Tag Archives: Syria

Israeli F-16I Sufa Crashes After Coming Under Massive Anti-Aircraft Fire From Syrian Air Defense

Iranian UAV that infiltrated the Israeli airspace is shot down by an AH-64 Apache. Then, Israeli Air Force jets launch retaliatory air strikes in Syria.  An F-16I is hit and crashes in northern Israel. Two pilots eject, one is seriously injured.

“On February 10, 2018, an Apache helicopter successfully intercepted an Iranian UAV that was launched from Syria and infiltrated Israel. The aircraft was identified by the Aerial Defense Systems early on and was under surveillance until the interception. In response, IDF attacked the Iranian aircraft’s launch components in Syrian territory,” says an Israeli Defense Force release.

Here’s the footage of the downing of the drone:

Based on the footage, the UAV shot down by the AH-64 seems to be a Saeqeh (Thunderbolt), one of those unveiled by Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) in 2016 and seemingly based on the captured U.S. RQ-170 stealth drone (H/T to Michael Cruickshank for IDing the drone).

The UAV shot down on Feb. 10 bears much resemblance with the drone (based on the captured RQ-170) unveiled by Iran in 2016.

Still, what happened later is possibly more important:

“Later, also in response to the Iranian UAV that was launched at Israeli territory and was intercepted by the IDF, Israeli Air Force (IAF) aircraft targeted 12 targets in Syria, including three aerial defense batteries and four Iranian targets that are part of Iran’s military establishment in Syria. During the attack, multiple anti-aircraft missiles were fired at IAF aircraft. The two pilots of an F-16 ejected from the aircraft as per procedure, one of whom was seriously injured and taken to the hospital for medical treatment.”

According to the first reports the F-16 was a Sufa and several SA-5 and SA-17 were launched at the Israeli jets, but there is no official confirmation. Actually the wording used by the IDF is worth of note: they don’t even explicitly say that the aircraft was “hit”, even though it seems pretty obvious. Interestingly, the Israeli military clearly stated the SAM fired at the Israeli Sufa was definitely Syrian:

Civilian air traffic suffered some disruption as Syrian missiles were fired in the northern part of the country:

Tel Aviv Ben Gurion opened to arrivals about 30 minutes later. Here’s one of the aircraft coming to landing after holding to the northwest of the airport:

There have been several Israeli air strikes in Syria in the last decades during those the Israeli combat aircraft have proved their ability to operate freely in the Syrian airspace. Reportedly, in spite of several raids, including some pretty famous operations, the last time an Israeli Air Force jet was shot down dates back to the first Lebanon War at the beginning of the ’80s.

H/T @avischarf @MJ_Cruickshank @AbraxasSpa for details and hints.

Top image credit: IDF

 

Everything We Know About The Russian Su-25 Frogfoot Jet Shot Down in Syria

Russian Loss Comes During 24-Hour Increase in Airstrikes in Syria’s North-Western Idlib Province.

A Russian Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot ground attack aircraft was shot down over the city of Maasran in Idlib, Syria, on Feb. 3, 2018. The aircraft, RF-95486/06 Blue (ex Red), was involved in airstrikes in region and had just fired rockets on a ground target.

Video seen on social media shows what appears to be a person, claimed to be the Russian Su-25 pilot, descending by parachute after the aircraft was hit. The BBC reported that Russia’s defense ministry said: “The pilot had enough time to report that he had ejected in an area controlled by the militants of Jabhat al-Nusra.”

Based on report and the above videos the aircraft was hit by a MANPADS (Man Portable Air Defense System): most probably a Chinese FN-6 passive infrared homing (IR) man portable air defence system known to be in the hands of the Jidahists.

According to reliable sources within the Russian military who spoke to TheAviationist.com, the pilot did reach the ground and then engaged unknown ground forces. Our Russian source tells TheAviationist.com that photos from the scene show the pilot’s personal firearm and that, “One store [ammunition magazine] is completely empty, the other two are consumed more than half. The pilot led the fight.” The source claimed the weapon shown in the photos is a Russian Stechkin automatic pistol or APS. This weapon is widely carried by Russian military and federal law enforcement.

