Category Archives: Syria

U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet Downs Syrian Su-22 Near Raqqa, Syria. And Here Is Everything We Know.

Navy Super Hornet from Carrier Air Wing 8 Scores Victory over Syrian Su-22.

Updated with the statement from the Russian MoD.

A U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet from Carrier Air Wing 8 on board the USS George Bush shot down a Syrian Air Force Su-22 ground attack aircraft near Raqqa, Syria after the aircraft struck ground troops in Ja-Din, south of Tabqah, near Raqqa.

According to most sources it is the first time a U.S. combat aircraft has shot down a manned enemy aircraft in aerial combat in nine years.

The pro-Assad regime Syrian Su-22 that was downed had attacked Syrian Democratic Forces aligned with the U.S. led coalition and inflicted casualties on the friendly forces as they were driving south of Tabqah before it was intercepted.

The action began at approximately 4:30 PM local time on Sunday, Jun. 18 when Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad launched a ground attack on anti-regime Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) aligned with the U.S. led Coalition and inflicted casualties on the anti-Assad fighters.

Coalition combat aircraft immediately conducted a low-altitude “show of force” pass on the pro-Assad attackers and were successful in de-conflicting the two sides and halting the advance of pro-Assad forces on Coalition-friendly SDF positions.

As a result of the contact unspecified Coalition assets utilized a secure communication “de-confliction line” to contact Russian assets with communications to both sides in an effort to compel a cease-fire for both sides.

The Russian attempt at de-confliction failed at 6:43 PM local time when a pro-Assad Syrian Air Force Su-22 ground attack aircraft appeared on scene and bombed Coalition-friendly SDF positions. The attacking Syrian Su-22 was “Immediately shot down by a U.S. F/A-18E Super Hornet” according to an official statement issued by the Combined Joint Task Force, Operation Inherent Resolve. The U.S. Navy F/A-18E was launched from the aircraft carrier USS George Bush (CVN-77) as it maintains patrol in the Mediterranean in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet aboard the USS George Bush (CVN-77). (Photo: US Navy)

In the official statement released from the Coalition about the incident the Combined Joint Task Force stated, “The Coalition’s mission is to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The Coalition does not seek to fight the Syrian regime, Russian, or pro-regime forces partnered with them, but will not hesitate to defend Coalition partner forces from any threat.”

Even though the air-to-air victory would be the first for the U.S. on a manned enemy combat aircraft since February 2008 according to some sources, the last confirmed U.S. kill dates back to 1999, during Operation Allied Force, when a U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon shot down a Serbian MiG-29 Fulcrum. A U.S. Air Force F-15 Eagle shot down an unmanned Iranian-made Shahed-129 armed drone on Thursday, June 8 this year.

The U.S. destroyed nine Syrian Air Force aircraft in a large Tomahawk cruise missile strike on the Shayrat Air Base earlier this year on April 7, 2017. Among the Syrian Air Force air craft destroyed by the cruise missile attack were five Su-22M3s, one Su-22M4, and three MiG-23ML aircraft. The attack was a Coalition response to the alleged Syrian chemical weapons strike on Khan Shaykhun on April 4. At least 74 people died in the chemical attack with hundreds more wounded, including children.

A fully armed Syrian Air Force SU-22 in a bombproof revetment. (Photo: RT)

A Syrian Air Force SU-22 taxis outside its bombproof revetment. (Photo: RT)

The action over Syria marks a significant escalation in the conflict and establishes the resolve of the Coalition to achieve its goals in the region in addition to sending a clear message that the control of the airspace rests with the Coalition and not with Assad’s remaining forces.

A Syrian Air Force SU-22. (Photo: RT)

And here’s the response to the downing from the Russian MoD:

Statement of the Russian Defence Ministry concerning downing of the Syrian Su-22 near the town of Resafa

On June 18, 2017 the American fighter F-18A belonging to the international coalition shot down the Su-22 aircraft of the Syrian Air Force, which was performing a combat mission supporting the government troops, which were conducting the offensive against the ISIS terrorists near the town of Resafa (40 km to the south-west of the city of Raqqa).

As a result of the attack, the Syrian aircraft was destroyed. The pilot baled out over an ISIS-controlled area, his status is unknown.

The destruction of the aircraft of the Syrian Air Force by the American aviation in the air space of Syria – is a cynical violation of the sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic.

Numerous combat activities of the US aviation carried out under the cover of “fight against terrorism” aimed against the legitimate Armed Forces of a UN-member is a blatant breach of the international law and is in fact an act of military aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic.

