Air Strikes by VKS & SyAAF, 16 April 2017

The wave of Russian air strikes launched during the evening of 15 April, was further accelerated after the midnight. Supported by at least four UAVs, 15 fighter-bombers that got airborne by 01.00hrs bombed all the way from the Jishr ash-Shughour, via Ma’arat an-Nauman and Khan Sheykhoun, to Kfar Zita and Latamina.

The VKS then stopped for the night of rest, but two Su-25s returned to rocket targets in the Khan Sheykhoun area around 08.05. They were followed by two MiG-23s (very unusual) and a helicopter that launched from Hama t 08.13–08.15.

The second Russian wave commenced launching around 08.30hrs. Consisting of 11 aircraft, combined with 5 helicopters, this targeted almost exclusively the Khan Sheykhoun and western Aleppo areas for over an hour.

A Su-22 (probably from Kweres) approached the Sarqib area around 09.46, but it’s unclear what it bombed. A UAV that arrived there around 10.00hrs, then announced the next VKS wave. As so often, this began with two Su-25s, and went on for hours, targeting western Aleppo, but also Khan Sheykhoun and Latamina in particular. This was combined with two Su-22s from Kweres AB (take-offs at 10.08 and 10.25) — one of which bombed Talbiseh in northern Homs — a Su-24 that scrambled from Tiyas at 10.43, a MiG-23 from Hama at 11.13, another Su-24 from Tiyas at 11.24, two Su-24s (also very unusual!) from Tiays at 11.34 (at least one bombed Khan Sheykhoun), two Su-22s from Kweres at 12.01 (first time ever), two Su-22s from Kweres at 12.12–12.16, a helicopter from as-Safira (which turned south, not east to bomb Daesh, for example), and another Su-22 from Kweres at 12.35.

Theoretically, it could be said there was a short break, a quarter of an hour before 13.00hrs, but actually air strikes just went on. Two Mi-8s from Hama bombed Souran around 13.10, while Russians meanwhile bombed Darat Azza and Hreitan. A MiG-23 scrambled from Hama at 13.14 and bombed the Souran area, just like a L-39 that launched from Hama at 13.19hrs. Indeed, a tremendous wave-within-wave (at least 10, possibly up to 16 Russian fighter-bombers) hit Latamina between 13.45 and 14.00hrs. Sarqib, Ma’arat an-Nauman and Khan Sheykhoun were hit around the same time.

The tempo of Russian operations slowed down only after 14.15 (by then they flew 62 sorties since 10.00hrs!), when SyAAF kind of ‘took over’: a su-22 launched from Shayrat (if my memory is serving me correctly: this is the first take-off from that base in three days) at 14.14, a MiG-23 from Hama at 14.16, a Su-22 from Tiyas at 14.20, and another Su-22 from Shayrat at 14.32.

Meanwhile, the VKS’ sole Il-20M was sighted over the Sarqib area, around 14.49. It de-facto announced a small Russian wave that included eight take-offs. Two or three of these bombed the Khan Sheykhoun area, but others apparently flew all the way to Dera’a, in southern Syria, which was hit by (between others) these 4 parachute-retarded bombs (why are they dropping parachute-retarded bombs while operating from their usual, relatively high, altitudes… that’s unclear to me: parachute-retarded bombs were actually developed for strikes from very low altitudes, so that bombs couldn’t cause damage to aircraft releasing them).

Sometimes between 15.00 and 16.00hrs, Jaysh an-Nasr plastered Hama AB with a volley of BM-21s. Jaysh al-Izza followed in fashion, and this time they really aimed well, then the air base was left engulfed in fire and smoke (which, BTW, was visible all the way to northern Homs):

The Jaysh an-Nasr claimed one MiG-23 was destroyed on the ground and, certainly enough, no MiG-23 sorties from Hama were recorded for the rest of the day. Such operations cannot but be described as ‘effective’ — although it might be a better idea to time then for earlier during the morning. Actually, it’s rather amazing they’re a) not undertaken more often, and b) the VKS and the SyAAF appear entirely unable to prevent them.

The next VKS wave commenced launching around around 16.21hrs (always the local time). It primarily targeted the area between Latamina and Souran, and consisted of 20 sorties. It mixed with some SyAAF activity, including a Su-22 from Shayrat at 16.26, another from Tiyas at 16.33, one Su-22 from Shayrat at 16.55, one Su-22 from Shayrat at 17.19, and one from Dmeyr around 17.40.

Several of these (Assadist sources cited 5) have targeted positions of the FSyA at Jabal Sharqiya, in eastern Qalamoun — thus de-facto providing ‘close air support’ for the Daesh.

Hama was back in operations by 18.00hrs, when three helicopters took off from there. One of these was this Ka-28(?).

In regards of attacks against the Daesh yesterday, as far as I can say, these were limited to one Russian helicopter that lifted off Shayrat around 16.38, two that launched at 17.11hrs, and one at 17.26. Nothing else was reported.

Evening air strikes began at 19.12hrs, when a Su-24 took off from Tiyas. This was followed by 12 Russian sorties from Hmemmem launched by 22.00, and four L-39s from Kweres (22.32, 22.33, 22.39, and 23.23).

Totals
VKS
fighter-bombers: 114
helicopters: 27
UAVs: 9
recce: 1

SyAAF
helicopters: 17
L-39: 9
MiG-21: 0
MiG-23: 4
Su-22: 14 (highest number of sorties since US strike on Shayrat)
Su-24: 9

No ‘new records’, but a tremendously intensive day, during which especially the VKS targeted a few rather narrow zones. The Russians — especially their helicopters — flew ‘all out’, even if not managing a fourth major wave. As meanwhile well-known, they de-facto carpet-bombed Latamina in northern Hama — and that not only once — during the afternoon. The SyAAF launched one of its strongest performances since the US strike on Shayrat: much of that effort was aimed at supporting the IRGC’s assault on Souran. It’s going to be interesting to see if it can keep the pace.

Notable ‘other kind’ of aerial operation: VKS Il-76MD departing Hmemmem AB — on a possible MEDEVAC flight for Russia.