Air Strikes by VKS & SyAAF, 25 April 2017
As expected, the day began with a massive wave of Russian air strikes: 34 take-offs from Hmemmem AB by 01.00hrs; another 5 by 02.00hrs, 19 more by 03.00hrs; 3 by 04.00hrs, 2 by 05.00hrs, and 3 by 06.00hrs (plus one SyAAF L-39 from Hama AB).
Keep in mind, the VKS launched 24 sorties from Hmemmem between 23.00 and 24.00 on 24 April. Combined, these figures are a strong indicator for how many VKS aircraft have meanwhile been concentrated at that air base.
To remain on the ‘cautious’ side, lets say those launched during the last hour of 24th April were re-armed and flown again between 02.00 and 04.00hrs (or later). Average sortie flown by VKS fighter-bombers over Syria lasts some 45–60 minutes. Re-fuelling and re-arming take their 10–15 minutes at least. Means: the same aircraft is most likely to launch for the next sortie only about two hours after flying the last one.
Because the VKS made 24 registered take-offs during the last hour of 24th April, and 34 registered take-offs during the first hour of 25th April, it can be assessed it has up to 58 combat aircraft currently deployed at Hmemmem AB. Even should it turn out there are less of them there, say 40–46, this is a definite confirmation for the fact that figures of around 30 Russian combat aircraft deployed at that base, based on sat-photos from mid-March, are hopelessly obsolete.
The SyAAF commenced launching at its usual ‘working hours’, 08.00hrs, when a single MiG-21 took-off from Hama. By 09.00hrs, also five Su-22s, a MiG-23, and a Su-24 bombed targets in the area between Kfar Zita and Latamina.
At 09.24, two Su-25s high above the Jishr ash-Shughour area were reported, announcing the next big VKS wave. Lasting until around the noon, this included 41 take-offs (including one by an Il-20M), and was combined with additional air strikes by SyAAF Su-24 (total of four, all from Tiyas), and Su-22s (at least two from Kweres, rest from Shayrat, Dmeyr, possibly from Nayrab too). As meanwhile usual, it saw widespread deployment of ODAB-500 FAE-bombs:
Appearance of two Su-25s high above Ma’arat an-Nauman at 12.53hrs didn’t announce the next wave: ‘only’ eight take-offs were registered by 15.00hr. On the contrary, it was the SyAAF that continued operating through the next few hours (here one of its Su-22s underway above Qaboun, where a big attack of the 4th Division was repelled by Faylaq ar-Rahman and the JAI, with significant losses for Assadists, yesterday). This is why my assessments is that it was Assadists, and not the Russians that bombed out the hospital in Kfar Takharim, despite reports it was the ‘Russians’.
The next big wave commenced launching around 16.00hrs: this included 25 take-offs registered by 17.30hrs, several of which targeted Kfar Naha and Khan al-Assal, in western Aleppo. The VKS launched its next wave starting around 19.00hrs. This went on past 20.00hrs and then picked up speed, resulting in a total of 10 take-offs (including one by an Il-20M, for — apparently — its second sortie of the day). The SyAAF flew only sporadically for the rest of the day — almost exclusively from Hama (L-39s and helicopters). The SyAAF seems to have re-located most of its nigh-capable L-39s to that air base, meanwhile — and these are now armed with ODAB-250 FAE-bombs, too, see the video here:
Once again, some of Russian air strikes went all the way down to Dera’a (Su-35):
The VKS continued launching additional air strikes all the time until 23.00hrs, when the final — and then big — wave commenced launching. This ended at 23.39hrs.
fighter-bombers: 171 (+/- 3–4, certainly a new record)
helicopters: 5 (probably more in the area east of Homs)
UAVs: 10 (including IRGC-operated ones, but I guess that the actual figure was two times as high: most of observers were too busy monitoring all the air strikes) recce: 2
Su-24s: 10 (seems this is the total number of currently available Su-24MK-2s of the ‘Ba’ath Squadron 819').
For easier orientation, I recommend this map of Idlib and western Aleppo, created by Nawar Oliver. It is particularly precise in regards of zones of influence by the FSyA + AAS, HTS, the IRGC, the Russians, PYD/YPG etc.