Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Further Russian Air Force reinforcements arrive in Syria, Su-25 'Frogfoots' join the fray




After the sighting of Su-30MS' and Su-24M(2)s over Syrian airspace just days ago, new satellite imagery acquired by Stratfor and AllSource Analysis dating from the 20th of September has now revealed the presence of twelve Su-25 'Frogfoots' being assembled at Hmeemeem/Bassel al-Assad IAP for a total of twenty Russian combat aircraft now confirmed to be deployed in Syria. Around the same time, U.S. officials claimed that no less than twenty-eight combat aircraft and up to twenty helicopters have now been stationed in Syria as part of wider Russian deployment of military personnel in Syria.

The aerial strength of this Russian expeditionary force now totals an impressive twelve Su-24M(2) and four Su-30SM fighter-bombers and another twelve Su-25 ground-attack aircraft in addition to up to twenty helicopters, mainly Mi-24/35s and a few Mi-17s and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The Su-24M(2)s have however not yet been seen on satellite imagery of Hmeemeem/Bassel al-Assad IAP, which may appear on later satellite imagery or have since been stationed elswhere, T4 being a logical choice considering it already houses the SyAAF's Su-24 fleet.

Reports of UAVs operating from Hmeemeem/Bassel al-Assad IAP are not surprising given the sheer size of the Russian contingent deployed in Syria. The first Russian UAVs were already spotted over Syria on the 21st of July 2015, a mission which might now have been expanded with larger types of UAVs.

Although inferior in numbers, the quality of Sukhoi strike force far extends that of the Syrian Arab Air Force (SyAAF), which now operates eleven Su-24M2s, around a dozen of MiG-29SMs and the remainder of the Su-22, L-39, MiG-21 and MiG-23 fleet. Despite still being a force to be reckoned with, it soldiers on in ever decreasing numbers, with remaining airframes becoming more worn by the day.

While the exact goals behind the mass deployment of Russian military personnel, equipment, vehicles and aircraft remain unknown, a sudden offensive spearheaded by Russia might result in completely different results then one undertaken by the regime. Another possibility is that Russia will refrain from a large scale deployment of troops to the frontline and instead will participate with its aerial assets first, which might reach up to fifty aircraft and helicopters in size in the coming days.




The Su-25s, all nicely lined up, represent an excellent Close Air Support (CAS) force, and could utilise their large payloads to provide continuing support to ground forces during any offensive. Especially when equipped with modern Russian guided munitions, these aircraft greatly improve upon the SyAAF's own ground attack capabilities, and are rugged enough to endure most of the light anti-air weaponry most parties in Syria can throw at it.

Jaish al-Islam has meanwhile been busy trying to strike the airbase with Grad rockets, already claiming to have hit a Russian transport aircraft on the 18th of September. It is unlikely however that any of the rockets fired in the direction of the airbase will actually hit it considering the distance to the base and accuracy of the rockets used. Given the fact all of the aircraft at the airfield are lined up neatly outside, it appears Russia does not worry too much about any rocket strikes yet. A threat to the civilian population of Lattakia, these multiple rocket launchers (MRLs) might be one of the first targets to be taken out however.

One can safely say that the deployment of Russian military forces to Syria means that the regime will be able to hold on to power, with any transition to a unity-government without Assad highly unlikely. Although appearing to be a military operation only, the deployment forces the opposition back to the negotiation table under much less favourable terms, a fact resounded in the so far mild international response to the move.

25 comments:

  1. Thanks for the information Oryx.

    The Russian deployment is rapidly increasing in size and scope. It's a more serious level of support than I anticipated. Dedicated ground attack a/c are bad news for an opposition that is basically an infantry force, using civilian vehicles and some captured AFV.

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    1. Does that mean you're for the opposition?

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    2. No. I think that the Assad government is worth backing because Syria is/was a secular state. That is something worth preserving, in my view (for what it's worth).
      There are probably people doing what they think is right, or acting for what they think are good reasons, on all sides of the conflict.

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  2. Nicely done , I hope to see TUs or Havocs on the future
    PS : I think CAS means close air support right?

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  3. Great post, but I think the last bit about a unity government seems a big incredulous at this point.

    With whom will Assad and his backers negotiate? The anti-government faction on the ground, including ISIS, certainly do not seem interested in settling the conflict through dialogue and a transition to a unity government. The so-called "official opposition" has no forces on the ground.

    Furthermore, the anti-government forces are splintered into hundreds of factions, which the pro-government forces include many militias not directly controlled by the Assad government. A meaningful negotiation seems very unlikely.

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  4. Does this mean Syria will also receive more tanks and combat aircraft to supplant those destroyed, captured or set aside because of lack spares and air frame fatigue?

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  5. - I saw some reports in Western newspapers that there were Russian MiG-29s and MiG-31s in Syria. I have no idea whether those reports are accurate, but I trust Oryx, so I'll believe the reports about the MiGs when I see it here.

    - I agree with Oryx that the Su-25 is an excellent asset to deploy to Syria. i have wondered why during the 2011-2015 period, Russia did not send the regime Su-25s, either on credit or perhaps in lieu of unneeded systems like the S-300.

    - I might be mis-reading Oryx, but I was a bit surprised to see the SAAF's Su-22s referred to as an afterthought. It was only last year that Oryx reported the delivery to Syria of refurbished Su-22s from Iran. I would think that this would make the Su-22s an important part of the SAAF, perhaps second only to the Su-24s.

