Tag Archives: Hama

Syria update: the attack on Hama

Here below you can find the latest update from Syria based on the details that Bjørn Holst Jespersen, a contributor of The Aviationist, has continued to post on his blog.

But, first of all, let’s have a look at a map of Syria, in order to understand why some cities are more important than others for the outcome of the uprising.

M-5 Damascus – Aleppo

In the map below Bjorn has highlighted the special geographical look of the present conflict in Syria. As can be seen, the two largest cities – Damascus and Aleppo – are placed relatively far apart, and keeping those two cities connected is a central part of maintaining control of the country. A scenario where Aleppo is cut off from Damascus would significantly increase the chance/risk of the regime loosing control of the city. And that would most probably seal their fate.

The M5 highway/motorway (red line on the map below) is quite illustrative of this specific phenomenon, and the importance of controlling this route is easily understood.
What also becomes clear from studying the map is that the cities Hama, Homs and Rastan are placed in key positions. Loosing control of those cities will to a large degree isolate Damascus from Aleppo, which must be considered extra critical to the regime.

Screen shot from Google Maps with markings by me. Red line is the M5 highway linking Damascus to Aleppo

Aleppo is equal to Damascus in size.Moreover, if the metropolitan areas of Homs and Hama are combined with the city of Rastan (61,000) the population reaches about 1.28 million. Given the strength of opposition in these cities it’s a quite considerable number to have placed in this strategic area.

2S1, 122 mm self-propelled artillery

Stitched together frames from a video on YouTube channel. Uploaded May 24. 2012. *note: there are five artillery pieces, but one is hardly visible behind the tent from this angle. Video and help identifying the weapon via @markito0171.

On May 24. a video came out. It is said to show an artillery position firing at Hama and, according to Bjørn it shows five 2S1 Gvozdika. These are self-propelled 122 mm howitzers and at the 1:55 min video the position fires six times.

According to Wikipedia, Syria operates about 400 of these, and according to images released on Feb. 10. 2012 by U.S. Department of State, such weapons are known to have been deployed by the Syrian regime, though at that time in an other position.

Frame from video on YouTube channel. The ID on the 2S1s in this video is certain. Uploaded May 26, 2012.

From another video uploaded on May 26. there is more evidence of this weapon being used by the regime.

The image above is a frame from that video showing a number of 2S1s are being moved on trailers. The date of this recording is unknown and according to the title of the video (and Google translate) this movement has to do with Homs refinery. But still this – besides substantiating some weapons id – gives an idea of what kind of military force is being deployed against the opposition.

In the image below, to the left is a 2S1, and to the right – for comparison – Bjørn placed a photo of the larger calibre 2S3 Akatsiya. The 2S3 is mounted with a 152.4 mm howitzer and is considerably heavier than the 2S1 (16 vs. 28 ton). His main basis for the identification is that the light makes it possible to see that the hull-sides of some of the pieces have an unbroken vertical wall above the tracks.

This matches the 2S1 better. Also only the 2S1 have two hatches on top of the turret. The best id-view will be to freeze a frame at about 1:26 min. in the video from the firing position.

Left a Polish 2S1 seen from an angle that resembles that of the vehicles in the video. Image from Wikipedia. Right: for comparison, a 2S3 Akatciya. Source: Dishmodels.ru

BMP-1, ZPU-4 and troops

On May 27. the Syrian regime closed in on the city (Hama), especially the North Eastern neighbourhood, Al-Arbaeen, which was surrounded from about 5 am until the evening. Several other neighbourhoods were targeted too and according to activists, snipers were positioned on roof-tops preventing the population from moving – and from helping those wounded by shelling.

According to those same sources, on May 28. the assault was still ongoing, and a number of videos are coming out showing some of the deployments of regime forces.

The videos together show the high level of deployment of military in the city (in contrast with the Annan six point plan).

Left: a frame from a video showing what Bjørn has IDed as a BMP-1. Right: a frame from video showing more BMP-1s. Both videos uploaded to Youtube channel on May 28, 2012. Videos via @markito0171.

