Tag Archives: syria

Damascus Detritus via the Trans-Siberian Railway

To commemorate their involvement in the Syrian Civil War, the Russian military has sent a special train on a victory lap of sorts filled with interesting battlefield bring-backs.

The 14-car train is heavy with improvised fighting vehicles fielded by ISIS and various forces opposed to the Russian-backed Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad as well as a curious loot of small arms.

Apparently, one Jeep Grand Cherokee was missed during Cash 4 Clunkers

Among the guns captured are FN FAL rifles and FN FALO squad automatic weapons, French MAT-49 submachine guns, UZIs, early M16s and even a few German StG 44 “Sturmgewehr” rifles that date back to WWII.

More in my column at Guns.com

Attack of the clones…

So a baker’s dozen of these cute little fellas attacked Russian bases in Syria lately

Carrying these:

Modded mortar bombs?

Via Russian Ministry of Defense:

Security system of the Russian Khmeimim air base and Russian Naval CSS point in the city of Tartus successfully warded off a terrorist attack with massive application of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) through the night of 5th – 6th January, 2018.

As evening fell, the Russia air defence forces detected 13 unidentified small-size air targets at a significant distance approaching the Russian military bases.

Ten assault drones were approaching the Khmeimim air base, and another three – the CSS point in Tartus.

Six small-size air targets were intercepted and taken under control by the Russian EW units. Three of them were landed on the controlled area outside the base, and another three UAVs exploded as they touched the ground.

Seven UAVs were eliminated by the Pantsir-S anti-aircraft missile complexes operated by the Russian air defence units on 24-hours alert.

The Russian bases did not suffer any casualties or damages.

The take away: swarm drone attacks are 100% going to be a staple of the modern battlefield. Also, the Russians have drone scramblers, likely much like the Battelle V1 and V2 DroneDefenders the U.S has been using for years.

As for where the drones came from? Russian state media, of course, says the U.S. funded the op and coordinated it. The Pentagon scoffed at the allegation, and the more likely explanation is that its just low-tech asymmetric warfare in 2018. Ready player one…

Supertechincals. Paging your supertechnicals

The improvised gun-truck, where you bolt on a crew served machine gun or light artillery piece and run around taking shots at stuff, has been around since the Great War at least. In more recent times, this blend of civilian or commercial truck and a heavy weapon has been called “the technical” since the Toyota Wars of Libya in the 1980s.

The Armor Journal Magazine has this great sample of some Mad Max tank action from (where else?) Syria/Western Iraq:

The Syrian civil war gave birth to a wide array of makeshift vehicles, often cobbled together by the many factions fighting there, using whatever is at hand. Here we have something really special, a T55 turret mounted on an improvised pedestal on the back of a 8 wheeled civilian truck and another turret mounted on a trailer, both obviously used as artillery pieces. (~ Marcus, The Armor Journal)

The below video, from June 2016, which may or may not be the same vehicle shows the turret of a T-55 tank (Chinese Type 67?) used as Mobile Artillery by Iraqi Badr Forces near Jabal Makhoul (Salah Ad-Din province).

Navy fedex’s 59 TLAMs to Syria via overnight delivery

It looks like the Navy really plastered Shayrat Airfield in Homs with several flights of Tomahawks from USS Ross (DDG-71)Fortune Favors Valor” and USS Porter (DDG-78) “Freedom’s Champion” in response to the Syrian government’s chemical weapons attack April 4 in Khan Sheikhoun.

Both ships are DDG-51s built at Pascagoula in the 1990s, with Ross being an earlier Flight I ship and Porter a Flight II. Both are stationed at Rota as part of a four-DDG force used for forward ballistic missile defense and have been in the news a lot lately for patrols in the Black Sea.

It should be pointed out that the bit below about the strike being coordinated to a degree with the Russians holds water as the TLAMs flew across the Russian S-400 MEZ unscathed. That, or the S-400 is not what its cracked up to be.