Moreover, at that time the aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces were also performing combat missions in the air space of Syria. However, the Command of the coalition forces did not use the existing channels of communication between the Command of the Al Udeid Air Base (Qatar) and the Hmeymim Air Base Command to prevent air incidents in the air space of Syria.

The Russian party considers those actions of the US Command as an intentional failure to fulfill its obligations within the Memorandum on prevention of incidents and providing of flight security during the operations in Syria dated October 20, 2015.

Since June 19, 2017, the Russian Defence Ministry has stopped the cooperation with the American party within the Memorandum on prevention of incidents and providing of flight security during the operations in Syria and demands a thorough investigation of the incident by the US Command with further providing of information on its results and the taken measures.

In the combat mission zones of the Russian aviation in the air space of Syria, all kinds of airborne vehicles, including aircraft and UAVs of the international coalition detected to the west of the Euphrates River will be tracked by the Russian SAM systems as air targets.

Therefore, the Russians will “track” as air targets the US-led coalition aircraft of all types: although this seems to suggest a unilateral NFZ established over Syria, the public release does not say they will “engage” the coaltion planes.

Let’s see what happens next.

 

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U.S. F-15E Downs Iranian-Built Syrian Drone After Airstrike on U.S. Led Forces

Syrian Drone Destroyed by Strike Eagle After It Engaged Anti-Assad Coalition Ground Forces. Second air-to-air kill for the Strike Eagle since Gulf War.

U.S. Special Operations advisors leading anti-Assad Syrian forces came under fire from an Iranian built Shahed 129 drone operated by Syrian pro-government forces on Thursday according to the U.S. Army.

A U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle shot the drone down.

The incident occurred outside Al-Tanf, southern Syria close to the Jordanian border. An installation in Al –Tanf serves as a forward operating base for British and U.S. special operations teams assisting the anti-ISIL Syrian guerilla group Maghawir al-Thawra or “Commandos of the Revolution”. Maghawir al-Thawra is regarded as an indigenous special operations group who have received training and support from coalition forces to fight the Assad regime.

The U.S. reacted to the drone attack by tasking an F-15E Strike Eagle to locate and destroy the Syrian drone. It was officially the first time U.S. forces had come under air attack by a hostile nation in nearly 20 years and the second air-to-air kill for the Strike Eagle since the downing of an Iraqi Gunship helicopter in 1991.

According to U.S. Army Colonel Ryan Dillon, spokesman of the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), the Assad government Syrian drone strike on U.S. advisors and Syrian revolutionary commandos “did not have an effect on coalition forces,”

“The pro-regime UAV, similar in size to the U.S. MQ-1 predator, was shot down by U.S. aircraft after it dropped one of several weapons it was carrying near a position occupied by coalition personnel who are training and advising partner ground forces in the fight against ISIL,” CJTF-OIR’s public affairs office released in a statement. “The shoot down follows an earlier engagement in the day in which Coalition forces destroyed two pro-regime armed technical vehicles that advanced inside the well established de-confliction zone threatening Coalition and partner forces.”

Pentagon Correspondent Tara Copp was among the first to release the U.S. aircraft involved in the drone shoot-down incident (Twitter)

A 34-mile region around Al-Tanf has been declared a “de-confliction zone” by coalition forces for the past several weeks. This buffer was established to safeguard U.S. and British supported anti-Assad forces. Several incidents have taken place recently inside this de-confliction zone that have prompted a U.S. response. On Tuesday, a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornet dropped four bombs killing an estimated 10 pro-Assad combatants and destroyed several of their vehicles.

It is also likely the pro-Assad forces controlling the Iranian made Shahed 129 drone were in close proximity to the drone itself at the time it attacked U.S. advised anti-Assad forces. The Shahed 129 can be controlled by satellite guidance from a remote ground station, but this example was almost certainly controlled by a local ground controller with line-of-sight to the Syrian Shahed 129 when it was destroyed by the U.S. F-15E Strike Eagle.

The incident is significant since U.S. ground forces in the region and, in the entire history of the Global War of Terror, have been largely immune from air attacks. The Iranian-made Shahed 129 drone was also employed by Hezbollah in a 2012 operation over Israel. The Israelis downed the Iranian-made, Hezbollah-controlled drone but the incident marked a dangerous escalation in terrorist capabilities.

