be fully committed but must be suffering attrition, even if not directly from enemy action, the tempo of their operations and the age of their equipment suggests they should be suffering a number of losses from accidents. Just looking at the few photos of Tabqa that have come out so far it seems to have plenty of abandoned non-operational aircraft suggesting the operational pool is slowly diminishing.

    More broadly, the progressive losses to IS and the relative stalling of regime offensives in other areas suggests that the advantage handed to the regime when Hezbollah entered the fray and the Gulf arms flow dried has now been eroded and the regime is now back to being slowly ground down.

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    1. Operational tempo of assad air force is indeed astounding. Planeloads of spares must be arriving weekly, mechanics working triple shifts. As you pointed out, lots of junk to cannibalize. Look closely at sat photos of most Syrian airbases and you see dusty airframes rotting in the desert behind the shelters.

      Still, smaller number of operational aircraft every day.

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    2. Before the airbase was captured over 1000 soldiers and most of capable aircarft were evacuated
      So syira still have a powerful airforce

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  7. While i disagree on attacking the writers of Oryx blog with such terms, it has to be admitted that some articles concerning Sirya may appears slightly sided: not toward the IS, but with a general anti-governative approach.

    It's a bit a personal opinion, but this should not interfere against the strategical situation.
    And speaking about this, the "fall" of this airbase appears to be not a one-sided victory for the IS.
    Governative forces retreated after the last assault, to prevent further losses and having already inflicted some, leaving behind not really shocking items to be used by the IS.

    And the expenses in term of fuel and ammunition can be easily filled with the resupplies from their allies (first of all Iran).

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  8. This is horrible news.

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  9. Nice blog.... Oryx please ignore the bullshit comments by Shias they can't dijest reality.....

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    1. Yeah, the reality is you'll beat them some day and live in a Sunni paradise....

      Seriously, why don't learn to live with your neighbors, who worship the same freakin god you do. interminable fighting has only resulted in Muslims and Arabs being second class citizens.

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  10. have any of these so called moslems ever actually read the Koran or the Hadith? I once believed that Islams glory was that they had no creed {which is always devised by people with with their own agendas and prejudices] they had the holy book which told them how to be obedient and the words of the prophet which tells them how to apply those rules.
    Moses gave all the children of the book 10 commandments and these blasphemers have broken every one and brought shame to every Moslem.

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  11. nice read -most forthright and objective... thank u

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  12. quit whining you little bastards, neutral blog is not supposed to point out who is the right or wrong, its task is to describe what opponent A achived against opponent B and vice versa.

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