All posts by Valentin Vasilescu

10-May-17 – Was Russia Tricked by an American Woman in Syria? – No way!

Written by Valentin Vasilescu, military analyst, former deputy commander of Otopeni Airport.

Trans. By Alice Decker

On April 7, 2017, President Trump famously launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at the Shayrat air base near Homs, a highly visible and much-vaunted gesture, even though only 23 of them actually landed. But even that begs the question: How did even one of them get through, if Russia has such a solid defense in place?

In Syria, the Russian army has deployed a multitude of land-based and ship-borne long-range and short-range AA systems and even has MiG-31BM, Su-30SM, and Su-35S cruise missiles capable of taking down cruise missiles. In its military actions in Syria, the Russians have applied the principles and laws of military science by the book [1]. Indeed, they have even surpassed world standards in the use of force for special operations [2].

Even so, all the Russian military installations were [seemingly] powerless against the US ship-based cruise missiles. The Americans managed to trick the Russians very handily.

Cruise missiles are no longer a technical novelty except for states with a weak military. Russia has demonstrated that their Kalibr can achieve the same performance as America’s Tomahawk. Moreover, under standard conditions, AA S-400 and S-300V4 air defense missiles can successfully counter a Tomahawk cruise missile launched from surface ships (though not from submerged submarines which are harder to spot).

So it wasn’t technological superiority that made the difference, but the commanders of the Fifth American Fleet who demonstrated a high level of skill. They made full use of intelligence and innovation to counter the Russians’ technological advantage. By the way, for those who do not know: the commander of Fleet VI is a woman, Admiral Michelle J. Howard, who graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1982 and from the Army’s Command and General Staff College in 1998.

The apparent trajectory of cruise missiles.

If the Americans had chosen a direct trajectory for the cruise missiles, the distance between Crete (where the Arleigh Burke destroyers – the DDG 78 Porter and DDG 71 Ross – were deployed) and the Syrian air base Shayrat (40 km SE of Homs) would have been 1,070 km. The Tomahawk missiles used were Block III TLAM-C or Block IV TLAM-E, both with a range of 1,600 km.

On a direct trajectory, the cruise missiles would have overflown Cyprus and would have arrived over land at the 30 km strip that separates the port of Tartus from the Lebanese border. But the port of Tartus is used by the Russian navy and they have a division there (x 4 AA rockets), S-300V4. The new S-300V4 system became operational in 2014. It can detect cruise missiles flying just above sea level and launch air-to-air missiles when such targets pass Cape Greco in Cyprus (over 160 km). The S-300V4 division has 80 missiles.

US Navy photo by Paul Farley

Even if the cruise missiles had crossed this strip without being detected, the distance between Tartus and the Syrian air base at Shayrat is 85 km. Over rough terrain, the S-300V4 can detect Tomahawk missiles flying at an altitude of 50 m from 50 km away and can take them down from a distance of 38–40 km. Tomahawk rockets fly at 800 km / h, and at that speed they are within striking distance for more than 2 minutes and 30 seconds, enough time for 87% of them to be shot down by the S-300V4s.

The Khmemim airbase, located 68 km north of Tartus and used by Russian aviation, operates a Russian AA S-400 missile division. This division would have discovered them from more than 160 km away and would have knocked down the US cruise missiles if they had bypassed the island of Cyprus and made it to the coast of Turkey. The S-300V4 and S-400 divisions are protected by a Pantsir-S1 (X 8 launcher), each launcher having two 30 mm guns (4000 projectiles per minute) and 12 short range missiles (20 km). The Pantsir-S1 can detect and attack cruise missiles from a distance of 15 km. So, in this case, the American missiles would have had no chance of hitting the Shayrat air base.

The actual trajectory chosen.

An interesting explanation offered by Russian expert Alexandr Shishkin in his article “Missed Hit” on his blog (at or here). He said the US cruise missiles were programmed to follow a flight trajectory 250km south of Cyprus and to cross over Israel. On this route, the radars of the S-300V4s and S-400s could not see the cruise missiles as the mountainous terrain of Lebanon intervenes between them and Israel. The cruise missiles then crossed Jordan’s airspace for about 250 km, changing direction frequently, flying parallel to the Syrian–Jordanian border. The missiles crossed into Syrian airspace and flew across Syria to their targets over areas occupied by Islamist rebels, mostly in the desert.

In 2011, Syria had more than 200 radars, in the metic, decimetric and centimeter ranges, for detecting air-to-air missiles and directing fighter jets. Most of them were arrayed in the open field or on top of commanding heights. During Syria’s civil war, 85% of the radars were destroyed by Islamist rebels, while the rest were re-located around Damascus and the Mediterranean. That is why there are major gaps in the area covered by Syria’s radio-location facilities — i.e., in areas occupied by Islamist rebels, starting at the border with Jordan, and in central, eastern and northern Syria.

The Tomahawks’ fight path was chosen to bypass Damascus, where discovery radars and AA missiles were in place that could shoot down cruise missiles.

Did the Russians get it wrong?

After the collapse of the USSR, the US Navy Fleet in the Mediterranean no longer included a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier; submarines and many other combat ships disappeared. There are four destroyers at the Rota naval base in Spain and amphibious ships at Gaeta, Italy, homeport of the 6th Fleet flagship USS Mount Whitney.

A similar threat to Syrian cruise missiles existed in 2013, but at that time the Russians created an efficient blockade with a naval group that included the Slava-class cruiser Moskva (equipped with air-to-air S-300F Fort and OSA-M missile systems), the cruiser Peter the Great (with S-300F Fort, 3K95-Kinzhal and OSA-M), and other destroyers and anti-aircraft frigates. The Russian naval group, superior both quantitatively and qualitatively, was deployed in a circular formation some of 150–250 km from the US military ships. The Russian ships had onboard KA-31 helicopters equipped with early warning radars and turrets with opto-electronic sensors, which patrolled the area for 40–70 km around their own naval grouping. Any cruise missile launch could be immediately detected and neutralized because it would be within the range of radar discovery on Russian ships.

Bear in mind that any such cruise missile operation takes at least a month to prepare, and after that one waits for the right moment to strike. It is out of the question that President Donald Trump simply made a tempestuous decision to do this.

And from this standpoint it would appear that Russia’s military intelligence service was totally out of the picture. Meanwhile, the US naval and aero-cosmic reconnaissance had discovered that the Black Sea Fleet’s frigates Ladnyi and Pitlivy, armed with the AA Osa-MA-2 missile systems, were laid up for repair. So was the cruiser Moskva, lead ship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, and the Smetlivy anti-submarine destroyer, armed with M-1 Volna AA rockets.

The Americans also knew that the Russian frigate Admiral Grigorovich had just left the Mediterranean Sea and crossed the Bosporus and Dardanelle Straits to move to the port of Novorossiysk. The ship is armed with Kalibr cruise missiles and Shtil-1 AA rockets (40 km range).

In the meantime, the frigate Admiral Makarov, sister ship to the Admiral Grigorovich, launched in 2015, has not been commissioned even today and handed over to the Black Sea Fleet. So on the date of April 7, 2017, the Russians did not have a single medium- to high-range AA battle system in the Mediterranean Sea.

If the Russians had put up the same naval blockade as in 2013 and had not blindly relied on a totally inadequate tactic for the S-300V4 and S-400 type AA systems, then the Americans would not have launched the cruise missiles — as they would have been destroyed by the Russians. After the cruise missile attack, Russia finally deployed an A-50U AWACS aircraft to the Hmeimim airbase in Syria. The A-50U is equipped with the Vega Shmel-M radar for launch detection, including air-to-air missiles on a 500-km flight.

So, was the new face of the US Navy that smart, or was perhaps the whole episode rigged? — most likely.

[1]. New details on the effort to insert airborne troops into Deir ez-Zor ( ).

[2]. The role of the Spetsnaz in the liberation of Aleppo ( )

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19-April-17 – After Six Years of War, The Syrian Army Has Effective Anti-Rocket Missiles

By Valentin Vasilescu

Trans. by Alice Decker

The Role of Anti-Tank Guided Missiles in Syria

Since 2012, Syrian rebels have taken control of several of the Syrian army’s weapons depots, capturing ATGMs (anti-tank guided missiles) manufactured by Russia such as the 9M113 Konkurs and 9K115-2 Metis-M. Later, in 2014, Saudi Arabia which already had over 15,000 ATGMs (nearly 10,000 of them being BGM-71 TOW 2s) acquired another 14,000 TOW 2s (BGM-71D) and TOW 2As (BGM-71E) from the American corporation Raytheon, for which they paid nearly $ 1 billion.

It just so happens that, in 2014, the “moderate” Islamist rebels supported by the Gulf states, Turkey and the US were supplied with 2,000 to 3,000 ATGM systems of various types, including the 9K111 Fagot [Russian for “bassoon”], the 9M133 Kornet, the 9M113 Konkurs, and the H-8 and H-73C (produced in China), the Milan (from France–Germany) and the BGM-71 TOW2.

The media have shown evidence that the FSA rebels (Free Syrian Army) alone received about 790 BGM-71 TOW 2 systems from Saudi Arabia from April 4–15, 2014. They would have been delivered clandestinely at the Turkish border with the complicity of Qatar and the US.

Following the Russian air force intervention in Syria at the invitation of Bashar Al Assad in November 2016, ATGM shipments to rebel groups were increased exponentially. Another nine Islamist groups including Al Nusra (Syria’s Al-Qaeda subsidiary) have in their possession nearly 2,000 BGM-71 TOW2 systems.

According to Armament Research Services,

The US-produced TOW[1] missiles are in use by many armed forces, including Syria’s regional neighbors Bahrain, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, Israel, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, UAE, and Yemen.

The Defense Logistics Agency’s WebFLIS service shows that BGM-71E-3B missiles have seen service with both the US Army and US Marine Corps, with the Marines having recently become the primary managing organization for this item. This particular example is marked as having been produced by Hughes Aircraft Company as part of a contract first awarded in January 1990 (see contract number, also visible in the image below). This contract was taken over by Raytheon when Hughes was purchased by them in 1997 and has been re-awarded seven times since its initial issue, with the most recent award in 2004. Consequently, the missile was probably produced between 1990 and 1997 [2].

Electro-Optical and IR Countermeasures

ATGMs, especially the BGM-71 TOW 2, used in urban combat, have become a nightmare for Syrian tank operators because they have caused significant losses and damaged the Syrian army’s morale. For example, in February 2015, during the offensive to take Idlib, the ATGM-armed Islamic rebels destroyed about 40 Syrian army tanks.

This was possible because the Syrian army’s old T-53 and T-62 tanks had little protection, mainly some armor on the tank chassis. In order to reduce the cost as much as possible, the newest tanks (T-72) were ordered from the Soviet Union without any supplementary packages of “Kontakt” or “Relikt” Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) applied over their own armor. ERA provides additional protection equivalent to 620–700 mm of RHA (Rolled Homogeneous Armor). Neither did the Syrian tanks have any active-type armor (such as the “Arena” or “Shtora” system found on Russian T-72B3M / B4M and T-90 tanks) that automatically detects, intercepts and detonates antitank munitions before they hit the tank.

To remove this vulnerability, in 2012 the Syrian Scientific Research Center (SSRC) started a research program to create a jamming device against ATGMs that use the SACLOS (Semi-Automatic Command to Line of Sight) principle. ATGMs with 2nd generation SACLOS require the operator to keep his weapon’s target in the weapon sight until the missile has impacted. ATGMs are capable of destroying tanks and armored vehicles, bunkers, fortifications, buildings and other obstacles. ATGM jammers were available but Syria could not buy them because it was under the UN embargo. The Shtora on the Russian T-90 tank was too complex and the SSRC could not fit on the T-55, T-62 and T-72 tanks.

Instead, in 2014, the Syrian Army intelligence service captured 18 BGM-71 TOW2 systems from the FSA rebels in northern Syria. These were dismantled and studied by the SSRC. The BGM-71 TOW2 has a range of 3,750 m and has a 5.9 kg high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) warhead which operates in two stages, that is, a small warhead explodes on impact with the tank, then detonates the main warhead. The main warhead emits a jet of gas and molten metal at a speed of 1,500–3,000 m / s which can penetrate armor as much as one meter thick. The BGM-71 TOW2 missile features a xenon lamp and a thermal beacon at the rear, allowing it to be tracked and guided by the sensors and the operator through the IR and thermal sighting and targeting.

The Syrian Sarab System

The Syrian army first used its Sarab-1 (“mirage”) active protection, mounted above the turret on T-62 tanks, near the NSVT 12.7mm heavy machine gun, in its offensive on Khanaser, south of Aleppo (21–29 February 2016). This proved to be a good antidote against the 9M113 Konkurs ATGM used by the Islamic State. The Sarab-1 disrupted the optical command link between the operator and the ATGM sensor, so that the ATGM missiles could not receive the operator’s corrections to the trajectory; instead they received false commands transmitted by Sarab-1 via IR and they missed their targets.