Additional sources on Russian social media report that the pilot carried a grenade and may have detonated it close to himself as insurgent forces closed in on him. There is no official confirmation of this information.

Sources on Twitter claimed the pilot used a grenade in addition to his pistol to engage ground forces. (Photo: via Twitter)

Anyway, the pilot was captured and killed. The Russia-based, independent Conflict Intelligence Team posted photographs they say showed the dead body of the pilot and a paper recommending a man named Major Roman Filipov for a state award that was allegedly filled out by Russian air group commander Lieutenant Colonel Sergei Aksyonov.

Novaya Gazeta quoted an unidentified Defense Ministry source as confirming that the pilot was Filippov. According to the newspaper, he was a Ukrainian pilot from Crimea, the Ukrainian region that Russia annexed in 2014.

Video from alleged to be from the crash scene clearly show the wing of an Su-25 with Russian markings along with a damaged engine and fire among debris.

Video at the crash scene confirmed the aircraft is a Russian Su-25. (Photo: YouTube)

TheAviationist.com showed the Arabic language news broadcast to a translator in Dearborn, Michigan, who told us that the reporter in the video, identified as “Journalist Moazom Al-Chamie”, says the aircraft was shot down by a shoulder fired missile after being spotted by drivers in a truck. The reporter also goes on to say that another Russian Su-25 remained in the area after the incident, and that the men shown in the video hoped to shoot it down as well.

According to Iranian journalist Babak Taghvaee the Su-25 shot down on Feb. 3 was one of six Su-25s of RuAF’s 368 ShAP recently deployed from Sevastopol, Crimea to Hmeymim Air Base, Syria.

The loss of this Su-25 is the 11th Russian aircraft destroyed by enemy action or in accidents during the Russian involvement in the Syrian campaign. Considering the number of combat sorties flown by the Russians over Syria, and the increasing number of man portable air defense systems (MANPADS), these losses could be characterized as low for a campaign of this size.

Russian observers remarked that an absence of infra-red decoy flares being ejected from the Su-25 shown in the videos is unusual. It is common to see a series of bright flares ejected from an aircraft as a countermeasure to heat-seeking anti-aircraft missiles.

Video seen on social media showed Su-25 attack aircraft over the same area being engaged by anti-aircraft guns. One video showed an Su-25 taking a near miss as a proximity fused anti-aircraft round detonates near its left wing root.

Following the downing of the Su-25 reports began to appear on Twitter that numerous air strikes were occurring in the area where the aircraft was downed.

The Russian Sukhoi Su-25 is a successful, heavily armored ground attack aircraft roughly comparable to the U.S. A-10 Warthog. (Photo: Russian Air Force)

Top image credit: Ilya the Nightingale

Two Incidents Claimed by Russian Media Form Bizarre Conspiracy Theory About U.S. Support For ISIS in Syria

Russia suggesting attack on airbase in Syria is linked to U.S. Navy maritime patrol aircraft presence.

Syrian and Russian media outlets including the state-run Sputnik News have reported that a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft flew in close proximity of the Russian Hmeymim (Khmeimim) airbase and Tartus naval facility in Syria during a recent attempted “swarm” attack by ISIS on Russian installations using thirteen improvised drones. The slant of the articles that appeared in Sputnik News on January 9, 2018 and in Almasdar News (AMN) on the same day suggest a connection between the attempted swarm attack, countered by the Russians, and the presence of the U.S. surveillance aircraft.

A quote published in the January 9, 2018 Sputnik article read, “This forces us to take a fresh look at the strange coincidence that, during the attack of UAV terrorists on Russian military facilities in Syria, the Navy reconnaissance aircraft Poseidon was on patrol over the Mediterranean Sea for more than 4 hours at an altitude of 7 thousand meters, between Tartus and Hmeymim.” The quote was attributed to the Russian Defense Ministry.

Another earlier incident from reports on December 30 and 31, 2017 claimed that, “US helicopters have evacuated Daesh leaders from several areas across the Syrian province of Deir ez-Zor to the country’s northeast.” (Note: “Daesh” is an Arabic language reference often used interchangeably with ISIS or ISIL). The reports surfaced in both “PressTV” reports and in an Almasdar News (AMN) media and a Pravda report.