    - I strongly disagree with Oryx's conclusion about the political impact of this deployment. It is going to take a lot more than 50 aircraft and 500 troops (the latest tally according to the New York Times) to substantially alter the end game. If Russia sends 50,000 troops and 300 aircraft, then Oryx's last paragraph might be realistic. But at this point, it looks like Russia is sending in a small force which will certainly assist the regime and boost its morale, but which also will be an attractive target for every rebel faction and for IS.

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    1. Think about Russia strategy options, that are far wider than Assad's. How do you stop an army, any army, simple: kill their logistics supply line. Now Assad's SAA can't do this to the myriad opposition's Saudi funded supply lines, & has been constant problem, because those supply linescome out of Turkey and Jordan, and are thus protected by those states. Syria and Turkey had some air to air/SAM jostling early on and it is too costly for Syria to get into open war with Turkey. So the opposition logistics are based and mas exactly where the Syrian Air Force can't act on them.
      But Russia is potential game changer on this critical issue - if Russian marked flanker sorties went north up to border with Turkey they will not be attacked by Turkey (NATO) guaranteed. Those flankers can then hit opposition supply convoys on Syrian territory(convoys are actually pretty big - as filmed by German television on Turkish border) if they simply call them ISIS supply lines, and the west and Gulf states can't say squat about it, as after all the west is doing same in Iraq.

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  6. Even in Russia itself Su-25 is not equipped with any PGMs. e.g. 2008 war with Georgia, Chechen wars. There are plans for future and such, but for now it is operates in truly oldstyle manner - unguided rockets, unguided bombs, cannon.

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    1. Ever heard of SU-25SM? It is able to deploy variety of guided ammo. My bet is that Sukhois parked on that picture are in fact SMs

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    2. yes, i have. But i haven't seen any evidence of them firing anythin smarter than unguided rocket.

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    3. Su-25SMs fire the complete range of Russian PGMs.
      What sources do you follow which suggest otherwise?

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    4. Err, no. They *can* fire X-29/X-25 guided rockets and *will be able*(in a distant future, with sm3 upg.) some antiradar missile like x-58. But even in a time of war(2008 Georgia) Su-25 SMs were using dumb oldstyle munition. As for my sources - russian military internets are my primary sources. it is indeed an old whine about Su-25 upg. prog. failure to acheive real PGM capabilities in Russian net.

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  7. ``Although less capable than the Su-30SM, the stationing of Su-24M2s is little surprising given the SyAAF is also operating this variant, which were all recently upgraded from MK standard to M2 standard in Rzhev, Russia.``

    Syrian SU-24MK-s were upgraded to SU-24MK2 standard? Only Russian SU-24M were upgraded to SU-24M2 standard?

    Syrian MIG-29SM is still based on downgraded 9.12 airframes not standard MIG-29SM 9.13 airframes?

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  8. IHS Janes found the missing Su-24 :D

    http://www.janes.com/article/54709/russia-deploys-powerful-strike-group-to-syria

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  9. This buildup is the first shoe, the other will come when Russia offers to stop building up their bases in exchange for the end of sanctions over Ukraine. Obama will, of course, agree. Once that is complete then Russia can resume its' buildup and alter the balance of power in the Middle East.

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  10. I read at first that they identified the fighters as Su-27. Given that the overwhelming part of that fleet is ground-attackers, I would have expected more air superiority fighters. But if they have already installed S-300 and Pantsir SAMs in that area, it would explain the lack of fighter jets to guarantee safety for the non-fighter Su-24 and Su-25 jets. The Su-30 is also capable to fulfil the strike-fighter role.

    The current buildup suggests a strongly anti-terroristic operations team and is not aimed against targets on, say, Israeli or Turkish soil.

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  11. ISIS is evil but the U.S. doesn't want to get into a ground war in Syria. Russia arrives and will probably start attacking ISIS very soon. Glory be! Some other country is doing our work for a change.

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  12. Wow - a week after Russia laid out those 4 flankers for the US satellite photo shoot - and even Erdogan, Turkey's leader and the most virulent anti Assad opponent in NATO is back tracking, saying Assad may have to be part of the solution. Kerry, Merkel all of them are back pedalling on their regime change demands of past 5 years. Looks like Putin may have called their bluff without even ordering the planes off the ground. The Russian's indicated in Ukraine they will take casualties - something NATO doesn't look like it is prepared to do to get Washington's, Neo Conservative, Syrian regime change plan completed.

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  13. Wow - a week after Russia laid out those 4 flankers for the US satellite photo shoot - and even Erdogan, Turkey's leader and the most virulent anti Assad opponent in NATO is back tracking, saying Assad may have to be part of the solution. Kerry, Merkel all of them are back pedalling on their regime change demands of past 5 years. Looks like Putin may have called their bluff without even ordering the planes off the ground. The Russian's indicated in Ukraine they will take casualties - something NATO doesn't look like it is prepared to do to get Washington's, Neo Conservative, Syrian regime change plan completed.

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  14. Chinese liaoning carrier is at tartus with cruiser , report says . WWIII against Islamists maybe

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  15. Probably not Su-25, but first shipment of Yak-130... Both aircraft look similar from top-down view.
    Yankees just doesn't read newspapers ; Russia stated few weeks ago that they were delivering a batch of the order put up on a contract signed back in 2011 with Syria which includes 36 Yak-130.
    Moreover Syria Air Force claimed few days ago to have conducted successful airstrikes over ISIL positions, could be the Yak-130 making its debut.

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    1. No they are su-25
      And there are pictures of su-34 over Latakia . I wish I can post the picture here

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