The Iranian-built Shahed 129 armed drone (Iranian News Media)

 

The U.S. Air Force Has Just Released Photos That Prove The MC-130J Commando II Has Joined The Air War On ISIS

Here is the first in theater (Iraq/Syria) picture of an AFSOC MC-130J Commando II.

The top image shows a U.S. Air Force MC-130J Commando II receiving fuel from a 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotanker during a flight in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

The photograph was taken by Staff Sgt. Trevor T. McBride on May 29, 2017, and it is particularly interesting because, as our friends at @Airwars noticed, this is the first time the multimission combat transport/special operations tanker, assigned to the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), is depicted flying in support of OIR against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

A MC-130J Commando II is refueled by a KC-135 Stratotanker during a flight in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Trevor T. McBride)

The MC-130J Commando II, that has replaced the MC-130N/P Combat Shadow II aircraft, is the modern special operations variant of the Hercules, whose primary roles are HAAR (Helicopter Air-to-Air Refueling) of SOF helicopters/tilt rotor aircraft, infiltration, exfiltration and resupply of SOF by airdrop or landing on remote airfields. Interestingly, the aircraft can also be used for FARP (Forward Air Refueling Point) operations to perform covert, nighttime refueling operations in deployed locations where fueling stations are not accessible or when air-to-air refueling is not possible.

The MC-130Js mainly operate at low-altitude and at night, conducting clandestine missions with reduced probability of visual acquisition and intercept by airborne threats.

According to the U.S. Air Force, the MC-130J features an advanced two-pilot flight station with fully integrated digital avionics; fully populated Combat Systems Operator (CSO) and auxiliary flight deck stations; 13 color multifunctional liquid crystal displays; head-up displays; fully integrated navigation systems with dual inertial navigation system and global positioning system; integrated defensive systems; low-power color radar; digital moving map display. The aircraft is equipped with new turboprop engines with six-bladed, all-composite propellers; digital auto pilot; improved fuel, environmental and ice-protection systems; enhanced cargo-handling system; Universal Air Refueling Receptacle Slipway Installation (UARRSI), air refueling pods, Electro Optical/Infrared (EO/IR) System; dual SATCOM for voice/data; 60/90 KVA generators; increased DC electrical output, loadmaster/scanner restraint system; and LAIRCM provisions.

The MC-130J’s primary missions are Air refueling of SOF helicopter/tilt rotor aircraft, infiltration, exfiltration and resupply of SOF by airdrop or airland (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Trevor T. McBride)

As mentioned before, this kind of asset is capable to perform many tasks, therefore it’s difficult to guess what kind of mission it was flying when it was photographed. For the moment, we can just say that the Commando II has joined the air war over Syria and Iraq bringing the ability to support a wide variety of special operations against Daesh.

H/T @Airwars for the heads-up

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U.S. Air Force Video Shows ISIS Militants Failing To Launch A UAV In Syria

ISIS Unmanned Aerial Vehicle fail as seen from above.

ISIS is known to operate a wide variety of UAVs. Surveillance, Kamikaze, grenade-dropping drones and quadcopters are often dispatched to perform both reconnaissance and bombing missions.

Their ability to drop small bombs with pinpoint accuracy has raised concerns that Daesh fighters could attack Iraqi and coalition troops as well as civilians, not only from the ground, but also from the air.

For this reason, increasingly, U.S. and allied aircraft flying over Syria and Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve are tasked with hunting COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) and Daesh-modified drones, their launch sites or production facilities.

However, sometimes kinetic air strikes are not even needed to destroy these small drones.

The following video was taken on Mar. 30, 2017, near Tabqah, Syria.

It shows a Daesh militant attempting to launch a small UAV from a roof. The scene, seemigly filmed from a Reaper or Predator drone, ends with the UAV crash landing in front of the building.

 

US military has launched 59 cruise missiles at airbase in Syria. Here’s what we know so far.

Two U.S. destroyers cruising in the eastern Mediterranean Sea have fired 59 BGM-109 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles at an airbase in western Syria. The cruise missiles flew across the Russian S-400 MEZ unscathed.

Last night, Alreigh Burke-class destroyers USS Porter (DDG-78) and USS Ross (DDG-71) launched cruise missiles into Syria, in response to the chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of civilians on Apr. 4.