Syrian and Russian media outlets questioned alleged evacuation of ISIS personnel by U.S. helicopters. (Photo: SANA screen capture)

Taken collectively, the tenor of the reports seems to feed a conspiracy theory that the U.S. may be providing some level of tacit or clandestine support to select members of ISIS in Syria. The reports come following Russia’s announcement of the withdrawal of most of its forces from Syria during a Dec. 13, 2017 visit by President Vladimir Putin.

Why Russia, or at least some Russian and state-oriented Syrian news agencies, have continued the narrative of U.S. collusion or secret support of ISIS without specific factual evidence remains a mystery. It may be to associate some greater national influence with any ISIS success in the region, suggesting ISIS itself is not capable enough to plan and execute these operations. Some of the reports surfaced on various Russian social media pages, but appear to have been removed in subsequent days. In contrast a new report published on January 9, 2018 in the Almasdar News (AMN) seems to back pedal on conspiracy claims, quoting a U.S. statement from official Pentagon spokesperson Maj. Adrian Rankin-Galloway that said, “The US military is concerned that combat drone technology used by terrorists in attempted attacks on two Russian facilities in Syria is available on the open market.”

The latest Almasdar News report did go on to say, “It is the first time when Daesh terrorists have used modern guidance technologies on satellite GPS. The Russian security services are carrying out a probe to find out who supplied the drones to terrorists.”

Defense journalist Joseph Trevithick wrote in a January 9, 2018 report in “The War Zone” that, “The assertion that the United States and its allies are actually in league with ISIS, which it sees as indistinct from other groups in Syria opposed to the regime of dictator Bashar Al Assad, is a long-standing conspiracy theory. This is not the first time the Russians have made such allegations, either. The latest string of attacks on Khmeimim is particularly uncomfortable, though, coming after Putin’s triumphant victory tour to Syria and other countries in the region in December 2017.”

The template for conspiracy theories of U.S. support of insurgents is a persistent one since the 1985-87 Iran-Contra controversy of the Reagan era, when the U.S. was implicated in supporting Iranian arms sales despite an embargo. History can trace similar instances back through the Vietnam conflict and earlier, and as recent as alleged support of Afghan guerillas led by Osama Bin Laden during their war against the then-Soviet Union when the U.S. was implicated with helping construct a training base in Khost, Afghanistan in support of training Mujahedeen guerillas to fight the Soviets.

Dealing with the P-8 Poseidon flying not far from Latakia, this is far from unusual. The aircraft, launched from NAS Sigonella, Italy, can be frequently tracked online while gathering intelligence during missions off Syria. As someone has suggested, the U.S. Navy aircraft was possibly snooping around in the aftermath of the swarm of drones attack on Hmeymim airbase to get some details about it.

By the way, it’s also worth noticing that these days, the U.S. ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) aircraft seem to be interested in something else in the Crimea and Black Sea areas, considered the frequency of the sorties flown over there…

Defining Asymmetrical Warfare: Extremists Use Retail Drones to Attack Russian Air Base in Syria

One Aircraft Heavily Damaged in Most Recent in String of Low-Cost Insurgent Drone Attacks.

It is the definition of asymmetrical warfare: a fast-moving, lightly armed insurgency fueled by a radical doctrine uses simple weapons to attack a larger, seemingly more capable occupying force.

Taking inspiration from the doctrines of T.E. Lawrence, Sun Tzu, Che Guevara and Ho Chi Minh, extremists in Syria have increased pressure on Russian forces in the region with another simple, innovative attack that heavily damaged at least one Russian aircraft and likely more. Previous similar attacks in the region around January 4 were reported to have killed 2 Russian servicemen.

Recent photos surfacing on social media attributed to Russian military journalist Roman Saponkov show the tail of what appears to be a Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer attack aircraft damaged by an attack earlier this month.

