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Here's Why Russia's Bombing Campaign in Syria is so Effective

Advanced aircraft and targeting systems combined with clever tactics have the jihadis on the run.

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This post first appeared on Russia Insider

As the Syrian army continues its advances, a Syrian officer has explained to the Russian news agency RIA Novosti why Russian air strikes are so effective.

He is reported to have said the following:

"Syrian aircraft are easily detectable in the sky and militants have time to hide. Russian warplanes launch attacks from higher altitudes since they are equipped with cutting-edge sighting and guidance systems. They also use guided bombs.”

This claim is undoubtedly true and explains why the Russian intervention has proved in military terms so decisive.

The aircraft the Syrian air force uses are old Soviet machines dating from the 1960s to 1980s.

Aircraft like the MiG21 and MiG23 were designed as air to air fighters.  They cannot carry heavy bomb loads.  

The MiG21 is limited to 1,000 kgs.  The MiG23 to 3,000 kgs.

This compares with the much heavier bomb loads the Russian aircraft can carry: 4,000 kgs in the case of the SU25s, 8,000 kgs in the case of the SU24s and 12,000 kgs in the case of the SU34s.

The heavier loads the Russian aircraft can carry don’t just mean they can carry more bombs.

It means they can carry much bigger bombs - capable of far more destruction than the much smaller bombs the Syrians use.

However the key difference as the Syrian officer said is in their sighting systems.

The chief sighing system used by the Syrian aircraft is the pilot himself.  The aircraft bomb what the pilot sees.

This means the accuracy of the bombing depends heavily on the pilot’s skill.  Since even the best pilots are limited by normal human limitations, inevitably that means most of the bombs the Syrian aircraft drop miss their targets.

It also means the Syrian aircraft can only fly during the day and in good weather.

Most important of all however, it also means the Syrian aircraft have to fly close to the ground.

That not only gives the jihadis ample warning of their coming.  

It also means the Syrian pilots are at constant risk of being shot down by hand held surface to air missiles (“MANPADS”) and anti aircraft cannon, which are a deadly threat to aircraft flying at low altitudes and which the jihadis have in abundance.

The Russian aircraft by contrast have highly sophisticated electronic targeting systems.

These means they can fly at high altitudes, day or night, in most weather conditions, and can hit their targets with deadly accuracy.

Since the Russian aircraft fly at high altitudes they are normally beyond the reach of the jihadis’ MANPADS and cannon, and the jihadis have little or no warning of their coming.

In the great majority of cases the jihadis are not aware of the presence of the Russian aircraft until the moment the bombs strike.

The fact the Russians can strike the jihadis with deadly accuracy any time, day or night, without warning, using far more powerful bombs than any the Syrians use, explains the far greater effectiveness of the Russian air strikes.

The Russian air campaign is being conducted at a technological level only matched in the recent air campaigns carried out by the US.

The big difference is that this time it is groups allied to the US that are being targeted.

Judging from reports of increasing numbers of retreats and desertions, the effectiveness of the Russian air campaign is now starting to erode the jihadis’ morale.

Over the last few days the Russians have acted to worsen it even more.

They have publicly claimed that the reason some of the air strikes have been so effective is because targeting information on some of the jihadi groups has been provided by members of the Syrian opposition.

That is by no means impossible.  However publicising this claim - whether it is true or not - is inevitably going to feed the paranoia and distrust that already exists between the various rebel groups.

That of course is why the Russians made the claim public.



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