Sunday, June 30, 2013

Syrian Army tactics and few examples of how Russia, China and Iran could help

The Abhazian Network News Agency ANNA ( and and its editor in chief, Marat Musin ( have recorded some truly fantastic coverage from the frontlines of the war in Syria.  Alas, the video commentary is always in Russian, hence I do not show these videos here, but their latest video shows a good example of the new tactics adopted by the Syrian army.  Take a look at this photo:

It shows a Syrian Army T-72 using its smoke-generation capability not to hide itself as much as to hide the soldiers behind it from sniper fire while advancing into a covered position.  Just a few minutes after the moment shown here, a solider was still wounded by a sniper shot, which tells you how much of a problem these snipers are.  The sniper, by the way, was spotted and killed using a rocket.

Now check out this photo:

It shows you a wider angle of the same battle scene.  Notice the third armored vehicle behind the two tanks?  This is a a Syrian Army BMP-2, an infantry fighting vehicle.  To see tanks supported by infantry fighting vehicles is typical, but in this case the BMP-2 is used as a rapid and safe evacuation vehicle for wounded soldiers.  Again, a very nice adaptation of available resources to different circumstances.

What is also curious is what is not shown on this footage:

1) no helicopters or aircraft
2) no use of artillery
3) the infantry assault groups are rather lightly armed

I suppose that the very close proximity of the two fighting sides can explain the lack of airstrikes (they are close enough to toss hand grenades at each other).  I suppose that tanks could be considered as more accurate than, say, mortars, but they can only shoot in a direct line of sight way whereas mortars can be used to strike target hidden behind obstacles.  Yet the Syrian only use tank and rockets, both direct fire support means.  I am not sure why.

As to why the Syrian assault groups are so much more lightly armed than the Russian assault groups were in Grozny I suppose that this indicate that the Syrian Army simply lacks that kind of weapons and maybe that is something which Russia could deliver to them.  I am thinking of the following weapons:
The RPO-A Shmel rocket launched infantry flamethrower (
The GM-94 grenade launcher (
The PP-19 submachine gun (
The VSS Vintorez special sniper rifle (
The AS Val special assault rifle (
The Pecheneg machine gun (
The OSV-96 special sniper weapon (
I want to stress here that all these weapons have been used by Russian assault teams in Chechnia and that they are not some kind of supermodern unique weapon that only Russian Spetsnaz forces have access to (for an example of that, check out the VKS "Vykhlop" silenced heavy sniper rifle:

Judging from the ANNA news footage, the Syrians are only using regular AKM-74 assault rifles and SVD sniper rifles.  While these are extremely reliable and effective, they simply do not provide the assault groups the kind of tactical flexibility which modern weapons designed for urban warfare do.   And that means that Syrian soldiers have to take extra risks to compensate for their small choice of equipment.

Furthermore, the beauty of the gear I listed above is that it is small in size and can be delivered by land, sea and air without triggering any suspicion.  Equipment like that can be loaded in the cargo bay of any civilian aircraft and delivered without anybody noticing anything.

Finally, there is no need to deliver large amounts of such weapons as these are not primary, general purpose, infantry weapons, but rather specialized weapons needed in small number to support the larger infantry force.

In conclusion, I would add that there is a lot of non-lethal gear which Russia, China and Iran could give to the Syrians, including modern encrypted radio systems, compact field-hospitals and medical gear, RPVs for intelligence collection, electronic warfare equipment, etc.

If this situation drags on, as I think it will, I hope that Russia, China and Iran will start delivering a steady flow of key equipment to the Syrians which really could make a difference in this war.

The Saker

PS: I wanted to add here that according to Russian military experts who spent some time observing the Syrian Army operations the typical casualty ratio between the Syrian Army and the Wahabis is 1:8 on average (meaning 8 Wahabis killed/injured for every one Syrian solider) and much higher when the Syrian manage to surprise the Wahabis.  One can only dream of the ratios the Syrian could achieve if given better urban warfare weapons!