The Sarab-1 system uses several transmitters that cover about 120 ° of the front of the tank. The transmitters are based on high-powered infrared LEDs and uses lenses to focus the light rays. Sarab-1 is a primitive form of Shtora and has shown to have an efficiency rating of over 80%. The Syrian army has also used Sarab-1 to protect its fixed support points (artillery pieces, fortified buildings, etc.) against ATGMs. Sarab-1 was not developed and tested according to the standards of the weapons industry but directly on the battlefield, against Islamic rebels.


Sarab-2, an improved version, was mounted on the T-62 and T-55 tanks used in the fight against Islamic State near Palmyra. At 2.34 seconds from launch and after traversing approximately 520 m (considered to be its minimum limit of efficiency) the BGM-71 Tow2’s IR sensor automatically switches from Large Field of View mode (with an angle of more than 6°) to the Narrow Field of View mode (between 1 and 0.25°). At this stage, the Sarab-2 emits stronger IR beams than those in the rear of the antitank missile (which are tracked by the launcher’s guidance system). These false data emitted by Sarab-2 cause the ATGM guidance system to send sudden corrections to the vertical flight and the rocket hits the ground before it gets near the target. Batteries provide 10 hours of operating power for Sarab-2, and its transmitters cover a frontal sector of 180°.

The latest version, Sarab-3, also uses laser beams and protects the tank in a complete 360 ​​° sector. The only problem is that the Sarab family has no effect on wire-guided or optical fiber ATGMs, RPGs (Rocket-Propelled Grenades), or portable man-launched rockets.

And Low-Tech Protection

US armored vehicles used in the invasion of Iraq (2003) and in Afghanistan were provided with a steel grille mounted at a distance of 1 m from the vehicle and providing 360° coverage. This solution was effective against RPGs (RPG-7, SPG-9) and some ATGMs, because the projectiles explode on contact with the tank’s grille and even if they pierce the armor itself, they do not explode inside the vehicle.

In February 2017, on the outskirts of Damascus, hundreds of Syrian Army vehicles were observed, T-72 M tanks, BMP-2s (IFV), ZSU-23-4 tanks and bulldozers from the 4th Tank Division, with a steel grating mounted on them. Bulldozers with armor plates welded on are used extensively in Syria’s urban areas to create the corridors needed to get tanks, armored personnel carriers, and artillery pieces through, past the ruins of buildings.

April-02-17 – The US Has Opened a New Front in Syria by an Air Assault Operation

By Valentin Vasilescu

Trans. by Alice Decker

Raqqa, the Islamic State “capital,” was cut off from Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) trained and led by the US military from the north, west and east, within a radius of 20–35 km. The city’s defenders had only one link left with other territories: that from the south. Some 45 km southwest of Raqqa is Tabqa Cty, an important outpost for the defense of Raqqa on the banks of the river Euphrates. After the Syrian army liberated Dayr Hafer from ISIS, they advanced to Tabqa on the southern shore of Lake Assad, 40 km from the city. To the west of Tabqa city is a strategic objective — the Tabqa dam. It was built in the 1960s and 1970s with help from the USSR. It is a major dam, 4.5 kilometers long, and provides 35% of the electricity in Syria. There is another, smaller dam on the Euphrates River, called the Baath. It is 20 km east of Tabqa dam, between Tabqa and Raqaa.

On the night of 21/22 March 2017, the US military launched a joint airborne operation in Syria, carried out initially for about 80 American soldiers from the 75 Rangers Regiment Special Operations Forces and 400 Kurdish YPG fighters, now called SDF. The purpose of this operation was to occupy a strategically important area on the southern shore of Lake Assad and the Euphrates. The area is bounded to the west by a portion of the road linking Tabqa with Aleppo, in the middle by the Tabqa dam and the Tabqa Air Base, and in the east by a portion of the road that connects Tabqa and Raqaa. This operation occurred a week before the Syrian army’s maneuver, preventing it from participating in the liberation of Raqaa city from the Islamic State.

The operation started 48 hours before the actual transport, when the US led nearly 50 coalition airstrikes against ISIS. They targeted pockets of resistance, ammunition depots and 50 Islamic State military vehicles. The targets were the city of Tabqa, Tabqa Air Base and near the Tabqa dam. After nightfall, about 75 US Marines in expeditionary unit 11 crossed Lake Assad using dinghies. Their mission was to create a safe overflight for American aircraft by clearing the southern shore of Lake Assad of Islamic State fighters.

At around 04.00 on March 22, in the district where the boarding for the airborne operation was to take place, just north of the town of Jabăr on the northern shore of Lake Assad, about 30 MH-47F helicopters and OV-22 Osprey vertical takeoff aircraft took off from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) Command. The OV-22 Osprey is a tiltrotor vertical takeoff and landing aircraft. It combines the flight characteristics of winged aircraft with those of a helicopter, in that the wing on which the two engines are mounted can change its position by 90 degrees around the transverse axis of the aircraft. The OV-22 can transport 24 soldiers or a 4×4 Badger Phantom vehicle and has not only a gun inside the hatch but also a rotating machine gun with six barrels (7.62 mm caliber, firing at a rate of 6,000 projectiles per minute), operated by remote control, under the belly of the airplane. Now the OV-22 can protect itself in all directions while landing.

In the flight path and near Abu Hurayrah peninsula, the designated landing area, the transport aircraft were protected by US AH-64 Apache attack helicopters. Another 124 American marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit were deployed near the town of Jabar. They run a battery of M777 howitzers (155 mm caliber) and, together with the AH-64 Apache helicopters, they neutralized any attempt by Islamic State fighters to fire on the landing areas. The M777 howitzer fires Excalibur-type high-precision projectiles with a range of up to 40 km and is accurate to 4–10 m, due to the use of GPS and a digital fire-control system.

Lieutenant General Sergei Rudskoi, Chief of Operations of the Russian military’s General Staff, said the Americans’ 155 mm caliber projectiles had damaged one of the sluice gates and compromised the Tabqa dam. It is jammed shut, and there is danger of catastrophic flooding.

The distance between the boarding area of Jabar and the landing in Abu Hurayrah is 25 km. Thus, by March 22, 08.00, US aircraft made at least 60 deliveries including 480 troops, with weapons, ammunition, food, equipment engineers, etc. Note that the MH-47F helicopter is capable of carrying the 75th Rangers Regiment’s Humvee light armored vehicles. The first flights carried exclusively American servicemen and their armored vehicles. The MH-47F helicopter transports 33–55 troops, or weapons and ammunition up to 10,886 kg. They defend themselves with a 7.62 mm caliber machine gun operated form the open hatch at the tail. The mission of the 80 US soldiers from the 75th Rangers Regiment was to secure the two landing areas on the Abu Hurayrah peninsula.

By the end of the day, March 22, a bridgehead was established on the southern shore of Lake Assad. About 3,000 fighters and 300 SDF Marines or US Special Forces had been flown in. Additionally, the US Marines also provided landing ships which helped to deploy the SDF’s heavy machinery (Humvees, armored personnel carriers, mortars, artillery, bulldozers), on the south bank of the Euphrates. Later, the Tabqa Air Base was captured and most of the troops were deployed 10 km east of Tabqa in the direction of the Baath dam to prevent the Islamic State troops from migrating from Raqaa to Tabqa.

Because of the potential failure of the Tabqa dam, the original plan of operation was changed, meaning that SDF troops who had reached the northern end of it did not go ahead and seize it. Thus they missed the opportunity to open up transport routes for the SDF troops on the southern shore of Lake Assad. The American landing troops then proceed to encircle the Islamic State at Tabqa and to occupy the Baath dam. By crossing the Baath dam, SDF can pop up behind the Islamic State’s defensive deployment, located on the north bank of the Euphrates. By this means, the SDF troops on both sides will now be linnked.

Raqaa City straddles the north bank of the Euphrates. By occupying the Baath dam, SDF also surrounds the forward defense positions of the Islamic State, to the west and on the south bank of the Euphrates, near the city of Raqaa, completing the encirclement of the Islamic State capital. This new operation will end when the Islamic State fighters from Tabqa City surrender or are wiped out, and there will be no gap in the encirclement of Raqaa. Islamic State can no longer receive reinforcements from Raqaa or Deir-ez-Zor and Iraq.

26-March-17 – Russian Special Forces and the Ka-52 Helicopter in the Second Liberation of Palmyra

By Valentin Vasilescu

Translated By Alice Decker

Syria is a training ground for the Russian military to test new combat methods and new organizational structures adapted to fighting terrorists.

The Islamic State offensive from 8 to 12 December 2016 resulted in their recapturing the city of Palmyra, advancing westward, and blocking the Syrian T-4 Air Base at Tiyas, located 30 km west of Palmyra. Islamic State’s offensive formation was composed of three brigades with one in reserve, or about 5,000 fighters. The first brigade took the lead. It had 1,700 men with 30 tanks armored vehicles (BMP-1 or IFVs), 70 trucks equipped with 14.5 mm-caliber machine guns, 20 pieces of artillery (122 mm-caliber howitzers and BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launchers), and dozens of 120 mm- and 82-caliber mortars. IS had a brigade of more than 1,000 soldiers on both its left and right flanks, without heavy artillery and with fewer armored vehicles and trucks than the main body. Palmyra and the city’s airport were guarded by Islamic State reserves of over 800 fighters.

Combat Forces in Palmyra.

Syria’s T-4 Air Base at Tiyas was defended by about 2,000 soldiers. The defensive forces included: a mechanized brigade of the Syrian Army’s 10th Infantry Division, an NDF territorial battalion comprised of Syrian reservists, a battalion of Lebanese Hizballah and a battalion from the Afghan Shiite organization Liwa Fatemiyoun. The T-4 Base was close to being surrounded and cut off, so that the Syrian army was forced to send reinforcements, about 2,500 troops, from Aleppo.

In addition to a battalion of Tiger special forces, a battalion from the 5th Legion and three tank companies from Tank Division 18 (totaling about 1,000 soldiers), soldiers brought in as reinforcements, were NDF (National Defense Forces) ancillary forces without much combat experience. Even with the reinforcements, the Syrian army was no greater than that of the Islamic State.

Under these conditions, it could have taken several months to stop the Islamic State offensive and prepare a counterattack to liberate Palmyra. Therefore, the general staff of this group was made up of Russian planning officers. The Russian planners quickly drew up a plan of air and ground operations that could achieve the intended goal in less than a week.

Offensive Plan for the Liberation of Palmyra.

The first key was to restrict the mobility of the three IS brigades, preventing them from moving. They put the IS on the defensive and prevented them from bringing up their reserves, located 30 km away from the Syrian air base.

To keep the Islamic State forces in place and neutralize them, a Russian tactical aviation group in Syria (having both jets and attack helicopters) had to hit at least 600 major IS targets in the first 72 hours of the operation. This meant that some aircraft, particularly the Mi-28 and Ka-52 attack helicopters, had to perform five battle flights daily (compared to the two runs normally carried out. Most of these were close air support missions at low altitude. This meant an additional risk to Russian aircraft as they were vulnerable to IS heavy machine guns and small-caliber cannons.

The second key element was to make the most efficient use of one of the basic elements of warfare: reconnaissance, mainly through research carried out independently by ground troops. The accuracy of any airstrikes depended on good intelligence, accurately detecting and transmitting the location of each enemy position. Therefore, the center of gravity of the operation to break the encirclement of the air base at Tiyas and to free Palmyra was the Russian Spetsnaz group’s ability to convey reconnaissance information to the headquarters of the operation. The special forces also organized raids and ambushes.

The Russians gave the Syrian army a flexible order of battle, consisting of approximately 10 assault groups made up of one platoon of T-62 tanks, a BMP-1 platoon, a BTR-82A platoon, two ZSU-23-4 Shilka automatic cannons, 15 pickups with machine guns (14.5 mm caliber) and 200 more Marines onboard the trucks. Reconnaissance by the ground troops of each assault group was conducted by advance detachments that formed joint commando units consisting of Spetsnaz special forces and Syrian Tigers.

IS support points that had been hit in the airstrikes were liquidated by the Syrian army assault groups, which eliminated the Islamist rebels or forced them to retreat. In the mountainous terrain north and south of the road that links the T-4 Tiyas Air Base to Palmyra, it is harder for aerial forces to hit their targets. There, the Syrian army used an artillery support group consisting of 32 artillery systems: D-30 122-mm-caliber howitzers; BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launchers, and TOS-1A thermobaric launchers. Thermobaric ammunition is a combination of liquid fuel and tetranor powder. It is used for destroying fortifications and armored vehicles or fighters. Thermobaric projectiles first produce a small explosion that vaporizes the contents in a flammable cloud. When the aerosol thus created makes contact with the oxygen in the atmosphere, it self-detonates, creating a tremendous shock wave followed by intense fire.

Within 48 hours of the start of the operation, Russian aviation had fulfilled its mission, the Islamic State terrorist offensive was stopped and the Syrian army assault groups took the lead. IS fighters retreated to Palmyra, which was besieged from the south, west and north by the Syrian army. The city was quickly liberated and the terrorists retreated east of Palmyra. The Syrian army continued in pursuit, moving towards the town of Deir ez Zor.

According to a statement by Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi, the chief of the Russian General Staff Main Operational Directorate, 1,000 ISIS members were killed and wounded, and 19 tanks, 37 armored vehicles, 98 pickups armed with heavy weaponry, and over 100 cars were destroyed.

