Air Strikes by VKS & SyAAF, 21 June 2017 — UPDATED
The ‘cease-fire’ negotiated by Russia, Iran, Turkey and Qatar is obviously ‘out of window’: Assadists and Russians are mad about the US & allied freedom of operations, and thus this was a very intensive day in the skies over Syria. Then, how else to ‘strike back at pesky Americans’ — but by bombing Syrian insurgents they do not support (but Damascus and Moscow claim they do)?
Hmemmem launched its first sortie of the day already around 00.09. This went in south-eastern direction — i.e. was not even directed at, say, monitoring US and allied ops over NE Syria, but to bomb insurgents in SE Syria. Tiyas followed by a single Su-24 at 00.19. An additional VKS fighter-bomber was launched at 00.21, and then Almaza sent four helicopters in direction of Dera’a, between 00.39 and 00.51.
Tiyas launched one Russian helicopter at 01.18, then a L-39 at 01.48, a Su-24 at 01.55, another Su-24 at 02.02, and one at 02.08: these went in northern direction. Almazza added one helicopter in southern direction around 02.03. Tiyas continued launching, including one L-39 at 02.09, then a Su-24 at 02.11, and another Su-24 at 02.21. As-Sien added one Su-24 at 02.17. Following something like one hour break, a Su-24 took off from Tiyas in eastern direction at 03.02, followed by a Russian helicopter at 03.17, and then a L-39 at 04.14.
Hmemmem launched one VKS fighter-bomber at 05.04, Tiyas launched another L-39 at 06.28, Shayrat one Su-22 at 07.53, as-Sien one Su-24 at 08.30, Nassiriyah one MiG-23 at 08.37, and a Russian aircraft passed relatively low over Kfar Zita at 08.49. By 09.00, the VKS’ sole A-50 based at Hmemmem AB was airborne too. How vulnerable the Russians feel in Syria is shown by the fact that their AEW aircraft seldom ventures further east than western Idlib. I.e. it’s orbiting an area barely 30km east of Hmemmem AB. BTW, the A-50 is usually escorted by a pair of Su-30SMs, one of which can be seen on this video taken in Tartous area.
Tiyas commenced launching its next mini-wave with a single Su-22 at 09.16, then a Su-24 at 09.19, Su-22 at 09.23, and L-39 at 09.25. At 10.20, the VKS launched one fighter-bomber from Hmemmem AB, and then three Russian helicopters were reportedly active over the Jishr ash-Shughour area. A MiG-23 took off from Nassiriyah at 11.12 and went in southern direction. It was followed by two helicopters that took off from Almazza around 11.45.
Another VKS fighter-bomber lifted from Hmemmem AB at exactly 12.00, and then a Russian helicopter was reported from NE Lattakia too.
At 12.53, Tiyas launched one Su-24, followed by an L-39 at 12.57, a Su-22 at 13.10, and two Su-22s from Shayrat, at 13.11 and 13.23.
A Russian fighter-bomber passed high above Houla at 14.04 (that’s their ‘staging area’ over northern-central Syria), before distancing in southern direction, while Shayrat launched another Su-22 at 14.18. Two Su-22s — probably from Tiyas — also passed above Houla but while underway in northern direction: one at 14.29, another at 16.45. Most of these sorties resulted in air strikes on Jobar, in eastern Damascus.
There followed the — meanwhile usual — afternoon break, after which the Russians launched one fighter-bomber in southern direction at 17.05. One helicopter took off from As-Safira at 17.49, and then a Su-24 from Tiyas at 18.03, and two Russian helicopters took off from that air base at 18.07 and 18.55.
Evening activity begann with a single Su-24 launching from as-Sien at 20.39, and was continued by Kweres launching one L-39 at 20.41, one Su-24 from Tiyas at 20.43, a Su-22 from Tiyas at 20.47, and one Russian helicopter from Tiyas at 20.57.
A Russian fighter-bomber passed high above Houla on the way to Dera’a, at 21.37, and this was followed by two Assadist helicopters from Almazza, launched at 21.44 and 21.49. Additional helicopters from Almazza went in the same direction at 22.12, 22.31, 22.51, and 23.01.
The day ended with take-offs of two VKS fighter-bombers from Hmemmem AB, at 23.57 and 23.58.
Separately from all these combat sorties, a Mi-17 with serial number 2948 was damaged by Daesh’s ground fire while returning from Dayr az-Zawr. Pilot, Col. Issa Ezzedin, managed to nurse it to Qamishli and make a safe emergency landing. The helicopter is a write-off.
fighter-bombers: 11 (not nearly enough to curb US and allied ops over NE Syria)
Su-24s: 14 (this is a lot; something like 1 1/2 sortie per available Su-24 — a day).
Note: confirming my reporting that the Russians lie when talking about ‘withdrawal’ of their aircraft from Hmemmem AB, back in March — and actually reinforced their contingent in Syria during April and May — here a sat photo of Hmemmem AB from 26 May. It was taken already after the VKS rotated some of its aircraft out of place, as reported in late April and early May, but is still showing 6 Su-24s, 4 Su-25s, 4 Su-30s, 5 Su-34s, and 6 Su-35s. Mind: additional aircraft were airborne at the time this photo was taken, and the photo is not showing the maintenance area, further south, where there are always some 4–6 additional aircraft to be seen.