From the Navy’s presser:

A total of 59 TLAMs targeted aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and radars. As always, the U.S. took extraordinary measures to avoid civilian casualties and to comply with the Law of Armed Conflict. Every precaution was taken to execute this strike with minimal risk to personnel at the airfield.

The strike was a proportional response to Assad’s heinous act. Shayrat Airfield was used to store chemical weapons and Syrian air forces. The U.S. intelligence community assesses that aircraft from Shayrat conducted the chemical weapons attack on April 4. The strike was intended to deter the regime from using chemical weapons again.

Russian forces were notified in advance of the strike using the established deconfliction line. U.S. military planners took precautions to minimize risk to Russian or Syrian personnel located at the airfield.

We are assessing the results of the strike. Initial indications are that this strike has severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft and support infrastructure and equipment at Shayrat Airfield, reducing the Syrian Government’s ability to deliver chemical weapons. The use of chemical weapons against innocent people will not be tolerated.

Moscow welcomes Syrian involvement to showcase new kit

The Ka-52K Katran will see its first seaborne combat in Syria this fall.

The Russian-made Ka-52K Katran saw its first seaborne combat in Syria last fall. Apparently, 161 other systems did as well.

Much as any nation has done over time, it looks like the Russians have used their “splendid little war” partnership in Syria to test out new and updated equipment.

The U.S. did it all through the 1920s in the Banana Wars– where military aviation and the Thompson submachine gun really got their first Post-WWI kinks knocked out. The Germans did it with the Condor Legion in the Spanish Civil War with the Stuka and others. The Soviets did it with their newest tanks, sniper rifles and SVT-38s in the Finnish Winter War. The Italians did it in Ethiopia, et. al, ad nausea.

According to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, as quoted from NPR:

“We tested 162 types of contemporary and modernized weapons in Syria, which showed a high level of effectiveness,” Shoigu said. Only 10 weapons systems performed below expectations, he added.

The Kremlin has never made a secret that its intervention on behalf of the Syrian government has been an excellent opportunity to show off its new military prowess.

Shortly after Russia entered the conflict in September 2015, the country’s navy fired cruise missiles at Syrian targets 900 miles away – an event that coincided with President Vladimir Putin’s 63rd birthday. The air force sent long-range Bear and Backfire bombers on round-trip missions from bases in Russia. And the country’s only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, traveled all the way from the Arctic Ocean to the Syrian coast to launch airstrikes.

However, what NPR failed to mention is that the Soviets will certainly bill their newest weaponry as “combat tested/proven” in export sales pitches for hard foreign currency.

And there is the “splendid” part of any little war, as noted by Banana War vet Major General Smedley Butler.

When fish are needed, call in the Kiwis

74 Years Ago Today:

'Gone Fishing' New Zealand soldiers trout fishing using rifles near the Syrian and Turkish border during World War II, 9th July 1942. Photograph taken by M D Elias.

‘Gone Fishing’
New Zealand soldiers trout fishing using rifles near the Syrian and Turkish border during World War II, 9th July 1942.
Photograph taken by M D Elias.

'Been fishing...Got fish' A New Zealand soldier J Thompson (Taihape), shows his catch to a Kurdish local after fishing with rifles and hand grenades on the Syrian Turkish border during World War II, 9th July 1942. Photograph taken by M D Elias. Colourised by Paul Reynolds.

‘Been fishing…Got fish’
A New Zealand soldier J Thompson (Taihape), shows his catch to a Kurdish local after fishing with rifles and hand grenades on the Syrian Turkish border during World War II, 9th July 1942.
Photograph taken by M D Elias.
Both images Colourised by Paul Reynolds.

(On a safety note, always be careful when firing at water, due to ricochet potential)

More Russki high-end gear shows up in Assadland

Well, it seems there is some confirmation that some Russian (manned?) Su-30SM aircraft (the multirole derivative of the Su-27 Flanker) are on the ground in Syria. Originally labeled as the older type, they are now believed to be the improved Su-30M dubbed the Flanker-C by NATO.