Tigers Syrian Commando Units.

At the end of 2013, Lieutenant Colonel Suheil al-Hassan was tasked with forming a new Syrian special forces battalion which was to have a greater offensive capability. They were called the Tigers. Some of the officers of this new unit are selected from Tank Divisions 4 and 11 of the Syrian army. Originally, the Tigers were prepared using manuals and trainers from the Iranian and Hezbollah commandos. In early 2016, the Tigers went ahead and formed two battalions. They were trained by Spetsnaz special forces and Iranian instructors. This explains why the Tigers used Russian AK-74 weapons with silencers and with laser rangefinders, headphones and armor from the Russian RATNIK equipment, 10 to 15 T-90A tanks and several Russian light armored vehicles (Russian LMV) in operations in the Aleppo governorate, in the summer of 2016.

Offensive operations by Al Qaeda and Islamic State groups are preceded by two types of suicide actions carried out simultaneously. Up to ten 4×4 cars and trucks with heavy plates of armor called VBIED (Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices) or armored BMP-1s (IFV), all filled with explosives, start out from different directions at full speed and ram their way through the Syrian army positions in order to explode in their midst. Simultaneously, dozens of individuals or groups of fighters, with explosive belts, try to penetrate the Syrian army.

If this method works, the terrorist assault units start their offensive.

The Tigers have adopted a method of neutralizing these suicide attacks by setting up ambushes. In the ambush, the Tigers use multiple observation points covering different sectors, using snipers with Orsis T-5000 sighted rifles (7.62 mm caliber) and KSVK sighted machine guns (12.7 mm caliber), as well as SPG-9 recoilless rifles (73 mm caliber), RPG-29 anti-tank missile launchers, and Metis-M and Kornet portable anti-tank missiles.

The 5th Legion and the IS Hunters Regiment are auxiliary units of the Syrian Army, supplemented by volunteers who have undergone a program of training, equipping and arming financed by Russia. The 5th Legion has a first batch of 1,000 soldiers who have been trained in assault tactics to be used on Islamic State groups, and they are used in elite units serving under the Tigers.

The role of Russian Spetsnaz in the liberation of Palmyra.

Russian Special Forces are equipped with 6B47 helmets (RATNIK equipment) that have a 1PN139 thermal finder and 1-P88-2 sighting device, for night vision. This allowed them to infiltrate secretly, at night, to a distance of less than 5 km from IS resistance points. During the day this was impossible, because of the many IS observation points manned by snipers.

Spetsnaz troops equipped with RATNIK then launched silent ZALA 421-08 type mini UAVs, with electric motors, weighing 1.7 kg, with a ceiling of 3,600 m and flight duration up to 90 minutes [1]. Video transmissions from the Zala 421-08 provided infrared imagery of Islamic State formations. These were received via satellite at the air operations center of the Russian air base at Hmeymim. The transmission is done using the Special Forces’ Strelets tactical computer device. The Strelets screens also automatically displayed to Russian aviators the positions of all the Spetsnaz detachments, thus avoiding any “friendly fire” incidents.

Having identified targets to hit, the Russian command center at Hmeymim dispatched Su-24, Su-25, and Su-30 planes as well as Mi-28 N, Mi-35 and Ka-52 attack helicopters. The armored cars, pickup trucks and artillery were hit first — the strong points of IS.

To aid the precision airstrikes, Spetsnaz illuminated some of the targets by laser beam. These Russian airstrikes neutralized fire power of infantry Islamic State.

Testing the Russian Ka-52 Helicopter.

For Russia, one important objective of this operation was to test the Ka-52 helicopters that are being deployed with Russia’s Navy. The Ka-52 Alligator is a new reconnaissance and attack helicopter with two coaxial bearing propellers driven by two Klimov TV3 engines of 1830 kg each. It can reach a speed of 350 km/h. The Ka-52 helicopter has a range of 545 km without additional fuel tanks, and it can carry two tons of weapons. Four containers can be mounted with 23 mm caliber guns, or four multiple-launchers with six Vikhr-type laser-guided antitank rockets (with a range of 12–15 km), or with six Igla-V air-to-air missiles or two blocks of 20 S-8 reactive projectiles each (80 mm caliber).

In the Palmyra operation, tests of the new Vikhr missiles showed very good results. When the Russian Navy uses the Ka-52, it is equipped with two torpedoes or four Kh-25 air-to-ship laser-guided missiles, or two Kh-35U missiles (with a range of 300 km) or two Kh1AD missiles.

The avionics on board the Ka-52 includes equipment designed by the French company Sextant Avionique, part of the Thales concern. This allows them to display all the NASH information (Navigation and Attack System for Helicopters) on the unit’s HDD (head-down displays) sighting system, or directly on the helmet visor of the pilot and the weapons system operator using the Topowl system. The 30-mm Shipunov2A422 mobile cannon located in the nose of the helicopter is also operated via the helmet visor.

For navigation at night and in low visibility, the helicopter is equipped with Russian Khoda-type FLIR sensors and laser rangefinders linked to the laser target-marking system. They are mounted in a turret under the cockpit. In another turret, electro-optical sensors are mounted (TV and infrared cameras). Ka-52 helicopters also have Phazotron FH-01 Crossbow radar, which can track up to 20 air and ground targets simultaneously.

To protect itself, the Ka-52 helicopter has a broadband receiver and Pastel L150 radar warning system. In the infrared spectrum it is protected by Mak L136 equipment, and in pulsed laser frequencies by L140 Otklik equipment. UV-26 flare and chaff dispensers and metalized dipole cartridges are mounted in a container at the wingtips.

[1]. Russian soldiers have the best personal protective gear ( )

14-03-17 – Funding Ballistic Missile Shields vs. Space Programs

by Valentin Vasilescu

Translated by Alice Decker

Concomitant with the miniaturization of nuclear warheads, designers of intercontinental ballistic missiles switched to rocket engines that use solid propellants (fuel/oxidizer) instead of liquid fuel. This made it possible to reduce the nuclear vector and shorten the preparation time for launch. All of the US military forces abandoned liquid fuel rockets in the last twenty years.

In liquid fuel rockets, the liquid fuel and an oxidizer are burned together in a combustion chamber. The fuel flow and the thrust generated can be regulated and the engine can be controlled, making it more fuel-efficient. Solid-fuel rockets are simpler, safer, and cheaper. A fuel and an oxidizer are pre-mixed in a solid form. It is no longer necessary to separate the fuel tanks and cryogenic receptacles, as is required when using liquefied gases (LOX/LH liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen) and there is no more need for turbopumps to pump the propellant from the tanks into the combustion chamber. However, once combustion begins, the thrust cannot be controlled or turned off, making this a less efficient system.

The evolution of solid fuels.

Dr. Theodore von Karman emigrated from Europe in 1930 to become the first director of the Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology (GALCIT), which later became Aerojet Engineering Corporation. The aim was to study and develop new solid rocket fuels. The first solid fuel, called GALCIT 27, was a black powder made from an organic matrix (the asphalt used in roads) with an inorganic oxidant (potassium nitrate, known as saltpeter). GALCIT 61-C, which was still used after the end of the Second World War, was composed of 76% potassium perchlorate as the oxidizer and 24% fuel (asphalt and motor oil). To get rid of the fumes, the potassium perchlorate was replaced with ammonium perchlorate (NH4ClO4). Ammonium perchlorate derivatives are the most widely used fuel rocket today.

It was a big step forward when the asphalt was replaced with an elastomeric polymer. Zinc oxide was added as a hardener or curing agent, creating polysulfides that have a structure and properties similar to rubber. To test the new solid fuel, the Aerojet Engineering company created a small rocket called the "Thunderbird." Weighing 580 kg, the Thunderbird had a thrust of 2,720 kg. The Thunderbird led to the creation of the Sergeant rocket engine and later the XM33 Pollux, which was widely used for the upper stage Vanguard rockets that placed the first US Explorer satellites in space.

From polysulfides they progressed to polyurethane (thermoplastic polymers) by adding aluminum to the fuel composition. Polyurethane can be easily modeled, and was poured directly into the rocket body. ESTANE, the first rocket fuel based on polyurethane, was produced by Goodrich Chemical company, but the most commonly used fuel in this class was PBAA, a copolymer of polybutadiene and acrylic acid, which was first produced in 1967.

Since space rockets are about 80% derived from military ballistic missiles, solid fuel has become the norm in both areas. The most common polyurethane rocket fuel is HTPB (hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene), produced by ATOChem and was used the Delta II, Delta III, Delta IV, Titan IVB and Ariane rocket boosters. A derivative of the HTPB solid fuel is PBAN, which was used by the two Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) to provide thrust during the first two minutes of flight..

US rocket motors: Recycled from the ICBM and Re-assembled as an Antiballistic Shield

Orbital Sciences Corp (OSC) became famous in April 1990 when the Pegasus, its first ultra-light rocket, was launched from a B-52 bomber (capable of carrying up to 32,000 kg) and managed to place in orbit a 443 kg satellite. The Pegasus ultralight rockets were 17.6 m long and weighed 23,130 kg; they had four stages with solid fuel. The rocket would detach from the airplane at an altitude of 10,000 m and the satellite was placed in a low orbit around the Earth.

This ultra-light rocket was a turning point in the construction of American missiles, showing that it was feasible to build a US anti-ballistic shield. On December 13, 2001, President George W. Bush notified Russia that the US was unilaterally withdrawing from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The ABM Treaty limited each signatory to installing Anti-Ballistic systems in just one location. At the same time, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) was created within the US Defense Department. Technically, this institution was the latest incarnation of President Reagans Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) program, later restructured and renamed the BDMO (Ballistic Missile Defense Organization) in 1994. The MDA funded OSC (manufacturer of the Pegasus rocket), to assemble ballistic missiles, switching over to the Taurus and Minotaur rockets. The 1,000 three-stage missiles (the LGM-30F Minuteman II, operational from August 1965 until 1997) and the 500 LGM-118 Peacekeepers (the MX, operational until 2005), were decommissioned and subsequently supplied to Pentagon agencies and private companies like OSC, SpaceX (Space Explorations Technologies) and ULA (United Launch Alliance).

The Taurus rocket is assembled by OSC with a launch mass of 73 tons and a payload capacity of 1.3 tonnes for satellites to be placed in low orbit. The first stage of the Taurus rocket is the SR-19. The SR-19 is the second stage of the Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile and the Peacekeeper MX-II. The SR-19 has a mass of about 7 t, with a thrust of 27,000 kgf. The SR-19 later became the first stage of the GBMD (Ground-Based Midcourse Defense) fixed rocket system for the US Missile Defense Agency. The GBMD shield defends the US Pacific Coast with launch sites in Alaska, California and Hawaii.

The GBMD was developed in parallel with the ABMD (Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense), the naval component of the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS). It uses recycled solid rocket. The US Navy has fifteen Arleigh Burke-class AEGIS destroyers and 22 Ticonderoga-class cruisers. All these vessels are equipped with SPY-1D antiballistic radar and 24 anti-ballistic missiles (the RIM-161/SM-3, launched by the MK-41 Vertical Launch System). AEGIS ballistic systems were installed on six Japanese Kong-AEGIS-class destroyers and three Korean Sejong-class destroyers.

The same AEGIS system has been deployed in Romania, at Deveselu, and it will be deployed in Poland as well. The RIM-161 / SM-3 Block 1b uses the Aerojet MK 72 engine which was the third stage of the American ICBM Minuteman-II rocket, which has been decommissioned.

The US Army has created its own ABM shield called THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense). A battery consists of 9 launchers x 8 missiles, one radar and two tactical operations centers, all on a M1075 chassis (for 6 x 6 specialty trucks) manufactured by Oshkosh Corporation. The THAAD missiles solid fuel engine is a variant of the Aerojet MK 72.

The Minotaur is the second family of solid fuel rockets from the OSC company. The Minotaur I can launch into orbit an object with a mass of 580 kg. Its first stage engine is a M55A1 (the same as the first stage of the Minuteman II intercontinental ballistic missile) with 80,000 kgF thrust. The second stage (SR-19) is, as mentioned above, the same second stage used in the American Minuteman II and the MX intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The Antares Rocket Disaster

In 20102013, the same Orbital Sciences Corp. bought 40 Russian NK-33 engines and used them in NASA launches, replacing the first two stages of the Minotaur I rocket with two Russian NK-33 liquid fuel engines, each with a thrust of 170,000 kg and functioning for 600 seconds, in order to be able to increase the payload to 2700 kg. The Russians had been using NK-33 engines since 1975 without incident, and the Russian company Energomash delivered them to the Americans. Because of US sanctions on Russia at the beginning of 2014, when the inventory of 40 engines was exhausted, the American side also interrupted the technology transfer with Russia.

For this reason, the White House and the US Senate proposed that the US company Aerojet copy the NK-33 and produce liquid fuel engines, to be designated the AJ26-58/62. Aerojet collaborated on this with the Yuzhnoye design office in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine, a design office known in Soviet times as OKB-586, when it designed the Zenith family of light rockets. Two AJ26-58/62 (modified NK-33s) engines constitute the first stage of the new Antares rocket (Taurus II), after the architecture of the first stage of the Soviet Zenith rocket only Aerojet introduced new Ukrainian components into the Russian engines without consulting with the Russian designer, Kuznetsov.