The BMP-1s, that can be seen above, in the frame to the left, have been extensively used by the regime throughout this conflict, and before 2011 the Syrian Army was believed to have around 2,000 of these. They are armed with a 73 mm 2A28 Grom low pressure smooth-bore gun that fires rocket assisted grenades.

Images show fragments of two different models of these grenades. The most common model together with a BMP-1 can be seen here, and the other here.

The frame to the right, has two more BMP-1s passing through. They both seems to have an unusual arrangement above the rear hatches. It might be meant to give the rear-end the same ski-tip profile as the front. It would make some sense according to Bjørn.

In the last part of the video one of the BMPs also gives a fine demonstration of the turret capabilities.

In the image below, to the left, is a truck mounted ZPU-4. It’s a four barrel 14.5 mm heavy machine gun originally intended for anti aircraft use, and this video corroborate reports from @HamaEcho that these weapons had been seen by this source for the first time only a few days ago.

However back on Apr. 11 here at The Aviationist we had a post showing a video of opposition forces firing at a regime helicopter. The weapon used is not visible but an expert makes a very convincing case identifying it as the ZPU-4.

The frame to the right gives an impression of what kind of deployment of troops this also involves.

Left: a frame from a video showing a ZPU-4 mounted on a truck. Right: a frame from video showing troops. Videos uploaded on May  27. & 28. 2012. to Youtube channel. videos via @markito0171.

A group of UN observers is currently stationed in Hama, but there are no reports of what they might have done during these attacks.Helicopters

Although there have been claims of helicopters shot down by the Free Syrian Army, at the time of writing the news has not been confirmed. There is a footage allegedly showing a Mi-8 helicopter being hit by anti-aircraft fire, but its quality is extremely low.

Even if they don’t show helicopters being hit and downed by the FSA, the following videos, respectively filmed on May 23 and Jun. 2, seem to document the use of Mil Mi-8 choppers to attack rebel positions from medium-low level.

Update from Syria: amphibious armoured vehicles, heavy mortars and tanks.

In this article you can find some new details that Bjørn Holst Jespersen, a contributor of The Aviationist, has continued to post on his blog, as he keeps collecting and analyzing images and footage from Homs, Hama, Idlib, Damascus and other Syrian towns made available on Social Media.

Hence this is an update to the original Special feature: all the weapons used by the Syrian regime on Homs and following posts about the Syrian uprising published on The Aviationist.


Another weapon has been seen used by the Syrian regime in Homs. It’s a four wheel amphibious armored vehicle with a turret mounted heavy machine gun. The weapon is shown in a video that was linked-to in a tweet from an activist:

“Police” armored car shooting at Khaldiyah neighbourhood of Homs today. [ YouTube link ] #Homs #Syria (4:02 PM – 13 May)

A frame from video on MyAbotarek’s YouTube channel showing the vehicle firing towards the camera.

In the video the vehicle is seen firing at least 15 rounds in the direction of the rather courageous camera man. To identify the vehicle, Bjørn stitched together two frames from the video in the image below:  it’s a Russian (or Soviet) made BRDM-2.

The BRDM-2 is an amphibious armoured patrol car, and its main weapon is a 14.5 mm KPV heavy machine gun.

Apparently, its blue color and the absence of tracks are meant to make it a police vehicle. But even if such vehicles have been used for police purposes in other countries, keeping on the 14.5 mm machine gun makes it a military weapon.

Left: two frames from  video on MyAbotarek’s YouTube channel stitched together. Right: photo of a BRDM-2 in Polish service from Wikipedia.

According to Wikipedia, Syria is estimated to have some 950 of these vehicles, even if it was rarely spotted during the uprising. Bjorn believes that a possible explanation is that the armour of the BRDM-2 is significantly thinner than that of the BMP-1: the thickness of the armour of the hull floor is 2-3 mm and the hull sides 7 mm (also according to Wikipedia) makes it quite vulnerable in urban warfare.