Captured fixed-wing insurgent drone. (Photo: Russian Air Force)

A report that surfaced on January 6, 2018 from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that was shared in several media outlets including the BBC says that Russian forces shot down several “unmanned aircraft” near Hmeimim base near the north-western city of Latakia on Saturday in what appears to be the latest attack attempt by insurgents. In this week’s latest attack the Russians claim there was no damage to aircraft or personnel and their air defense systems were successful in intercepting the small, store-bought quadcopter drones usually used for cameras.

There has been a recent increase in attacks by improvised air-delivered weapons from remotely piloted aircraft on Russian installations in Syria. Additional insurgent attacks have been attributed to mortars. Some of the remotely piloted aircraft, in some instances commercial style quad-copter drones, have been modified to carry mortar rounds or grenades. Some grenade-bombs even used badminton shuttle cocks for improvised tail fin stabilizers. While this is not new, the frequency of the incidents and adaptability of the insurgents does seem to have increased.

According to some reports, recent attacks by insurgent drones damaged the tail of this Sukhoi Su-24 “Fencer”. Actually, initial reports stated that the cause of the damage was a mortar attack (Photo: Roman Saponkov)

This increase in insurgent attacks comes just after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the withdrawal of the bulk of Russian assets from Syria during a surprise visit to Hmeimim air base on December 11, 2017. Hmeimim air base is the primary launch facility for Russian tactical air operations in Syria’s Latakia province. The political move by Putin is reminiscent of the May 1, 2003 political gaff by then- U.S. President George W. Bush. President Bush made a media event out of landing on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) and speaking in front of a banner that read “Mission Accomplished”, acknowledging the progress of the U.S. in the Global War on Terror in Iraq. Although Bush never said the mission was accomplished in his remarks on the USS America, the event is historically regarded as premature to meaningful change in the ongoing Iraq conflict. Putin may face similar criticism if a meaningful victory in Syria does not happen soon.

The Russian success in intercepting improvised camera drones being adapted to carry weapons is at least partially attributable to what may be their most sophisticated air defense system, the Pantsir S-2 integrated missile and gun vehicle.

The Russian Pantsir S-2 gun and missile integrated anti-aircraft system. (Photo: via YouTube)

The Pantsir S-2, an advancement from the earlier Pantsir S-1, uses a combination of a high rate of fire anti-aircraft gun and surface to air missiles combined with advanced targeting radar to both detect aerial threats and target both the guns and the missiles on the Pantsir S-2.

Pantsir S-2 is armed with two 2A38M, 30mm automatic anti-aircraft guns derived from the GSh-30 twin-barrel 30mm aircraft-mounted cannon. The cannon system on the Pantsir S-2 has a very high rate of fire from 1,950 to 2,500 rounds per minute depending on the length of the burst. The 2A38M cannon can engage targets up to 2,000 meters, over 6,000 feet, altitude. More importantly in the context of the improvised insurgent threats, the 2A38M can engage targets down to zero altitude effectively, a problem older Soviet-era Russian anti-aircraft systems like the ZSU-34-4 faced since the guns could not depress below a certain elevation making it impossible to hit very low altitude targets in close proximity.

The Pantsir S-2 also carries the new highly capable 57E6-E guided surface to air missile. The missile uses a bi-caliber body in tandem, one stage in front of the next, with a separate booster stage then in-flight stage. The newest versions of the 57E6-E are reported to have range of up to 20-30 kilometers with and reported engagement ceiling of 10,000 meters (approx. 33,000 feet).

While the new Pantsir S-2 provides significant protection from what appears to be the entire threat envelope from enemy fixed wing aircraft to improvised quad-copter bombs the hallmark of the insurgent adversary is adaptability. While Russia appears to be emerging in the lead of the conflict in Syria as Putin announces their withdrawal, one has to wonder what shift in insurgent tactics will follow their drone attack campaign.

U.S. Marine Corps Planning F-35B Deployment to CENTCOM Area Of Responsibility To Get “First Taste Of Combat” In 2018

The USMC may have their “baptism of fire” with the F-35B next year.

The F-35B, the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Lightning II 5th generation aircraft is expected to deploy to the Pacific and Central Command theaters in 2018, the Marine Corps Times reported.