The Ukrainians from Yuzhnoye, although they had owned the engine technology for more than 20 years with liquid fuel, working with liquid oxygen and kerosene, they had never used NK-33 engines from the JSC Kuznetsov (part of the militaryindustrial conglomerate "Rostec") they had been using engines from the Russian company Glushko (the RD-171 and RD-120, designed by OKB-456). These engines use a different type of high pressure turbo pumps.

All these errors came together on October 27, 2014, when the Antares rocket was to carry an American Cygnus cargo ship with supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). Six seconds after take-off, the Antares ran out of fuel and lost thrust, and began to fall. The controllers at the Wallops Island launch center in Virginia were forced to fire the rockets self-destruct mechanism. According to Agence France-Press, the spokesman of Orbital Sciences Corporation acknowledged that "analysis of the available data indicates a fault at one of the two turbopumps in the first stage of the rocket." That ended the cooperation with the Ukrainians. The Russian Soyuz rocket uses the NK-33-1 engine and it works flawlessly.

With the closure of the Space Shuttle Program (2011), ATK (Alliant Techsystems) decommissioned its production line for the most powerful solid fuel boosters in the world. The Pentagon and NASA were left without the most powerful rocket engines that had a thrust of 1.4061 million kg. Lieutenant General Ellen Pawlikowski, commander of the Air and Missile Systems Center (SMC), says that in the next 1015 years the Russian engines will be indispensable, and that only the P238 in the world (which are the first stage of the French Ariane 5 rocket), could help in case of an emergency with the Russian RD-180 engines.

The French Ariane 5 rocket is 50.5 m long, with a mass of 780 t; it can launch 1621 t into orbit. The first stage has two P238 solid rocket motors, each with a thrust of 630,000 kg. The second stage uses the Vulcain 2 engine, using LH2/LOX, with a thrust of 115,000 kg. The third stage uses the Aestus 2/HM-7B engine with a thrust of 6,900 kg, and it can be turned on and off repeatedly.

In December 2014, the White House sent the French President a request to supply P238 engines, but the Ariane 5 ECA only had six launches a year and could not even meet the demand for placing satellites for the European Union. France appealed to Russia for missiles. Russian specialists built the Kourou Space Center (in French Guyana), a new launch pad and rocket assembly hangar, for the Russian Soyuz and Vega; France could not provide the Americans with rocket motors.

Russian and US missile engines from the Apollo missions

Although liquid fuel rockets have a larger capacity, and have far more parts and subassemblies, they remain today the only way to launch objects weighing 2030 tons into space. The White House followed a totally erroneous strategy in directing funding mainly to research and development of solid fuel suborbital rockets, intended for various components of the antiballistic shield, and this prevented NASA and the US Air Force from developing a new generation of space launcher.

On 21 July 2011, upon the completion of the 135th mission, the Space Shuttle Program with manned flights was ended. And with it, NASAs and the US militarys primary launcher disappeared. Even though it invested heavily in creating and maintaining the International Space Station (ISS), the US no longer has the means get astronauts on board and has to appeal to Russia.

Space Dragon

In October 2012, the Space Dragon capsule, built by the American company SpaceX (Space Explorations Technologies), performed its first three-week mission in space without crew. The Dragon capsule carries 400 kg of supplies for the ISS. To launch, it uses a Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk, the mastermind behind PayPal, as a private company.

Falcon 9

The Falcon 9 is a two-stage rocket, 54 m long, 3.6 m in diameter, with a weight of 333 t ; it can place an object of 6.6 t in a low orbit. The first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket is made up of nine Merlin 1C rocket engines (using liquid fuel, LOX/RP-1), each with a thrust of 56,696 kg. The first stage has a total of 500,000 kg thrust and stage 2 has a single Merlin engine which operates for 345 seconds.

While the Western media talk about the Falcon 9 as something new, it is not nothing but a recycling of old relics from the Cold War. The Merlin 1C engine is a more modest version of the already famous RS-27 engine (93,304 kg thrust), manufactured by Rocketdyne from 1974 to 2000 for the McDonnell Douglas companys Delta rockets. The Delta 2000 can place a satellite of 6 tons in low orbit.

Delta II

More than 70% of the thrust for another rocket used by USAF today, the Delta II rocket family (6000/7000 Series), is provided by the first stage (operating on LOX/RP1). This stage (also equipped with the RS-27 engine) is nothing but an intermediate-range Thor-type ballistic missile (IRBM). The Thor was created in 1959 with a single stage engine (RS-27). SpaceX just copied & pasted the configuration of the Saturn I and Saturn IB rocket for the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket; they were designed NASAs glory days to serve the Apollo missions. Eight MB-3 (Thor missile, renamed H1) engines were put together to serve as a first stage (S-IB) for the Saturn IB.

Stage 2 (Able) of the Delta II rocket is actually the engine of the Apollo Service Module. It was used to launch the lunar module and the command module into lunar orbit and then to remove them from lunar orbit and propel them back to Earth. Their propulsion was provided by the AJ 10-118 engine (with 4,000 kg of thrust).

For take-off, the Delta II rocket uses small new solid rocket boosters, with a diameter of 1 meter, with a thrust of 6,500 kgF. The rocket boosters use a GEM-40/Castor engine. In 19621977, it was used in the MGM-29 Sergeant short-range, solid-fuel surface-to-surface missile (a range of 135 km) for US land troops.

Delta IV

After NASAs budget was dramatically cut, some of the experts from subsidiaries of Lockheed Martin and Boeing joined forces in 2006 as the ULA (United Launch Alliance). ULAs mission is to put together new rockets from left-over systems and engines at the Pentagon and to provide launch services for American military satellites. Basically the same as for SpaceX, the Delta IV rocket put together by ULA is another example of recycling old rocket stages used in the Cold War. Unlike the series Delta II, Delta IV can place objects weighing 822 tons in orbit.

The Delta IV has two boosters with RS-68 engines using LH2/LOX, each with 337,811 kg thrust. This is actually the main engine of the Space Shuttle, derived in turn from the J-2, the second stage engine of the Saturn IB or the third stage of the Saturn V. The first stage also has an RS-68 motor and the second stage (Centaur) has an RL10 engine, with 11,216 kg of thrust, using LH2/LOX.

Atlas V

ULA also assembles the most powerful American rocket in service (the Atlas V). It is capable of launching into orbit objects weighing 929 tons. At launch, the Atlas V uses two Russian RD-180 booster engines, working with liquid oxygen and kerosene (LOX/RP-1) which each produce a thrust of 423,386 kg. The RD-180 engine is based on the first stage of the Russian Zenith family of rockets produced by NPO Energomash. The first stage of the Atlas V rocket also has the Russian RD-180 engine and the second stage (Centaur) is the same as the Delta IV rocket.

Only the Atlas V rocket can place in orbit the X-37B autonomous (unmanned) spacecraft which are used by the US air forces for their secret missions. Some experts suggest that the X-37B is used for creating, testing and developing new weapons systems that are intended to attack from orbit, anywhere on Earth. The US currently has two X-37B spacecraft built by Boeing that can execute missions lasting 469 days in space. ##

The sanctions levied by the US government against Russia could affect the cooperation between JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory), NASA, and the Russian Space Research Institute (Roscosmos). The safest and most often used launchers remain those of the Russians, i.e., the Soyuz and Proton rockets, with a capacity of 12 to 23 t. They carried the crews and cargo to the Salyut and Mir orbital stations and also to the Russian modules assembled at the ISS station (Zarya and Zvezda).

Russia Has Introduced a New Family of Rockets

On December 23, 2014, an Angara-A5 rocket weighing 763,621 kilograms took off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome. The first stage of the rocket had a thrust of almost 1,000,000 kg and had four boosters with RD-191 engines mounted around a central segment with an RD-191 engine of its own. Aerospace experts were stunned by the RD-191 engine that is capable of reducing the thrust, in flight, from 100% (240,000 kgf) to 30%.

The RD-191 engine can automatically correct the angle and rotation of the rocket to the desired azimuth,, as [t]he combustion chamber of the RD-191 is designed to swing up to eight degrees along two axis (yaw and pitch) in a special gimbal suspension to enable steering of the rocket in flight.[1] This obviates the need for additional correction engines. The hydraulic system is also an innovation in the field. It heats helium to pressurize the fuel tank and to create the hydraulic pressure required for moving the nozzle of the engine.

The first stage of the rocket functioned 211 seconds, achieving a speed of 3 km/s. The first stage was detached at an altitude of 90,435 m; the second stage (which has a 30,000-kg RD-0124 engine) brought the rocket to an altitude of 161,695m, accelerating to a speed of 4.8 km/s. The third stage consists of a 2,000kgF S5.98M engine that can be stopped and restarted repeatedly. The third stage of the rocket accelerated to the first cosmic speed (7.9 km/s) and reached an altitude of 215 km.

Thus some 12 minutes after launch, the payload mass of 25,766 kg made up of several satellites arrived at a stable orbit around the Earth. The propulsion module called Briz-M transferred the satellites from the initial low orbit to a geostationary orbit. The Briz-M rocket engine was switched on and off four times over nine hours. At 5:58 p.m., the Angara-A5 launcher arrived at a fixed geostationary orbit at 35,800 kilometers attitude and an inclination of 0.49 degrees to the equator.

The Angara family of launch vehicles includes the Angara 1.1 light rocket that can put two tons into low orbit (and that can be converted into an InterContinental Ballistic Missile or ICBM). Then there is the two-stage Angara A3 medium rocket that can put objects of 14.6 t to a low Earth orbit, taking the place of the current Zenith rocket that delivers satellites into geostationary and geosynchronous orbit for the Russian military and Russian Space Agency. The Angara rocket family also includes the heavy Angara A5 and the super heavy Angara A7 rocket, in which the RD-191 engines are replaced with more powerful and lighter RD-193, allowing them to put 35 tons into low orbit or 12.5 tons into geostationary orbit. The most powerful rocket in the Angara family is the Angara-100, which can put 100 t into low orbit.

The first Angara to be launched was the Angara 1.2pp rocket, which performed a suborbital flight of 22 minutes on July 9, 2014, with a payload capacity of 1.5 tons onboard. The rocket flew over northern Russia, traveling 57005800 km, and then it fell to the intercontinental ballistic missile impact area in the Kura Test Range (Kamchatka). The Angara 1.2PP did not have the four boosters seen with the Angara-5, the first stage being made up of a single RD-191 engine and the second stage being fed at just a third of capacity. The point was to test the functions of the main components of the rocket Angara-5. The Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Amur region, where construction began in 2011, was specifically designed to launch rockets by 2018, mainly in the Angara family.

6-March-17 – Using Cyber Ops as a Tool to Trigger Social Unrest


The US has recognized that the emergence of new technologies that impact large masses of people must be adapted to military use, working through its covert CIA operations and the Pentagon’s Special Forces Command. This has enlarged the scope of military confrontation to include other, unconventional domains (information, psychology, etc.), leading to new methods specific to these environments and the creation of unconventional weapons. Russia took inspiration from the Americans’ set-up and their experience in creating a new PSYOPS division of its own.

Conventional warfare aims to inflict physical destruction and physical injuries that can be treated, injuries from which one might recover. But in the 21st century, military campaigns have moved beyond the phase where soldiers were killing each other, dragging along with them through the battlefield millions of conventional projectiles. With information operations, PSYOPS is not intended to inflict physical destruction on the opponent, but to influence and control his thoughts. The damage caused by PSYOPS is gauged by changes at the cognitive, mental level.

Furthermore, information attacks target not so much individuals but as wide a geographical zone as possible. PSYOPS are used to create the most favorable conditions for achieving the objectives of the military operation that they precede. Therefore PSYOPS are most often launched not only during a military conflict but during peacetime, and sometimes they can lead to war. The most elaborate information attacks are second generation operations that monitor over time the information infrastructure of the target state, seeking the right time to destabilize and obstruct it. Even if the target state applies psychological safeguards, they are not effective enough to counteract PSYOPS attacks.

Information – The Raw Material of PSYOPS

On the territory of another state that is often hostile, the PSYOPS warrior takes an enormous risk using unconventional weapons meant to induce specific moods and emotions. The purpose of psychological operations is to induce or to steer the attitudes and behavior of the target population in a favorable direction, according to the objectives of the one conducting the PSYOPS.

Thus, information is one of the key elements in achieving the goals of PSYOPS missions, information which can be obtained either from special State organizations or through their own efforts. Tactical PSYOPS teams in the field study both the region and the target population, while collecting intelligence. The information gathered is then used in tailoring audio, video, radio, and Internet products designed to shape opinions, attitudes or behavior among the target population.

The PSYOPS algorithm begins with information gathering, storing and processing. Next, based on what that information shows, comes the design and creation of media output (pieces for print, audio, video, and especially the Internet). Finally, these products are disseminated to the target through a media network (radio, TV, newspapers) working undercover in the target territory, or via news portals, personal pages and blogs from fake NGOs promoting “freedom of expression,” which are composed of locals who collaborate with the PSYOPS teams.

PSYOPS works on the mindset, the attitudes of the target population, and specialists receive indirect confirmation if their actions have achieved their goal. Sometimes the results are tested and the methods may be adapted based on results of the analysis.