And with an estimated number of BMP-1s for Syria of 2,100 (by 2005) there have been plenty of these until now. Although someone saw the use of the BRDM-2 as an attempt to make it appear as if the regime is complying with the Annan ceasefire agreement (and not as the result of either a decreased level of tension or a lack of better armoured vehicles) the BRDM-2 was used as a police since at least Nov. 10, 2011, as shown in a post on the Military In The Middle East.

Left frame: Under “Police” the Arabic lettering can be translated literally as “maintaining security and order forces”. Images and caption from Military In The Middle East.

240 mm mortar updates

Two M-240 mortars believed to be used against Old Homs. The one to the left has its barrel tilted to horizontal position. From a video uploaded on Mar. 28 to 434343aaa’s YouTube channel (via @GRAFIXEL and @ArabSpringFF)

The frames above are from one of the first video documenting presence of the 240 mm mortars. In the video there are two of the towed M-240 mortar model. The footage also shows at least 3 tanks at the start.

The two mortars are placed West of Homs close to the Al-Waer neighbourhood at this position. Please notice as well that all the areas in Homs that have been shelled are within the 9.5 km range of this weapon (see post linked-to at the end of this section for map).

In a video uploaded on Apr. 14 that Bjørn has just recently discovered, the mortar to the left has been covered (image below). The video does not show the one to the right. His guess is that if it was still there it would have been filmed. Possibly it has been moved and covered.

Also in this video the tanks mentioned above have disappeared. Instead a number of tanks can be seen in two buildings close by at this position.

Left frame: something covered in the exact same position as the M-240 in the earlier recording. Frame to the right: tanks hidden/parked in building. Source:  video uploaded on april 14. to 434343aaa’s YouTube channel.

The area where the mortars are placed is part of a military academy and contains more artillery positions. Bjørn has a closer look at the area in this post.

T-62 tank

A tank has been extensively used in Syria by the regime: the T-62. The main gun on this model is a 115 mm smooth-bore.

Here below you can find an image depicting a T-62 tank. According to the uploader the tank is positioned on the edge of the Baba Amr neighbourhood, at Homs.

A T-62 tank on the edge of Baba Amr, Homs. The T-62 and the T-55 both have five road wheels, but the T-62 has larger gaps between the last three wheels while the T-55 has a large gap between the first and second. Image source: engahns546‘s Panoramio account.

Browsing Panoramio, Bjørn has found anoter interesting photo showing three tanks located not far from where Baba Amr borders to the Inshaat neighbourhood in Homs. The one to the right is a T-72. The tank in the middle is some kind of road clearing vehicle based on the T-72, and the one to the left should be another T-72.

Three T-72 tanks in Baba Amr, Homs. The number of road wheels is the easiest way to tell the T-72 apart from the T-62 and T-55. Image source: engahns546‘s Panoramio account.

Syrian Air Force Mig-21 spotted over Hama for the first time since the beginning of the uprising.

The following video shows a Syrian Arab Air Force Mig-21 overflying Hama, a town located some 220 km to the north of Damascus, Syria, on May 9, 2012.

All the previous footage about the uprising depicted drones and gunship helicopters used by the Assad regime against the protesters in Homs and Hama.

Even if the video could be the first evidence of a fighter jet flying in Syria in 2012, the flypast does not imply the Mig was involved in any air-to-surface activity against the Free Syrian Army on the ground: Hamah airbase, located nearby, is used by the Syrian regime to launch drones, attack helicopters, cargo planes, and the Mig-21 spotted over Hama could be flying a local training sortie.

A previous video filmed at Hamah, disclosed the presence of several SyAAF Mig-21s in (seemingly) flying conditions.

New videos show Syrian made-in-Iran drone taking off from Hamah airbase, Syria

Uploaded on Mar. 24, 2012, these videos show the made-in-Iran drone, known as “Pahpad”, taking off and operating from Hamah airbase in the city of Hama, in the west part of Syria, north of Damascus.

Hamah seems to be one of the most active regime’s airbases: a Syrian Air Il-76 offloading some “goods” and several Mig-21 and helos were recently filmed there.

Here’s the video of the departure

The drone flying at low level

Here below some screen dumps which confirm that the drone used by the Syrian regime over Hama, is the same spotted in Homs.