On President Donald Trump’s order, 59 BGM-109 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAMs) targeted runway, hardened aircraft shelters, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, radars and fuel points at Shayrat Airbase, the airfield in western Syria from where, according to the intelligence gathered by the U.S., the aircraft that carried out the chemical attacks were launched

The track of the Syrian aircraft that carried out the CW attack on Khan Shaykhn (DoD released)

According to the first reports, all the aircraft based there have been destroyed or severely damaged, including some 30 Syrian Arab Air Force Su-22 Fitter attack planes, several SyAAF MiG-23s and also some Su-24 Fencers according to sources. For sure, considered the status of Assad’s air force, the attack may have had a significant impact on the ability of the loyalist air force to conduct air strikes.

However, later reports say that most of the aircraft based there were evacuated before the strike, and initial footage from Shayrat seems to show at least some areas of the airports, including taxiways, shelters, aprons, etc. with little or no damages.

Update:

Only 23 missiles flew to the Syrian air base and just 6 MiG-23s were destroyed there along with a radar station, spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, Major-General Igor Konashenkov, said at a briefing. Where the remaining 36 cruise missiles have landed is “unknown,” he said.

According to Pentagon, the Russians were informed ahead of strike:

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.

Indeed, Shayrat Airbase is a Forward Operating Base for a few Russian Air Force Mi-35 and Ka-52 helicopters. The status of the choppers, provided some of these were there at the moment of the air strike, is unknown. However, considered that these are not mentioned in the Russian Defense Ministry statement it’s safe to assume they were not damaged by the TLAM attack.

Noteworthy, the TLAMs flew across the MEZ (Missile Engagement Zone) of the S-400 missile battery the Russians deployed to Latakia to protect the Russian air contingent deployed there in 2015.

Did Russia’s most advanced anti-aircraft defense system detect the missiles? For sure there are no reports of any of the BGM-109 intercepted by the S-400. 

Designated SA-21 “Growler” by NATO, the S-400 is believed to be able to engage all types of aerial targets including aircraft (someone says even VLO – Very Low Observable ones), drones and ballistic and cruise missiles within the range of 250 miles at an altitude of nearly 19 miles. Equipped with 3 different types of missiles and an acquisition radar capable of tracking up to 300 targets within the range of over 370 miles, the Triumph (or Triumf) is a system made of 8 launchers and a control station.

Supported by effective EW (Electronic Warfare) capabilities, the S-400 fires missiles against aerial targets flying at 17,000 km/h.

So, at least on paper, all non-stealth aircraft and missiles would hardly be able to dodge S-400 missiles. Assuming that the Russians probably detected at least some of the Tomahawks flying fast and low towards their targets at Shayrat Airbase it’s not clear why the Trimf did not attempt to intercept any of the TLAMs launched by the US destroyers, considered the reaction by Viktor Ozerov, head of the Russian Federation Council’s defense committee, who said the American attack was “an act of aggression against a UN member […] Cooperation between the Russian and US militaries may be shut down after the US strike.” according to state news agency RIA.

Perhaps, considered that they were informed beforehand, they simply decided to let them pass. The Russian MoD statement does not say mention any Russian air defense system intercepting any of the U.S. missiles launched towards Shayrat Airbase even though some sources have suggested only 23 missiles reached their targets because the other ones were brought down near Tartous by the local S-400 and S-300 batteries.

The S-400 MEZ (source: RT)

 

Anyway, the U.S. TLAM strike marks a shift in Washington’s posture regarding Syria and it represents the first direct action against Assad’s regime after six years of civil war.

Back in 2013, when a U.S. military operation in Syria was being rumored, we published an article that you can read here. Here are some key points of that story, that still apply four years later:

“Forget F-15E Strike Eagles and F/A-18E Super Hornets carrying PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions). Should Washington really get involved in Syria, it will probably be a limited air war, mainly made of cruise missiles, most (if not all) shot by warships or submarines and almost no involvement of “tacair” (tactical airplanes).

[…]

The attack would be conducted by the four destroyers in the Sixth fleet area of operations (USS Gravely, USS Barry, USS Mahan and USS Ramage) [in 2013 these were operating in the eastern Mediterranea], each theoretically capable to launch up to 90 Tomahawks Tactical Cruise Missiles (actually less, because these warships usually carry a mix of attack and air defense missiles).

High flying Global Hawk drones flying from Incirlik, Sigonella or Al Dhafra, will perform the post-strike BDA (Battle Damage Assessment). Some sorties will also be flown by U-2s.”

At that time a real air campaign was thought to be considered. The one carried out in the night between Apr. 6 and 7 was probably an isolated air strike in retaliation for the Syrian chemical strikes earlier this week.

 

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