This complex process of planning, design and implementation of psychological operations is similar to the processes undertaken in preparing a military operation. Military PSYOPS specialists don’t shoot guns, but they are good sociologists, psychologists, ethnologists or economists. To these qualities are added an understanding of culture, religion and history. It takes 3–4 years to train a PSYOPS specialist.

One of the basic conditions for carrying out a PSYOPS operation the ability to work closely with public relations organizations, social media, and state or private media, and the communication officers of political parties in the theater of action, where collaborators are recruited. It is very helpful if one can receive information from these sources, because it gives PSYOPS specialists the opportunity to check different types of data they are working with. Such collaboration between workers in PSYOPS, public relations (overt or covert) and the intelligence community is a new concept called Info Ops. NATO specialists think that electronic warfare specialists, specialists in Civ-Mil (civil-military relations), PSYOPS specialists, experts in intelligence and other fields, can all participate in Info Ops.

PSYOPS as a Tool To Trigger Social Unrest

Example #1, Romania

In Romania, a member state located on the eastern border of NATO, the Pentagon has created the alliance’s strongest PSYOPS structure. This unit is a copy of those operating under the Pentagon and it was put together with the help of US PSYOPS instructors. The Special Operations Command (SOC) of the Land Forces of the Romanian army has a full range of units capable of performing any type of unconventional mission within Romania and even more so abroad.

The Psychological Action Directorate (PSYOPS) is the most important element subordinate to the SOC and it works closely with the Operations Directorate of the General Staff. It includes the “Targets Analysis and Evaluation Service,” the “Service for Planning and Conducting Psychological Operations,” and the “Service for Psychological Influence on the Enemy.” In addition, a Psychological Operations Center has been created, and it’s staffed with top sociology professors, psychology researchers, experienced directors from Romanian Television, American PSYOPS instructors, etc. The work of this PSYOPS institution is governed by the Doctrine for Psychological Operations and the Psychological Operations Manual.

Internationally, Romanian military psychological operations groups have worked in various theaters of operations, under supervision by their counterparts in the Pentagon. In Afghanistan, Romanian soldiers who were serving as occupation troops printed and circulated a magazine for locals, titled “Sada e azapi” (“Voice of Liberty”). It has a circulation of 400,000 copies and carries articles in three languages: English, Pashto and Dari. There is also a radio station by the same name that broadcasts round the clock.

In Kosovo, Romanian soldiers operate the KFOR radio station, with Serbian and Albanian language broadcasts. Radio KFOR is the prime source of information for Serbs and is ranked second in listenership for Albanians. The Romanian military also publishes the magazine “4U Magazine” with a circulation of 70,000. The journal is published in Albanian, Serbian and English. Some schools use it as teaching material for English classes. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, the most famous publication was a magazine for teens, “Mirko,” edited by Romanian servicemen (until 2004, when it ceased publication).

The ever diminishing costs of microchips has made possible record leaps in information technology, especially in applications such as cable television, and mobile and internet networks. One of the consequences of this type of technology was that it allowed the instant creation and organization of many virtual groups, bringing together people who have the same hobby or interest, even if they are located far apart.

This phenomenon has grown in Western countries, where it is called “Smart Mobs.” Working from that basis, some groups have gone on to create Flash Mobs, in which a bunch of people gather at a precise moment in a public place where they do something unusual, for a brief time, then quickly disperse.

The Internet-based networks of Twitter and Facebook are public channels for data transmission, nothing more and nothing less. To the extent that Twitter and Facebook are used to produce a desired effect, they are already part of the professionals PSYOPS toolkit, building on the successes of dedicated military outlets — with the difference that, in the military, one has to take account of the possibility of jamming, or worse, of “deceiving.” That’s not a problem with Twitter and Facebook.

Informed sources say that the protests that have been disrupting Romania for the last two weeks (late January, early February 2017) may have been created by domestic PSYOPS groups. They were organized through social networks and by contagion, and pulled together more than 600,000 Romanians in ten major cities.

In PSYOPS planning and execution, one key element taken from the military stands out, and that is the hierarchical management structure. To control how the operation unfolds on the street, the leaders have pre-arranged systems for giving orders (in accordance with whatever the behind-the-scenes organizer has in mind). Information also flows back up to the organizers, reporting on the dynamic situation on the ground (battlefield reports) to enable an assessment of any random variables that may have popped up.

Based on this information, spontaneous decisions are made as necessary to adjust the original plan in order to achieve the aims and objectives for which the operation was triggered. All these basic elements of armed conflict have been transferred and adapted to the newest type of confrontation, that which concerns people’s minds, psychological warfare.

Anybody who has thoroughly reviewed the posts circulated on Twitter and Facebook will have discovered what are called PSYOPS “nodes,” that is, the “General Staff” or major players behind the operation. They are trained in crowd control procedures, in formulating psychological messages that trigger people to take action, meant to create contagion among diverse individuals. Any PSYOPS specialists could tell at what time and location each stage of the protests took place; they could instantaneously collect and process photos of the situation on the ground, etc. So the “General Staffs” were easily pinpointed by those in the know, which is why most Romanian and foreign media outlets have done everything possible to provide confused coverage, turning the details of the PSYOPS upside down, willfully mis-interpreting it for the purpose of camouflaging its sponsors. But teams from CNN, Al Jazeera, Russia Today, CCTV-News (China Television) and BBC News all managed to broadcast live images of the protests.

The participants in these protests in Romania, which burst forth for no clear and justified reason, were mostly well-to-do people, in a country where at least a quarter of the population is poor. The rich demonstrated peacefully, projecting laser beams slogans on buildings, in a carnival atmosphere, in stark contrast to a real protest where people are forced to take to the streets and turn violent because they cannot meet their basic needs (food, clothing, etc.).

So, unlike the “Arab springs,” the protests in Romania have been planned so that there is no international interference, they don’t get out of control, and in the end they do not lead to any closure. This is most likely because the protests were controlled from start to finish by Romanian PSYOPS structures and were intended only to test the ability to influence the masses and to improve the image of Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, especially outside Romania. Iohannis, of German origin, is the supreme commander of Romania’s army and intelligence services, and head of the Supreme Council of National Defense.

Example #2, Moldova

PSYOPS operation in Chisinau in 2009

A coup was staged in Chisinau, capital of Moldova, on April 7, 2009. This resulted in the collapse of the government, early elections, and installation a pro-Western government. The coup followed the pattern used in the hottest parts of the world. In addition to PSYOPS, violence was used in Chisinau, methods that have been tested in real urban guerilla warfare, since the foreign organizers of the coup — and the domestic operators who conducted it — needed casualties, at any cost, to give the coup legitimacy by showing that the forces of law and order had used their weapons. Limiting the effects of the coup, which could have been turned into a civil war like in Ukraine, Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin avoided falling into the trap of ordering the use of arms to violently suppress the demonstrators.

Throughout the day of 7 April 2009 and thereafter, all the television stations in Romania, Moldova’s close neighbor, referred to a “revolution.” They communicated false information alleging there were hundreds of dead, and said that Voronin had fled the country. The same Romanian media used identical procedures to manipulate and poison international public opinion that had been successfully tested the coup in Romania in 1989.

The operation to break through the defensive shield before the entrance to the Parliament of Moldova followed a classic Special Operations Forces structure Those who planned the events of 7 April 2009 knew (well in advance, and in detail) the methods and procedures described in the regulations that guided the security forces on duty. Most likely, they had done considerable reconnoitering beforehand, on the basis of which they could:

· Figure out the traffic flow and send in small groups at regular intervals to infiltrate the body of peaceful demonstrators without raising any alarms;

· Decide precisely where all the tactical groups should gather and which way they should go when the time came to launch the offensive;

· Establish the exact composition of each tactical group, with a clear mission, and signs and signals for recognizing their supporters among the local population.

Alpha group, which is small in number, can be characterized as exceptionally well-trained in using procedures for generating emotional contagion among the mass of demonstrators. In the first phase, its role was to take control of the crowd’s emotions, using slogans, in fact hallmarks of psychological warfare, aimed at swaying the participants (and onlookers) in favor of the protest action. The success of this first phase was just copy/pasted in 2017 in Romania. Psychologically, it transformed the individual participants into a flock willing to blindly follow any promptings without passing them through the filter of reason.

Once the original objective was achieved, Alpha Group initiated the second phase, which consisted of making a big show of a frontal assault. This was in order to compel the police commander to concentrate the security forces and group them in front of the staircase at the entrance and up the steps. To execute the orderly maneuver, and considering the lay of the land, the security forces, who had not noticed the trap laid for them, were forced to move and take up forward positions.

PSYOPS Hands Off the Initiative to the Special Operations Forces

The second and most important sequence of the operation was executed simultaneously by Bravo and Charlie groups, made up of veterans in urban guerrilla warfare, which included in their ranks some Serbs who had participated in organizing Otpor. Bravo and Charlie initiated an extremely quick and well-coordinated maneuver to surround both flanks of the new formation of the security forces. This lightning-fast move broke up the first security group, separating it into small groups that were easily attacked from all sides. This also made it impossible for the security forces to counter-attack, and this meant they would have to bring in their reserves.

Two elements combined to make this sequence a success. First, there were fewer security men on the wings, since they had concentrated their forces to counter the frontal attack by Alpha Group. The second was that 50–70 meters away, two more pressure groups had been positioned. Delta and Echo Group were infiltrated deep into the mass of demonstrators and forcibly pushed peaceful protesters from the center. By this means they got the main body of the protesters moving in the direction of Bravo and Charlie Groups.

Having arrived at this point, according to the regulations in force, the defense of the site was considered compromised and had to be abandoned. First, the building had to be evacuated. As a last resort, in exceptional circumstances and only after the building was evacuated, they could use active methods for crowd dispersal to break up the demonstrators — in other words, “irritants” (commonly known as tear gas) or firearms. As for the first option, the commander of the defense unit had no tear gas launchers or gas masks to protect the troops; and in addition, it would have affected the health of a section of the population in downtown Chisinau that were not participating in the demonstration.

As for the second option, the decision to use weapons against demonstrators was the exclusive prerogative of the President of Moldova, Vladimir Voronin, and he refused to open fire. A good decision, considering that on December 17, 1989, in Romania, President Nicolae Ceausescu’s decision to open fire in Timisoara gave the Romanian Special Operations Forces a chance to use electronic simulators to make people believe there was an external enemy. On the heels of the same decision, weapons were given to the Patriotic Guards (a paramilitary formation) and panic-inducing rumors of “terrorists” were spread. But after the Ceausescus were physically eliminated by summary execution, there were no bodies to show for the 65,000+ victims said to be the result of their repression, so the authors of the coup ordered a few dozen corpses of children and women to be exhumed from cemeteries in Timisoara and other cities — to put them on display as great martyrs of the revolution, for the benefit of public opinion and the Western media.

During the counter-demonstration in front of the Central Committee building, ordered by Ceausescu on December 21, 1989, prior to the coup in Romania, Romanian troops specializing in psychological warfare managed to break up the rally by inducing agitation and panic in the crowd. They used high-power speakers and amplifiers. The sound was provided by the army, with 10 vehicles arranged so they were not visible to the crowd but at an angle that sent echoes through the square. Armored personnel carriers and army trucks equipped with PSYOPS apparatus issued a low frequency noise that was perceived as a strong vibration. The PSYOPS formation was called the “Technical Support for Special Propaganda.”

Those who watched reports broadcast from the scene in Moldova on 7 April 2009, by journalists from Romanian and Moldovan TV stations as well, supporters of the opposition, noted that the camera angle and position of the operators were almost all aligned the same way. And that they could not have arranged themselves this way spontaneously, as they had no way of knowing what was coming.

Special Operations Forces (SOF), An Extension of PSYOPS

The UN Commission reports on atrocities in San Salvador, Chile, Panama, Grenada and other countries all confirm that in 1975–1990, Latin America was devastated by rebels, some of whom had specialized in terrorism at the US special operations training center at Fort Benning (State of Georgia). The concept of special operations troops was invented to fill the need to perform tasks considered unconventional by the US military. After the experience in Vietnam, the US military created a Special Operations Command in addition to the four traditional categories of armed forces. Known as “Green Berets,” the soldiers from that command are assigned to five Special Operations Groups, one assigned each continental command (USEUCOM-Europe, USCENTCOM-Asia, USAFRICOM-Africa, USPACOM-Pacific, USSOUTHCOM-South America), each operating within a well-defined geographical area of the world.

Each group is composed of three battalions called ODCs (Operational Detachments-C), and each battalion has four companies called ODBs (Operational Detachments-B). Each company is intended to serve in one particular country (for example, in 1975-1995, ODB 14/65 was responsible for Romania). Members of subunits of each group know the languages spoken and are trained to be familiar with the habits of the peoples in the area of responsibility. Each SOF company is composed of six SOF platoons called ODAs (Operational Detachments-A), with each 12 soldiers. A platoon can act independently as two teams of six soldiers.