Per the Aviationist:

As the satellite imagery shows, the aircraft were parked next to the threshold of runway 17L, on the northern side of the airport: this is quite interesting as the airbase has no hardened shelters and the aircraft are in the open air, exposing them to satellites and spyplanes, and making them a possible target to attacks from outside the airfield.

The arrival of the Russian Air Force Navy Su-30s and the official confirmation by the Pentagon, brought speculations that Russians may already be operating in Syria to an end: according to the U.S. defense officials, so far, four Su-30s, two Mi-24 gunship helicopters and two Mi-17 Hip utility choppers have deployed to Latakia.

Institute for Study of War Looks at Syria

                                                                                                                                        Contact: Tricia Miller

(202) 293-5550 x210


New ISW Report Zooms In On Syrian Opposition



Washington, D.C. – As U.S. policymakers struggle to decide how to get involved in Syria, one of their main questions has been about the identity of the many opposition groups there. Joseph Holliday, a senior research analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, seeks to answer that question with his new report on the Free Syrian Army. In “ Syria’s Armed Opposition,” Holliday delves into the umbrella organization for many of the country’s internal opposition groups.

“The Free Syrian Army is certainly a fighting organization with which the United States can engage in discussions about practical support,” Holliday wrote. “Furthermore, we know the names, faces, birthplaces, operating areas, and activities of the insurgent leaders affiliated with the effective fighting units.”

The report tracks the FSA’s evolution over 2011 and 2012. The group formed over the summer of 2011 a number of Syrian Army officers defected and formed their headquarters in Turkey. Though it does not have close operational control over rebels in Syria, many of the most effective units have aligned themselves with the FSA. The report includes maps of the battles between rebels and the regime across Syria, lists of the armed opposition units and their areas of operation, and biographical details and photographs of the leaders of the Free Syrian Army.

Holliday is also the author of “ The Struggle for Syria in 2011: An Operational and Regional Analysis.” Holliday served as an Infantry and intelligence officer in the U.S. Army from June 2006 to September 2011, and he continues to serve in the Army reserves. During his time on active duty, Holliday deployed to East Baghdad, Iraq from November 2007 to January 2009 with the 10th Mountain Division, 2-30 Infantry Battalion. From May 2010 to May 2011 he deployed to Afghanistan’s Kunar Province as the Intelligence Officer for 2-327 Infantry Battalion, 101st Airborne Division. He has a Bachelor’s degree in History from Princeton University.

To talk to Holliday, please contact Tricia Miller at press@understandingwar.org or at (202) 293-5550 x210.


The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) is a non-partisan, non-profit, public policy research organization. ISW advances an informed understanding of military affairs through reliable research, trusted analysis, and innovative education. We are committed to improving the nation’s ability to execute military operations and respond to emerging threats in order to achieve U.S. strategic objectives.

The Real reason why all eyes are on Syria…

From the March 8th Diplomat


Syria, in what many characterize as a response to the Middle East’s worse kept military secret, namely a highly capable Israeli nuclear weapons program, seems to have developed a stockpile of chemical weapons and the means to deploy them.  And with Syria in chaos, such weapons only make for a potentially deadlier regional situation.

As U.S. Sen. John McCain announces his support for air strikes against Syria, President Barack Obama has reportedly asked military advisors for “preliminary military options.” But with talk mounting of arming the Free Syrian Army, all such chatter must be viewed through the lens of Damascus’s WMD capabilities.

Several weeks ago, the U.S. State Department began coordinating with Syria’s neighbors to organize the handling of Syria’s WMD if the regime collapsed. According to a widely cited report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Syria “has chemical weapons, and most experts believe it has mustard agents and at least ordinary nerve gas. It may have persistent nerve gas as well. It is believed to have cluster warheads for delivering chemical weapons, and it probably has chemical bombs and rocket warheads as well. It may have chemical artillery shells.”