Air Strikes by VKS & SyAAF, 20 April 2017

There was next to no activity until 01.00hrs in the morning, but then some 5–6 of Russian air strikes — supported even by an Il-20M — were reported from western Idlib and western Aleppo by 02.27. The morning wave of Russian air strikes (at least 20 take-offs from Hmemmem) hit heavily the area of Khan Sheykoun, between 06.30 and 07.45.

Hama AB burst into action this morning, launching a MiG-21, MiG-23, and four helicopters, 08.00–08.30, after which three Su-22s were active over southern Idlib too: one of these came from Shayrat, but it’s unclear from where the other two came (possibly from Nayrab AB?). Talbiseh was hit by another Su-22, around 09.00hrs. Additional Su-22s were scrambled from Kweres and Shayrat around 09.20, as was one Su-24 from Tiyas. Kweres AB launched two additional Su-22s around 09.40. By 11.30, also at least six helicopters from Hama were airborne, indicating the damage — to the base and to the helicopters — from the BM-21-strike of 17 April was repaired.

Around 14.00hrs, both the VKS and the SyAAF launched a massive wave of air strikes. This lasted until at least 17.00hrs and included at least 30 take-offs from Hmemmem AB, most of wich were directed against Latamina and Taybet al-Imam. The latter was then exposed to a big-scale attack of the IRGC and the Russians (at least two of whom were KIA by an insurgent TOW ATGM, few days ago): the fighting is still going on, with insurgent sources indicating they are counterattacking there, this morning.

Additional Russian air strikes targeted Dera’a, while Assadists flew several against Eastern Ghouta. During the evening, the Russians continued bombing targets in Idlib and western Aleppo.

Totals

VKS

fighter-bombers: 91

helicopters: 8

UAVs: 11 (this figure is including a number of sorties actually flown by Iranian UAVs)

recce: 6

SyAAF

helicopters: 17

L-39s: 13

MiG-21s: 4 (all from Hama)

MiG-23s: 7 (all from Hama)

Su-22s: 23 (from Kweres, Shayrat and Tiyas)

Su-24s: 15 (all from Tiyas)

This was something like ‘exceptionally active’, ‘all-out’ day for the SyAAF; i.e. a day on which this service flew as much as it currently can. This was necessary because of the big attack on Taybat al-Imam, and because at least a third of the VKS at Hmemmem AB had something like a ‘day off’.

As expected (and contrary to CNN’s reports, based on anonymous sources in the Pentagon) there is no indication that any kind of SyAAF aircraft have been re-deployed to Russian-operated Hmemmem AB. At most, perhaps two L-39s have been re-deployed to Nayrab AB — where sat photos are showing clear indication of some repair work, lately.

(This is not to mix with the presence of at least 12 L-39s at ‘The Works’ at Nayrab AB: the latter is the SyAAF’s major overhaul facility, and these aircraft are waiting to be overhauled.)

The general deployment of the SyAAF remains the same like since 7 April: Su-22s remain based at Kweres (some 3–4 aircraft), Shayrat (3 aircraft), and Tiyas (2 aircraft; Su-24s continue their operations from Tiyas (some 6–7 are operational on average), and MiG-21s and MiG-23s at Hama (2–3 flights a day on average, with occassional ‘bursts’ of two sorties a day per air frame, like on this day). Most of Su-22s are flying at least two sorties a day. There is next to no activity by MiG-23s and MiG-29s from Dmeyr. The number of L-39s at Hama dropped a bit, but remains stabile: this now down to 4–5 operational aircraft, each of which is flying two, sometimes three sorties a day (they used to fly up to a dozen in late March and early April). Rather surprisingly, the number of L-39s at Kweres seems to have been significantly decreased: these are now never flying more than 2–4 sorties a day from that air base (contrary to up to a dozen, back in November 2016, for example).