In the wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, Green Berets were infiltrated deep into enemy territory to liquidate or capture high-ranking members of the military or civilian leadership. They also destroyed strategic military and civilian targets in enemy territory. The most important mission was recruiting and training, in secret, members of the local population to wage guerrilla actions. In addition to the seven SOF groups, there is the regiment 75 Rangers, which consists of three battalions. They were used in 1989 in the invasion of Panama. They usually infiltrate by parachute.

US SOCOM’s most famous unit is Detachment 1 Special Forces, also known as Delta Force. Detachment 1 is made up of four companies with two platoons. Each platoon has four groups of five soldiers that act independently. In terms of respect shown by the US authorities, Delta veterans are in third place, coming right behind Nobel Prize winners and astronauts.

The air component of US SOCOM is made up of helicopters (MH-47G Chinook, MH-6M, and MH-60K/L) and MC-130e/H/W/P jets, which are used to secretly infiltrate commandos and for in-air fueling. For support aircraft, the AC-130H/U is used, armed with three guns (30mm, 40mm and 105mm caliber), Hellfire laser-guided antitank missiles (AGM-114), and 20kg laser-guided bombs.

PSYOPS and SOF are Used in Coups

The guide “Nonviolent Struggle: 50 Crucial Points,” by Col. Robert Helveya, a Green Beret veteran, formed the basis of all the “revolutions” in the former Soviet space. He describes the methods used by protest professionals to overcome fear and take control of a crowd emotionally. Through George Soros’s foundation Freedom House and the International Republican Institute, funded by the US State Department and USAID (which works closely with the CIA), US special operations troops have created “activists for political and social reform,” specializing in urban guerrilla warfare, in the former socialist states of Europe.

One example would be the Otpor! movement for civil disobedience and peaceful resistance, founded in 1998 in Belgrade, to overthrow Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Subsequently, the “Rose Revolution” in Georgia in 2003, the “Orange Revolution” in Ukraine in 2004, the “Tulip Revolution” in Kyrgyzstan in 2005, the one in Moldova in 2009 and the Euromaidan in Kiev in 2014, all benefited from the special services and special operations forces.

Special Operations Forces execute missions that their own state labels anti-terrorist. “Offensive” and “defensive” are two of the five forms of struggle known in military science. Sometimes the situation requires a commander to start by adopting a defensive strategy in order that, shortly, the conditions will be created that allow for a shift to the offensive; as it has often been seen that the counter-terrorist forces of a certain state’s intelligence services planned and carried out a coup on foreign soil. That is, a terrorist operation.

28-Feb-17 – The US Cannot Penetrate Russia’s Powerful Aerial Detection System

By Valentin Vasilescu

Translated by Alice Decker

The Western press is continually repeating that a NATO intervention against Russia is imminent, following the model applied to the former Yugoslavia in 1999. Such an intervention would be justified, according to the hilarious logic cited by Admiral John Kirby, former State Department Spokesperson, by the notion that since the fall of the Iron Curtain, Russia has kept “advancing” right up to NATO’s doorstep — although it is NATO that has expanded, by admitting the former communist states of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics.

Russia takes these threats seriously and is looking for effective ways to respond to any aggression. Russia is going to be equipping its military with the most sophisticated automated systems of management and information integrating air and space surveillance systems.

The United States relied on its air superiority and ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) strike capability in its recent aggressive actions, but these advantages have been reduced greatly due to Russia’s detection capacity. For those who think Russia is a backward country that can be easily brought down, remember that Russia has the same number of nuclear warheads as the US, and Russian ICBMs are far more sophisticated than the American ones.

Over-The-Horizon Radar

During the Cold War, the US planned, designed and built at least six huge OTH-type (over-the-horizon) radars. But since 1970, only four high-power radars (AN/FPS-118 OTH-B — Over-the-Horizon Backscatter), with a range of 3,000 km were still active. One was stationed in Alaska, one each on the Pacific Coast and Atlantic Ocean, and one in the middle of the continental United States. From 1990–2000, all these radars were shut down due to their huge energy consumption and the fact that it was technologically impossible that any other state could hit the US mainland. These radars have been preserved, but the US does not have any OTH radar operational today.

With the new Voronezh radars, Russia’s Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS) is the most powerful in the world. The 77Ya6DM-Voronezh OTH (Over The Horizon) has a range of 6,000–10 000 km. It works in the metric and decimetric frequencies (VHF and UHF) and can simultaneously track 500 targets the size of a soccer ball, up to a maximum altitude of 8000 km. Its energy consumption is 0.7 MW, compared to 2 MW for the Dnepr OTH and 50 MW for the Daryal OTH, two older Russian radars from the same family.

Another outstanding advantage is that it is largely pre-fabricated, with a modular design, and can be built quickly. According to, “A station of this kind can be deployed in 12 to 18 months as compared to five to nine years for Dnepr…. The foundation of the radar is the phased array antenna, a quickly erected crew module and several containers with radio-electronic equipment, to provide fast, low-cost upgrade station during operation.”[1]

Since Russia is surrounded by NATO countries, it has created a network of OTH phased array early-warning radars with ballistic capabilities along its western and northern borders, to defend itself from a nuclear or conventional attack. Russia has a Voronezh DM radar at the Dunayevka Airbase in the Kaliningrad enclave; a Voronezh M radar in Lekhtusi, near St. Petersburg, to replace the decommissioned one in Skrunda, Latvia; a Voronezh VP (RO-1) at Olenegorsk in the Kola Peninsula (bordering Finland); a smaller Volga radar (with a range of 2,000 km) near Hantsavichy in Belarus; and a Daryal (RO-30) radar (previous generation) with a 6,000 km range is in place in Pechora, near the Arctic Circle. In 2018, a new high-power radar is to begin operating in Novaya Zemlya in the Arctic.

Russia has also created a network of OTH early-warning ABM radars along its southern border. A Voronezh DM radar has been placed in Armavir in the Transcaucasus, between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea; and in Siberia, Yeniseysk, Barnaul and Mishelevka (both on the border with Mongolia), and Orsk (on the border with Kazakhstan) each have a Voronezh-DM radar.

On the Pacific Coast, Russia has a new Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS). Near the port of Nakhodka (75 km east of Vladivostok), there is a Volna radar (range 3000 km). The early warning system includes other less powerful Podsolnukh-E (Sunflower) radars, with a 500 km range, located on islands in the Sea of Okhotsk and the Sea of Japan. Two similar but smaller Dunay 3M/U radars (with a range of 2,500 km) have been positioned near Moscow as part of the Russian capital’s antiballistic shield. All the radar networks in the north, south, east and west, as well as Moscow’s defensive ring, are connected to a modern C4i command and control center with three levels, in Moscow. It integrates these radar networks with Russian military satellites.

Russian Radars have a Long Tradition

The history of Russian high-power shortwave radars began with research on the behavior of the ionospheric shell of Earth’s atmosphere. From 1950 to 1956, they were studying how ozone, nitrogen and their ions react in the presence of increased energy, in other words how plasma and ionized gases respond to heat. The separation of ions and electrons produces an electric field. This phenomenon is characteristic of the emission of radiation at different frequencies, including radar and radio waves. In the 1960s, the Soviets built a particle accelerator for this purpose in Protvino, a city near Moscow dedicated to nuclear physics research. Like the one recently built in Geneva by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), it has a circular tunnel in the ground, 60 m deep and 21 km long.

The first experimental high-powered radar, the Duga-1, was nicknamed the “Woodpecker.” The Soviet Union developed it to enable the monitoring of R-7 Semyorka missiles as they were launched and entered orbit from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan SSR. The Semyorka was the first intercontinental ballistic missile and the first to launch artificial satellites above the Earth. Duga-1 was placed in Mykolaiv, a Black Sea port in the Ukrainian SSR, (2,500 km away from Baikonur) in 1957.

The Duga-2 was built in the mid-60s on the same site in Mykolaiv (Ukraine), to track the trajectories of ballistic missiles launched in the Far East and from nuclear submarines in the White Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The Duga-3 was active from 1975, at the Chernobyl-2 base of the Ukrainian SSR, 50 km from the nuclear reactor — that was the only way to provide the huge amount of energy it required. The antenna system extended over 750 m; its 90 m pillars are still standing. Almost 1,000 Soviet troops worked at the Chernobyl-2 Base. It was abandoned soon after the disaster at the nuclear power plant in 1986. Other operational radars from the “Duga” family were the Volga, the Dnestr (maximum range 3000 km) and the Daryal-U/UM.

Two other radars in the “Duga” family were operating in the Ukrainian SSR starting in 1979: one near the naval base for the Russian Black Sea Fleet at Sevastopol, in Crimea (RO-4/Dnestr), with a range of 3,000 km; and one in Mukachevo (RO-5/), 70 km from the border with Romania. After the NATO summit in Bucharest in 2008, when Ukraine applied to join NATO, the government in Kiev decommissioned the Mukachevo and Sevastopol radars.

The 590 Network

In the last two years, formations of up to ten Russian aircraft including the Su-24, Su-34, Tu-22M3, Il-76 and Su-30 began to show up in international airspace in the vicinity of NATO member states in western, northern and southeastern Europe. Russian crews were training for the operation in Syria. NATO claimed these flights were attempts to breach the airspace of NATO countries. These Russian military aircraft formations intersected the highly congested traffic flows in the Eurocontrol area without producing collisions or near collisions with any civilian or military flights, thanks to the Russian military’s continuous monitoring with the new “590” network of aerospace radars, which detects objects in the air near Russia’s western, northern and southern borders.

The “590” network covers various airspace sectors from Russia’s borders. It is supported by several hundred data storage facilities and its own servers, with powerful, cutting-edge data processing, using satellite communications equipment. Once the “590” radar network has detected something, Russian object recognition microprocessors help determine what type of aircraft it is — in real time — and automatically track aircraft within European airspace. Microprocessors extrapolate the flight path of each aircraft, based on its declared route, speed and technical characteristics.

The 29B6 Container Radar

The Russian military introduced the most complex and modern radar system in the world, known as “29B6-Container,” on 2 December 2013. Intended for long distance air and space reconnaissance, it is related to OTH radar and is an important element in the Russian “590” detection system. The 29B6 radar has a field of view with an aperture of 240°, and it monitors the air space up to a distance of 3,000 km. The 29B6 can detect high altitude and low altitude targets throughout almost all of Europe, the Middle East and the Arctic. The radar can track all airborne targets (including planes, helicopters, drones and cruise missiles) and objects in space.

The 29B6 is a bi-static radar system, with separate transmitters and receivers located far away from each other. The transmitter antenna is 440 m long and includes 36 components; it is located in Nizhny Novgorod (250 km east of Moscow). The 29B6 receiver antenna is in Kovylkino (150 km south of Nizhny Novgorod) and has 35m-high pylons spread out over 1.3 kilometers. The 29B6 radar system is far more advanced than the “Duga” family, working in wavelengths in the range of 10–100 m (3–30 MHz frequency).

Most military detection and fire control radars (land, sea or air) operate in the centimeter and millimeter range. Since waves from centimeter and millimeter radars are sent parallel to the ground, they cannot pass barriers in the relief. These radars are limited in performance by the curvature of the earth to a range of 300–450 km maximum.

In contrast to the centimeter and millimeter radar range, short wave radars like the 29B6 emit pulses at an angle of inclination up to 45 degrees from the ground. They are repeatedly bounced off the ionosphere to look beyond the horizon without significant loss of signal. This ionospheric refraction gives the radar an optimal zone for detection of aerial targets in the range of 400–4000 km from the broadcaster. Thus, ballistic missiles or fighter planes can be discovered by radar placed on Russian territory, while they are still in flight above the Atlantic Ocean.

Russia could also start rebuilding and updating the OTH radar in Sevastopol (RO-4), bringing it up to the Podsolnukh-E standard. The Sevastopol radar can monitor the US antiballistic shield at Deveselu (Romania).


There are many aspects to “stealth” technology including the shape of the aircraft, the type of materials used in aircraft construction and the coatings and paints covering the skin of the fuselage, the wing and tail surfaces, and the cabin. Stealth technology reduces the reflectivity radar waves in the spectrum most often used, i.e., in the centimeter range. The 5th generation multirole aircraft (F-22 and F-35) have been designed specifically to make them invisible to X band radar (7.0–11.2 GHz), i.e., in the centimeter and millimeter range. These planes are not invisible to OTH radar and 29 B6 Container radar, which operate in the decimeter and meter ranges.

The special radio-absorbent paint covering the F-22 and F-35 is very thin (2–4 centimeters) and is effective only in the centimeter and millimeter frequency range. In order to be invisible to OTH and 29B6 Container radars operating range meter and decimeter, the radar-absorbing coating would have to be at least 40–50 cm thick. However, such a large amount of paint increases the mass of the aircraft and reduces its aerodynamic qualities.

By comparison, the B-2 5th-generation bomber, which is 6 to 8 times larger and can carry 14 tons of weapons, the radar-absorbing coating can be as much as 50 cm thick. That makes it less visible to OTH and 29B6 Container radar than the F-22 and F-35 multirole aircraft.

Starting from these considerations and noting that the US has no operational radar comparable to the OTH and 29B6 Container radar, it is possible that Russians are counting more on the design and construction of the PAK DA-White Elephant stealth bomber, similar to the American B-2 stealth bomber.