According to Jeff Schogol, the F-35B, that can operate from amphibious assault ships, “is expected to deploy with two Marine expeditionary units to the Pacific and Central Command theaters in the spring and summer. […]  The first deployment will be with the 31st MEU aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp and the second will be with the 13th MEU aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Essex, said spokeswoman Capt. Sarah Burns.”

The first deployment to the U.S. Central Command AOR (area of responsibility) – that includes Iraq, Syria, Iran, Yemen and Afghanistan – has long been anticipated. In 2016, Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, head of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, told reporters that the service was planning to deploy the F-35B to the CENTCOM area of operations aboard the USS Essex (six more F-35Bs were to deploy to the Pacific aboard the USS Wasp).

The 2018 deployment follows the relocation of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121), an F-35B squadron with 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, from MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station) Yuma, Arizona, on Jan. 9, 2017. Since then, the F-35B have started operating in the region, taking part in local drills as well as some routine “shows of force” near the Korean Peninsula: for instance, on Aug. 30, four U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II joined two USAF B-1B Lancers from Guam onf a 10-hour mission that brought the “package” over waters near Kyushu, Japan, then across the Korean Peninsula. Interestingly, during that mission, the F-35Bs flew with the radar reflectors used to make LO (Low Observable) aircraft clearly visible on radars and also dropped their 1,000-lb GBU-32 JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) on Pilsung firing range. On a subsequent mission on Sept. 18, the aircraft took part in a “sequenced bilateral show of force” over the Korean peninsula carrying “live” AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles in the internal weapons bays.

A U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II aircraft with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121 departs Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Sept. 18, 2017. The F-35B Lightning II aircraft joined United States Air Force, Japan and Republic of Korea Air Force aircraft in a sequenced bilateral show of force over the Korean peninsula. This show-of-force mission demonstrated sequenced bilateral cooperation, which is essential to defending U.S. allies, partners and the U.S. homeland against any regional threat. Note the AIM-120 barely visible inside the weapons bay (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron Henson)

As already reported, the F-35s would be probably involved in the Phase 4 of an eventual pre-emptive air strike on Pyongyang, the phase during which tactical assets would be called to hunt road-mobile ballistic missiles and any other artillery target that North Korea could use to launch a retaliatory attack (even a nuclear one) against Seoul.

Moreover, during the opening stages of an air war, the F-35Bs would be able to act as real-time data coordinators able to correlate and disseminate information gathered from their on board sensors to other assets contributing to achieve the “Information Superiority” required to geo-locate the threats and target them effectively.

Considered that Marine aviation officials have said that up to half of the current F/A-18 Hornets are not ready for combat, the deployment to the CENTCOM AOR a key step in the long-term plan to replace the legacy F/A-18 Hornet, EA-6B Prowler, and AV-8B Harrier fleets with a total of 353 F-35Bs and 67 F-35Cs by 2032.

Touchdown imminent during “Proof of Concept” demonstration on the USS America (LHA-6) November 19, 2016. (Todd Miller)

In October 2016, a contingent of 12 F-35Bs took part in Developmental Test III aboard USS America followed by the Lightning Carrier “Proof of Concept” demonstration on the carrier on Nov. 19, 2016. During the POC, the aircraft proved it can operate at-sea, employing a wide array of weapons loadouts with the newest software variant and some of the most experienced F-35B pilots said that “the platform is performing exceptionally.” The eventual participation in a real operation such as Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) over Syria and Iraq, albeit rather symbolic, will also be the first opportunity  to assess the capabilities of the platform in real combat. As for the Israeli F-35s, the airspace over the Middle East (or Central Asia) could be a test bed for validating the tactical procedures to be used by the new aircraft in the CAS (Close Air Support) mission with added Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance (ISR) and Command & Control (C2) capability.
If committed to support OIR, the F-35B will probably operate in a “first day of war” configuration carrying weapons internally to maintain low radar cross-section and observability from sensors playing both the “combat battlefield coordinators” role, collecting, managing and distributing intelligence data, and the “kinetic attack platform” role, dropping their ordnance on the targets and passing targeting data to older 4th Gen. aircraft via Link-16. More or less what done by the USMC F-35Bs during Red Flag 17-3 earlier in 2017; but next year it will be for the real thing.

Top image credit: U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Becky Calhoun