Air Strikes by VKS & SyAAF, 15 April 2017

A minute after the midnight, an UAV was observed while circling overhead Sarqib: it announced a day of intensive VKS operations. Take-offs from Hmemmem began 11 minutes later — and then developed into an all-out operation. By 01.05, 20 fighter-bombers got airborne and began bombing the areas around Kfar Nabl, Khan Sheykoun, Sarqib (including Dayr Sunbul, which was hit by RBK-500s filled with termite), and Latamina. This operation ended by another UAV, observed around 01.18.

There followed a longer break during which only sporadic take-offs were registered: two Su-25 took off from Hmemmem AB at 05.57; a UAV was reported over Kfar Nabl at 08.04; a helicopter underway in Jishr ash-Shughour area four minutes later; a MiG-23 that lifted off from Hama AB, at 08.19; and three helicopters at 08.40 (biggest helicopter formation taking-off from Hama so far: such are extremely unusual for the SyAAF).

Additional helicopters — VKS’ and SyAAF’s — were reported from Kfar Nabl area around 09.00hrs; then one MiG-23 took-off from Hama at 09.14, and another at 09.36, plus additional helicopters from that air base, and three from Sanobar — all of which got airborne by 10.00hrs.

A single Su-22 scrambled from Kweres AB at 10.08 — and turned in southern direction (not in eastern, as they do when attacking Daesh): this was sighted passing the Sarqib area, nine minutes later, but it remains unknown what did it bomb. Another Su-22 took-off from Kweres at 10.20 (this also bombed something in the Sarqib area), and two MiG-21s from Hama, at 10.35 and 10.40. Rounding up this ‘wave’, two helicopters lifted off from Hama and another Su-22 from Kweres by 11.00hrs. It seems that one of these aircraft bombed the school in Kfar Laha, on the western side of the Ra’astan-Talbiseh Pocket. Fortunately for those at receiving end, this was empty at the time of attack.

At 11.30, a single Su-22 took-off from Tiyas and turned in northern direction (not in north-eastern, like when they strike Daesh). This apparently flew the first out of several air strikes that has hit Latamina. Another Su-22 — probably from Dmeyr — was reported over the Sarqib area around 11.34, and one took off from Shayrat at 11.56. The helicopter that launched from as-Safira at 11.58, went in eastern direction — i.e. almost certainly attacked something Daesh-held in the Dayr Hafer area. Latamina was bombed again by a single Su-22 (probably from Dmeyr) around 12.03hrs, with two of bombs missing the town:

Around 13.00hrs local time, in one of its rare operations over southern Syria yesterday, a SyAAF helicopter barrel-bombed the Nasib border crossing to Jordan:

Exact purpose of this action remains unclear to me.

The Russians barely flew during this period: less than a handful of reports indicated some helicopter and UAV activity, primarily from the Sarqib area. Seems, the VKS was monitoring the evacuation from Fouah and Kefrayah. This changed at 15.37, when the first fighter-bomber of a new wave took-off from Hmemmem: this included ‘only’ 11 aircraft and ended around 16.00hrs, when the sole Russian Il-20M was reported underway in the skies high above Sarqib and Taftanaz.

At 17.00hrs, the next Russian wave commenced launching. Initially, this was run at a slow pace, and included almost as many helicopter sorties from Sanobar as fighter-bomber sorties from Hmemmem AB. But then the pace of take-offs accelerated. Around 19.00hrs, this Russian effort was ‘reinforced’ by take-offs of several L-39s and helicopters from Hama AB, while the Russian Il-20M was reportedly airborne over Latamina. Indeed, most of involved aircraft have bombed this town, plus Halfaya and Kfar Zita areas (including Tamala), between 19.30 and 21.00hrs — and in combination with at least two additional L-39s from Kweres and several helicopters from Hama (the latter bombed the Zalin CP, outside Souran). Overall, this operation included 30 VKS and at least 10 SyAAF sorties.

The final Russian wave of the day commenced launching at 20.58, and was again rather slow. It slowly accelerated after 22.00, by when the VKS targeted primarily the Hreitan area, in western Aleppo. By midnight, this effort included a total of 16 take-offs, up to 6 UAVs, and the Il-20M (the latter might still have flown the same sortie like during the late afternoon: this type has a very long endurance and can remain airborne for up to 8 hours).

In other news…

Assad-Regime claimed flying some sort of air strike on the Daesh leadership in al-Bukamal area, and Baghdad ‘confirmed’ this. However, it neither released the date nor details on involved aircraft. The only aerial movement that could be related to such an action was the take-off of a single Su-24 from Tiyas, around 20.51hrs. Namely, this turned south after getting airborne — which is extremely unusual. That remained only such movement by the SyAAF throughout the day, though.

A Russian Il-76 carrying UN markings and operating from Amman IAP in Jordan, dropped another load of supplies for the besieged regime garrison in Dayr az-Zawr:*

Totals

VKS

fighter-bombers: 87

helicopters: 29

UAVs: 15

recce: 2 (at least)

SyAAF

helicopters: 27

L-39s: 11

MiG-21: 3

MiG-23: 9

Su-22: 5

Su-24: 1

***

  • Note: I’m perfectly aware of the fact, that Moscow claims such flights serve the purpose of providing relief aid to the population of Dayr az-Zawr, and ANNA’s videos show people wearing SARC-uniforms recovering the goods in question. However, I’m also aware only a minor part of the city is still under the regime control: most of Dayr az-Zawr is meanwhile held by the Daesh.

More important is the way the ‘regime garrison’ in Dayr az-Zawr is commanded. In essence, there are two ‘regime-controlled’ pockets and two forces ‘in control’ of the situation there. One is commanded by Major-General Kaddour, supported by troops of the Air Force- and Military Intelligence, but primarily consisting of ‘NDF’ of the Busra Tribe (a militia owned by millionaire Firas Jihab [or Jihal]). The other is commanded by Major-Geral Essam Zahreddine and consists of the 104th Brigade ‘Republican Guards’ (or what is left of the same, which is less than 200 troops), supported by ‘NDF’ — i.e. militia of the Shteytat Tribe. Kaddour and Zahreddine control the distribution of all the remaining supplies — no matter in what fashion, or by whom, were these provided.

These two groups are at odds with each other at least as much as they are at odds with the Daesh.

What is less clear is on what side are the small contingents of Hezbollah (and/or al-Ghalibun, aka Hezbollah/Syria) that were inserted into one of pockets with help of SyAAF helicopters, in January and February this year.