22-Feb-17 – Russia Is Getting a Fleet of PAK DA “Stealth” Bombers

By Valentin Vasilescu

Translated by Alice Decker for Algora Blog

Russia has to update its fleet of strategic bombers if it is to maintain the status quo in nuclear power, where the Russian Federation has the upper hand. The traditional concept of deterrence is built on the “Strategic Triad” — long-range bombers, nuclear-powered submarines, and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Currently Russia, the US and China have bombers capable of carrying nuclear warheads. China’s bombers have just 25% of the range of Russian and American bombers. And only the US has a fleet of nineteen 5th generation stealth bombers: the B-2 Spirit. ​

In 1999, Tupolev appointed a team of engineers to research and develop technologies to manufacture 5thgeneration bombers. Only, the Russian Air Force didn’t raise the question of making it a stealth bomber until 2007. The technical and tactical specs for the 5th generation bomber were finalized in 2012. In early 2013, the Russian Air Force designated the winner of the design competition for the new Russian 5th generation strategic bomber, the PAK DA (which stands for Prospective Aviation Complex for Long-range Aviation). PAK DA bombers will be built by Tupolev, which specializes in building heavy bombers and civilian transport planes. If everything goes according to plan, the first flight will take place in 2019, production will start in 2020 and the first squadron of twelve PAK DAswill be operational in 2025. The PAK DA planes will be produced only for Russia.

What will the PAK DA will look like?

The PAK DA will most likely be similar to the US B-2 Spirit bomber, that is, a subsonic flying-wing type. It will be invisible to radar and will have a range of 12,000 km without refueling. Propulsion will be provided by four “Product 30” (AL-41F1) engines, without “afterburner,” designed for the 5th generation Su T-50 (PAK FA) multi-role aircraft; they will have 10,900 kg thrust each. The American B-2 stealth bomber also has four General Electric F118 engines, with 8,700 kg of thrust. The Russians call it the “White Elephant.”

Although there has been speculation that the PAK DA aircraft might be supersonic or hypersonic, in these flight modes the PAK DA cannot be invisible to radar. At the speed of Mach 3 to Mach 5 (3,600–6,000 km/h), there is a phenomenon of dissociation and ionization of air molecules in the air surrounding the aircraft. The plasma formed around the aircraft is visible on radar, even if the aircraft itself, a few centimeters away, is invisible. Hypersonic aircraft are less maneuverable and have a high inertia, such that the flight path must largely be pre-calculated. The sensors on hypersonic aircraft are disturbed by the incandescent plasma. Communication with such aircraft is also difficult, for the same reasons. Hypersonic speeds exclude using manual controls; computerized piloting is used, which is most suited to small, possibly unmanned, aircraft.

Stealth Technologies

The Russian designers will have to really master stealth technology and 3D design. The Americans used the most advanced supercomputers to design the shape of the B-2, and it took them from 1980 until 1982. Many useful ideas will be borrowed from the Sukhoi design group’s Su-T 50 5th-generation multirole fighter aircraft, which is being flight tested. Since the PAK DA is designed to fly mostly at night, it will be dark in color. Onboard sensors will warn the crew to increase the altitude, as a function of the brightness of the sky. This is used to evade infrared sensors on enemy fighters. The “hotter” the plane is, the easier it is to see against the sky. Certain special situations are resolved by having an onboard computer; for example, in case one or more engines catches fire or when there is a forced landing.

The White Elephant bomber will require about ten times more hours of maintenance to restore its flight capacity than bombers currently in service. This will include fine sanding of abrasions in the special resin which will coat the radar-absorbent fairings. This coating can be damaged by rain mixed with hail that is encountered when flying in the clouds, and it is sensitive to hard landings when the shock is absorbed by the aircraft’s load-bearing structure and transmitted to the panels coated with this special paint. Accidental scratches can occur while the jets are on the ground, for example from pebbles kicked up by jets of air from the nozzles of other aircraft, and that also damages their radar invisibility.

The aircraft’s design accounts for much of conventional radar invisibility (in the centimeter range), by avoiding angles close to 90˚ at the vertical and horizontal junction of the wings and the tail with the fuselage, in the shape of the air intakes, etc. Special radar-absorbent paint, as thick as a radar wave is long, also helps reduce the radar footprint. An SAS (Signature Assessment System) will be installed on board the White Elephant which will indicate the extent to which the radar-absorbent coating is degraded. When the radar footprint of the plane compromises its invisibility, portions of the coating will remediated.

The PAK DA’s Avionics

The White Elephant’s cabin has been designed with the MMI concept (“man–machine interface” or “human computer interface”) in mind, which allows the engine to be started without first manually switching dozens of contacts according to a full check list, followed by the pilot activating a pushbutton starter motor. It only takes a unique command, and the on-board computer automatically runs the start algorithm without crew intervention.

The cabin is a “glass cockpit” with an EFIS (Electronic Flight Instrument System) digital display, with color LCDs (MFD-type — multi-function displays) for each of the two pilots. The White Elephant uses an electronicinterface for the flight controls (FBW — digital fly-by-wire). The communication system includes two radio systems, one of which also serves as a data line which transmits information, via satellite, from command and control points on the ground and on ships, and from far away AWACS/AEW warning aircraft.

The conventional navigation subsystem is comprised of a device combining inertial sensors, radio, GPS, and Terrain Contour Matching or TERCOM, which provides a digital map of the area overflown. The subsystem for low visibility navigation and fire control is composed of a common block of FLIR-type (Forward-Looking Infra-Red)and IRST (Infra-Red Search and Track) sensors. A laser rangefinder (mounted in the nose), and a laser projector guidance system for on-board weapons (mounted on the underside of the wing), together constitute the optical equipment for weapons guidance.

The main onboard subsystem for navigation, target discovery and weapon delivery is based on state-of-the-art AESA-type onboard radar (Active Electronically Scanned Array) which has a range of 300 km at an altitude of 10,000 m, which is why it is called a mini-AWACS. All data collected by the AESA radar and acquired onboard via an encrypted data line are processed by an onboard microprocessor. The radio-electronic warfare equipment (EW) consists of a Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) and Missile Approach Warning system (MAW). The EW equipment is an automated command system for the active and passive electronic countermeasures system.

Basic Weaponry on the PAK DA

The bomber does not have hardpoint mountings or weapons stations for bombs or missiles under the wings, which helps minimize the radar exposure. The White Elephant’s entire weapons arsenal is in the bomb bay with hermetically sealed hatches. The PAK DA can carry bombs of different calibers, and guided or unguided, and air-to-ground missiles or air-to-ship and air-to-air missiles. The White Elephant will be armed with ten Kh-101 cruise missiles with conventional warheads containing 400kg of explosives — or with Kh-102s with 250KT nuclear warheads. Both ALCMs (Air-Launched Cruise Missiles) are powered by a turbofan, have a range of 5500 km (over 3400 miles) and a top speed of 970 km/h. with a likely deviation of less than 5m. The Kh-101 has a radar cross-section about the size of a bird, uses radar absorbing materials, conformal antennas, and other stealth technologies.The Kh-101/102 can only be detected from a distance of 24–40 km or less, when it harder to combat.

Over the sea, the ALCM uses an inertial guidance system that allows it to make evasive maneuvers (sudden changes in heading), but only small corrections so as to maintain a flight altitude of 50–100 m and to maintain its direction. Once the ALCM is over the ground, the TERCOM equipment (Terrain Contour Matching) takes over for short- or medium-distance navigation. It has a relief map of the predetermined flight path stored in memory, which it compares with the radar image of the area overflown. It maintains a constant altitude above the ground using a radio altimeter.

At 10 km from the target, a precision control module comes into play, with the GPS coordinates of the targetpre-set. Here the rocket control head takes over for short-range fire-control, that is, a small, millimeter-wave radar that allows it to detect and recognize the target. To verify the accuracy of the strike, a TV camera mounted on the rocket broadcasts (via satellite) the last 10 seconds of the approach to target.

Targets in North America are hard to hit using bombers crossing the Atlantic or Pacific, because of the long distance. Russian bombers, including the PAK DA, can approach America undetected by flying over the North Pole, but, while flying over the Poles, conventional navigation is impossible as there are no landmarks from the ground. There are no radio beacons on the ground or sea in this isolated area of the globe. Inertial navigation systems and GPS lack accuracy. But unlike the American, Russian strategic bomber crews have plenty of experience flying over the North Pole. Russian bomber crews run hundreds of flight training exercises in the Arctic every year.

For example, two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack supersonic strategic bombers took off on October 28, 2013, at Engels airbase in the Volga region, heading for the Barents Sea and then to the North Pole. Both bombers had two crewmen on board, young pilots in training. Beyond the North Pole, the bombers flew parallel to the Pacific coast near the US, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador to Nicaragua. Once they crossed that country, the two Tu-160s flew over the Caribbean Sea, landing at the Maiquetía-Caracas air base in Venezuela. Their flight path covered a distance of over 10,000 km and lasted 13 hours, without any air supply. Throughout the entire mission the two Tu-160 bombers were in strict compliance with regulations of the Chicago Convention of the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) governing the use of international airspace.

19-Feb-17 – Forecasts and Market Trends for Multirole Aircraft

Written by Valentin Vasilescu for Algora Blog; translated by Alice Decker

Comparing the Main Competitors in 4++ Generation Aircraft


The twin-engine Eurofighter Typhoon is a British–German–Italian–Spanish co-production. The UK has 138 of the aircraft, Germany 125, Italy 83, Spain 61. Besides the producing countries, Austria has bought 15 Eurofighter Typhoons, and Saudi Arabia 66. Kuwait is also negotiating for 28 aircraft and Oman for 12. The Eurofighter Typhoon is very expensive, at USD 141 million per unit, and an hour of flight time costs USD 18,000. The UK and Italy have also ordered some F-35s, so massive contracts for new versions of the Eurofighter Typhoon are not anticipated from these countries.


After the Rafale fighter jet showed its capabilities in the war against Libya in 2011, the French company Dassault won enough contracts to keep the production line open, as it was in danger of closing. Of the 180 aircraft ordered (the Rafale B/C for the Air Force and the Rafale M for the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle of the French Navy), 140 have already been delivered. Another 24 Rafales were bought by Egypt, 36 Rafaleswill arrive in India by 2019 and probably another 36 by May 2022. Qatar is negotiating for 24 Rafale aircraft.France is pressing Belgium to replace its obsolete F-16 A/B fleet with the Rafale. Although it is the best in the 4++generation, the Rafale is also the most expensive, priced at USD 142–180 million, almost as much as the 5thgeneration F-35 stealth fighter. The cost per flight hour is USD 19,000.


One of the goals of the Russian military campaign in Syria was to showcase its modern multirole aircraft. Russia now has an advantage in the market for Gen 4++ aircraft. The Sukhoi and Mikoyan plants have foreign contracts for more than 120 aircraft (Su-30, Su-34, Su-35 and MiG-35), besides the fifty Su-35, 30 Su-30SM, 37 MiG-35 and 34 Su-34 to be delivered to the Russian armed forces over the next four years. Egypt signed a contract in 2015 to purchase fifty MiG-29s and will receive six of them by the end of 2017. Next, the Egyptian Air Force will replace the last F-7s (MiG-21s produced by China) with the MiG-35. China is currently receiving 24 Su-35 jets.

During the Singapore Air Show, an arms fair (16 to 21 February 2016), Algeria signed a contract for a first batch of twelve Su-32 aircraft (the export version of the Su-34). Algeria intends to acquire a total of forty Su-34sand fourteen Su-35s. By 2017, Algeria is also supposed to receive fourteen Russian Su-30MKI multirole aircraft. Jordan is in negotiations for the same Su-32 aircraft as it has to replace the old F-16 A/B. Malaysia, which has eighteen Su-30MKMs in operation, wants to purchase the Su-32 and Su-35. Indonesia, which owns nineteen Su-27 SKM and Su-30MKI/MKK2, would also like to have ten Su-35.

Russian planes cost less and hold up better under use, compared to Western ones, though their avionics are inferior. The price of a MiG-35 is USD 35 million and a Su-30 costs USD 50 million. Russia’s 5th generationaircraft, the Sukhoi Su T-50, will continue in testing in 2017, to begin production in 2018.


In the last two decades, China has almost closed the technological gap that separated it from the main builders of multi-role aircraft, becoming one of the serious military aircraft producers. The Chinese 4++ generation multi-role aircraft is the J-10B. It has EASA radar (similar to that of the MiG-35) and is close in performance to the F-16 and Mitsubishi F-2, which are in the inventories of the USA, Japan and South Korea. The 4++ generation J-10 B is not expected to have any market other than China and Pakistan. The price of a J-10 is USD 41–45 million. Although China completed construction of new production facilities in 2014 that can produce a hundred J-10B multi-role aircraft per year, only 24 and 28 J-10Bs were delivered in 2015 and 2016 respectively.

The explanation is that they are preparing new production lines for the J-20, which is invisible to radar. On the first day of 2016, China announced that it was ready to move the J-20 aircraft to serial production, but said thatthis type of aircraft will not be for export. China aims to furnish its armed forces with two hundred J-20s, replacing the outdated fleet of J-8 and Q-5 tactical bombers by 2022.

