Saturday, 23 August 2014

Tabqa airbase still holding out against the Islamic State

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

After a series of fierce clashes, the penultimate Pro-Assadist stronghold in Northern Syria is still holding out against fighters of the Islamic State. Tabqa airbase is now the fourth base to have been targeted by fighters of the Islamic State in a series of offensives conducted in lightning speed.

Similar to the attack on Brigade 93, the base was pounded by artillery and multiple rocket launchers (MRLs) captured at Regiment 121 and Brigade 93. However, while the capture of Regiment 97, Brigade 93 and Regiment 121 went smoothly, fighters of the Islamic State fell into a prepared, well-executed trap during the assault on Tabqa. Subsequently the Islamic State only managed to capture one anti-aircraft position and a few buildings.

Much of this has to do with the inability of the Islamic State to succesfully defend itself against enemy aircraft, a gap in capabilities fully exploited by the Syrian Arab Air Force (SyAAF), which not only flew sorties against fighters of the Islamic State, but also managed to resupply the base using Il-76 and An-26 transport planes.

The defence of Tabqa rested on the SyAAF's ability to provide sufficient air cover to not only help defend the base, but also strike back at Islamic State positions. The initial assault was slowed down by the many minefields surrounding the airbase, during which the fighters also came under heavy fire from multiple sides. The SyAAF was subsequently unleashed on the fighters of the Islamic State, which were out in the open and fully exposed. The MiG-21s still present at the airbase remained active during the assault, flying sorties from Tabqa's 9.842 feet long runway.

The SyAAF's assault on Islamic State positions and vehicles around Tabqa also saw the first combat role for the SA-342 'Gazelle' in the now three-and-a-half-year-long Syrian Civil War. Because the SA-342s can only be armed with SS.12 and HOT anti-tank missiles, they weren't very useful before. The open deserts of Tabqa proved to be the perfect place for these helicopers. Armed with HOT missiles, they saw heavy action against vehicles of the Islamic State.

They were joined by the heavier Mi-25s, which flew sorties armed with unguided rockets and bombs.

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


  1. Couple of things i heard:
    1) IS has lost HUNDREDS of terrorists already here, 3 or 4 assaults being repelled, with very little to show for.
    2) There is REPUBLICAN GUARD troops in the base, Syria isnt going to give up or lose this one.
    3) Terrorist have used bunch of suicide vehicle bombs, those were destroyed by anti-tank missiles.
    4) Theres been very little to no "face to face" combat between ground troops, terrorists are getting raped by heavy weapons and aircraft of all sorts.

  2. Thanks for the update.

    Can you comment on where you get your information from?