The J-20 is inferior to the F-22 and F-35 due to a sub-par thrust/mass ratio and inferior avionics. The J-20 was not designed as an airplane able to fight US, Japanese and Korean aircraft, but as a light bomber, invisible to radar. The J-20 is a favorite of the Chinese navy because it can serve as an invisible platform specialized in strikingaircraft carriers and other warships far from shore.

It can be concluded that the Russians and Europeans have come to dominate the market for multirole aircraft of the new 4++ generation. Annual production of multi-role aircraft is 50–60% of that recorded in the last 10 years worldwide and this trend will continue. In the next five years, it seems unlikely that any new 4++ generation aircraft will appear and capture the market.

How the 4++ Generation Multi-role Aircraft Coexist with the 5th Generation

In the US, Lockheed Martin Corporation is preparing to decommission its F-16 production line at the plant in Fort Worth (Texas), due to lack of orders for new 4++ generation aircraft and a need to focus on serial production of the 5th generation F-35 aircraft. The same is true for Boeing, in terms of maintaining its production line for 4++ generation aircraft, the F-18 Super Hornet E/F and the EA-18G Growler, while the US has the option of replacing all the F-18s with F-35Cs on the Navy’s aircraft carriers and with the F-35B on helicopter carriers for the Marines.

The US has relied 100% on the new 5th generation F-35 aircraft. From 2006 until now it has produced only two hundred F-35, of which ten were for States which have contributed financially to its development program. Development delays have been based on ambitions of the Lockheed Martin Corporation to produce three new and distinct aircraft using almost the same subassembly. The F-35A takes off and lands on ordinary runways; the F-35B STOVL (short-take off and vertical-landing) operates on helicopter carriers; and the F-35C CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery) takes off and lands on aircraft carriers. The price of an F-35A is now USD 185.5 million, an F-35B is USD 299 million and an F-35C costs USD 252 million.

The Pentagon plans to buy 1,700 F-35As for the Air Force, 340 of the F-35C for the Navy, and 80 F-35Bs for the Marine Corps. They will replace the A-10, F-16, and F-15 aircraft for the Air Force and the F-18 and the AV-8 for the Navy and Marines. Lockheed Martin is counting on manufacturing a total of 3,100 F-35s by 2035, to be delivered in at least nine states.

Increasing production will mean a drop in the price (USD 95 million for the F-35A; USD 122 million for theF-35B; USD 121 million for the F-35C). However, Lockheed Martin’s 1989 rate of production — one F-16 a day —will not be achieved. There are many authoritative voices who say the F-35 project is too avant-garde. Instead of spending huge amounts on design and development for the F-35, it would be better to continue allocating money to manufacturing another two hundred F-22s. These 5th generation aircraft are much better than the F-35 and are designed to achieve air supremacy. For the remaining missions, the F-16 C/D, F-15 C/D/E, F-18 and AV-8 are more useful than the F-35 and they could fly for at least 15 more years of US aviation, without need for the F-35.

How Production of Multirole Aircraft Is Affected by Using Second-Hand Equipment

Many countries cannot buy new multirole aircraft and prefer the old ones, sold off by other, richer countries. The price of a new F-16 C/D is USD 70 million, while it costs USD 7,000 per flight hour. New NATO member states are forced to abandon their old Soviet aircraft and turn to used American aircraft, and the cheapest is the F-16. Until 2022–2025, Denmark, Netherlands, and Norway will not receive the F-35 planes they have on order. Until then, they will continue flying the old F-16 A/B. Belgium and Portugal cannot afford to buy the F-35, so they will continue to use the F-16 A/B as long as it can fly. Thailand, Indonesia, and Venezuela are moving towards replacing their F-16 A/B jets with new Russian Su-30, Su-34 and Su-35 aircraft. All these F-16 A/B are pretty worn out and have little time before overhaul (TBO) left before requiring capital repairs.

Between 2014–2019, the US will be discarding from inventory hundreds of military aircraft. On the list are mostly C-130 H and C-17 transport aircraft, and liaison/reconnaissance aircraft or VIP transport: the Cessna Caravan 208B, C-23A Sherpa, C-12R Horned Owl and C-12 MARSS II King Air. They were all used in campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan on poorly equipped and barely maintained runways. Also being cast off are high-altitude reconnaissance planes, the Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady, and some of the unmanned reconnaissance aircraft (the MQ-1C Grey Eagle, MQ-1B Predator, RQ-5 Hunter, and MQ-9 Reaper, all belonging to Division 24 ISR —Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance). Twenty-one F-16 C/Ds will be withdrawn from use by the US Air Force but will go to the US National Guard, not NATO. Until 2019, there is no chance of any F-16 C/D being exported directly from the US military inventory.

Instead, around Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, the US Air Force has created a huge area for storing well-preserved American fighter aircraft, with a Time Before Overhaul of about 1,000 flight hours. This area is managed by the 309 AMARG (Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group). They are conserving 290 F-16 A/Bs and 180 F-16 C/Ds that have flown for 5–12 years.

NATO countries such as Romania, Poland (which expressed interest in at least 90 used F-16s), Bulgaria, Croatia and other members are interested in buying second-hand F-16s. They would prefer to get airplanes from Amarga, make them fit to fly again, and eventually modernize them.

At the end of 2016, Israel retired its last F-16 A/B Netz plane, which was 36 years old. About seventy F-16 A/B Netz are preserved and can be revitalized and modernized by Israel’s aircraft industry, if there are customers for them.

The trend of returning these used 4th generation planes to inventory will increase in the next 10 years, even as the 5th generation aircraft is adopted on a large scale by those armed forces that can afford to pay high prices for them.

15-Feb-17 – Evidence of Secret Cooperation between Putin and Trump?

by Valentin Vasilescu
Translated by Alice Decker

 So far no deal has not been officially acknowledged between Vladimir Putin (who has gotten closer to Recep Erdogan and Bashar al-Assad) and Donald Trump, on cooperation regarding the encirclement and isolation of IS-held territory in Syria. However, the way recent military operations were carried out, on three different fronts in Syria, by three different actors, clearly indicates the existence of such cooperation. Trump is proving that, unlike Obama, he is able to take unilateral decisions, leaving aside the members of the EU (which are also part of NATO), which are considered partners of the US. This hypothesis is supported by Trump’s position of stepping back from NATO, an organization he considers outdated; it was created years ago, and the member countries do not pay the way they should. This is Trump’s first concrete step in establishing real coordination of Russian and American actions, aimed at destroying the Islamic State and other terrorist groups in Syria — which could lead to the lifting of economic sanctions against Russia.


The Turkish military offensive (1,300 troops, 50 tanks, 15 APC), supported by 2,000 Islamic rebels from the FSA (Free Syrian Army), to capture Al-Bab, began in September 2016. The town of Al-Bab is located 40 km northeast of Aleppo and was an important component of the Islamic State’s defenses for their “capital” of Raqqa. From November 2016 until January 2017, over 5,000 Islamic State fighters rebuffed all attempts to surround Al-Bab from the east and north by the Turks and their allies.

In late December 2016, when the operation to free Aleppo city ended, Presidents Bashar al-Assad and Erdogan concluded an agreement mediated by Putin. Following this agreement, the Syrian army came to the aid of Turkish troops. The Syrian army penetrated 25 km deep, five to eight km southwest, south, southeast and east of Al-Bab, and so the city was totally surrounded. Russian and Syrian aviation provided air support to the Turkish military. Since then, the Islamic State could no longer get any reinforcements to help them hold Al-Bab city. That is how the Turkish army managed to break through the defensive lines of the Islamic State. With Al-Bab, the Islamic State lost its last territory in Aleppo governorate.


The SDF group (Syrian Democratic Forces) consists largely of Kurdish YPG fighters, including some members of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), which Turkey considers to be terrorists. Even if this group is large (10,000 fighters), it is poorly armed and trained. Be that as it may, SDF, which holds a large part of northern Syria, set off an offensive operation against the Islamic State in order to conquer the city of Raqqa. The operation was planned by officers from the US Army Special Forces. Hundreds of soldiers from the US Special Forces are working as SDF instructors. At Rmelan, in territory controlled by the SDF, the American 101st Airborne has a base for helicopters and MV-22 tiltrotor aircraft used in combating the Islamic State.

The defensive dispositions around Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State, are round, and are arranged in at least four more or less concentric circles. This disposition has 30,000 fighters with 200 tanks, 200 APCs and IFVs, over 100 artillery pieces and MRLS. Islamic State has had sappers prepare the area over the last three years, with some areas mined, with counter-offensive installations equipped with tanks and US BGM-71 Tow-2 anti-tank rockets. They have a lot of underground weapons and ammunition depots that have not been detected by American aviation.

The Islamic State has operations planning officers who are as well trained as those in Western armies. They have procured hundreds of drones with which they have created an ISR structure (Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance) that runs missions to discover artillery sites and motorized or tanks columns, and concentrations of enemy forces. These civilian-type drones include the DJI Parrot (price US $ 1,000), Skywalker X-8 and X-UAV Talon ($200), the quadcopter DJI Phantom 3 ($600) are readily available in Europe and in the Gulf States and the US. Some drones have been modified to launch handmade Islamic State explosive devices, but they did not have the expected effects.

The Islamic State’s defensive dispositions are also based on secret tunnels through which Islamic State fighters can attack the enemy from behind, or create ambushes for supply or support columns. The Islamic State’s offensive counterattacks are extremely well prepared and highly efficient because of their high mobility, provided by thousands of small trucks armed with 12.7 mm caliber heavy machine guns.

Initially, in November 2016, the SDF made on offensive direction was north–south of Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State. Encountering strong resistance, the SDF offensive was stopped. The SDF then tried to encircle the IS defensive positions, shifting the offensive to west–east along the north shore of Lake Assad. Both directions of SDF offensive got to within a distance of 8–15 km from Raqqa, supported by massive aerial bombardments by the anti-IS coalition led by the US. Even with that, the SDF which has only a few armored vehicles, cannot go further.

Therefore, in late January 2017, the US, with the agreement of Russia, delivered about 100 M117 Guardian 4x4s that can carry ten fighters. This light 15 tonne armored vehicle is something between a Humvee and a Stryker ICV. The M117 Guardian is armed with an M2 Browning heavy machine gun (12.7 mm caliber), and an MK 19 grenade launcher (40 mm caliber).

In February 2017, the SDF initiated the third phase of the offensive. For starters, the SDF forces and equipment are moving from north to south and parallel to the eastern border of Syria, to Deir ez-Zor. The aim of this maneuver is to block IS fighters from Mosul, in Iraq, from getting to Raqqa.   After this maneuver, SDF can attack the Islamic State defensive position to the east. It can be seen that American planners intend for the SDF to isolate Islamic State territory to the north and east.

Deir ez-Zor

The “Tamadur” Detachment is performing offensive missions to retake the city of Palmyra city from Islamic State. It is comprised of the Syrian Regiment 800 Republican Guard, two battalions of the Brigade Tiger (Syrian Special Forces), two artillery battalions from the Syrian Army, one Liwa Fatemiyoun battalion (a Shia paramilitary group in Afghanistan), one IRGC battalion (Iran’s Revolutionary Guards) and local units of the Syrian National Defense forces.

After Palmyra is liberated, the “Tamadur” Detachment should be reinforced with additional forces of at least two mechanized brigades. Its immediate task should be to get the 137Mechanized Brigade, the 104 Airborne Brigade and the 121 Artillery Regiment defending the city of Deir ez Zor from the Islamic State. This mission should be easily accomplished even though Deir ez Zor is located 188 km from Palmyra. Between the two cities there are only a few little settlements occupied by small Islamic State groups, since it is desert. If the Syrian army manages to reach Deir ez Zor, it isolates the Islamic State territory in the south after the SDF has isolated its territory to the north and east. To the west, the Islamic State is already almost entirely isolated by the Syrian army.

In southern Syria (the governorate of Daraa and the Kuneitra), the Southern Front and al-Muthanna Islamic Movement, allies of the Islamic State, have resumed fighting with the Syrian army. These groups control the Syrian border with Jordan. They consist of 38,000 fighters and they keep the Syrian Army 1st Corps blocked in the region (the latter is composed of four divisions of tanks and a mechanized division). In the governorate of Idlib in northwestern Syria, 29,000 rebels are concentrated, from al-Nusra Front (the Syrian branch of Al Qaeda) and Ahrar al-Sham. These two groups have just resumed fighting with the Syrian army in the northern governorate near Latakia.

Under these circumstances, it is pretty hard for the Syrian army to come up with two brigades to deploy to the east of Palmyra. After Aleppo was released from the Islamist rebels, the first Russian battalion took over from an operational unit of the Syrian army to maintain peace and order in the city. After that, Russia sent a second battalion of military police to Syria. Also in Aleppo, a Syrian military unit was replaced by a Russian engineer battalion in a demining mission and to remove explosive devices planted by Islamist rebels.

As Trump is applying pressure, a growing number of “moderate” Syrian rebel groups controlled by the Pentagon and CIA are deciding to respect the ceasefire brokered by Russia. We can expect that more Russian military police battalions will replace Syrian combat forces in peacekeeping missions in the localities recently liberated. That will free up several Syrian army units to be sent to the east of Palmyra for the fight against Islamic State.