Spent the last couple of weeks watching hours of videos about the FSA against the Syrian Army.
These small groups of guys are going against tanks and BMP’s (troop carriers). There are a number of “people” producing a large amount of videos each with their own political agenda, either pro Assad or pro FSA or pro Jihad. So depending on what side of the political spectrum you fall on you could be cheering or jeering. For a pro Assad view complete with Russian narration is from ANNA news. Russian influence in Syria has been well documented for over a generation now. They are providing a huge amount of material, logistical and military advisement in the current conflict. And lets not leave out the Iranians. They are deeply involved in Syria protecting their own interests.
Personally I don’t really care either way. I just watched for my own education and to glean any sort of tactics.
My first impression, this conflict is pure mid evil in its truest sense. If you spend anytime looking at any of the videos you will see a complete destruction of a city (cities) in particular Darayya which is a suburb of Damascus. All of the buildings are pretty much rubble. Not from shelling in the literal sense but from Syrian tanks “clearing” buildings.
It seems as though and from what I have read there is a real sense of apprehension by the SAA of not wanting to send troops into an area without the mechanized units clearing the street first. I can understand why after also reading the SAA has been forced to use conscription for lack or volunteers. Coupled with the fact that the average trooper is woefully unprepared, under equiped and untrained for urban combat the Syrian Army is so stretched for manpower at this point in time there is little they can do but engage in wholesale raising of city blocks. Ironically Mosques have not been spared in the destruction.
I would imagine the Iranian and Russian advisers have not raised any moral objections to any of these actions either. If you look back at Grozny and the complete destruction of that city in the 90’s it is no wonder that most Syrian cities are looking the same today as Grozny looked back then. When you have the Russian’s advising it really is no wonder.
That’s not to say we were less discreet while we were in Iraq, but I think we were a bit more pin point in our heavy weapons utilization.
Not having any exposure to mechanized operations, either in an urban or open plains environment I really don’t have frame of reference on what the Syrians are doing right or wrong in their operations.
A couple of things I did see where most Syrian FOB’s are just a bulldozed areas in and around destroyed buildings. You see no real outer perimeter for defense, housing, medical or dining facilities, just a burned out building that functions as one center of operations. All the fueling and repairs are done in this half block area. Some of the videos show what seems to be a HQ type of group of individuals that use one of the taller buildings as an over watch directing (and not knowing Farsi or Arabic I can surmise) they are controlling and telling the tank crews when are where to shoot.
There just seems to be so much random firing of weapons it is hard to tell what they are trying to accomplish other than just blowing shit up. There is no effort by the infantry to follow-up, clear and hold any buildings. My feeling is, the SAA rolls in during the day, blows buildings up, leave, and then the FSA or other groups to come back at night and reclaim lost territory and plant IED’s and set up positions for the next encounter. If the infantry does hold a building, it eventually is lost to rebels in ground fighting with no support.
A few other observations. Each “team” seems to roll out with 2-4 tanks and 2-4 BMP’s in the center of the column. Rarely do you see troops embarking or disembarking. Each unit either is flying up and down the highway or they each take a turn making a loop shooting at a particular building then repeating. Tanks or BMP’s don’t seem to stay in one spot for very long. I take this as crews and there overwatch do not want them to stay in one place very long. They seem to be keenly aware of becoming sitting ducks to anti tank or RPG fire.
Most of the Tanks and BMP’s are in poor repair. Reactive armor, skirting and various external pieces of hardware are partially missing or completely gone. I take this as a result of poor resupply and logistics in general. There are some videos that show large amounts of boogie wheels and treads littering the roads. Not sure if these are from disabled units that where later towed off or damaged wheels discarded randomly.
Most of the urban tanks are of the T-70 variants, 72’s, 78’s etc. Watching videos of less urbanized areas you see older T-60 variants. Makes sense to put a more hardened vehicle in an urban area. A large number of the T-70’s style tanks have what looks like reactive armor but could be just the steel outer shell that holds the reactive type underneath. Whatever it is, they seem to bounce a lot when the tanks are moving down a street and apear to be just a shell vice anything heavy attached underneath. Whatever it is, they don’t seem to stop the ATM’s that the FSA uses. With losses the SAA has taken I don’t think there is much thought in crew protection anymore. A number of the videos show complete destruction with turrets blown off the chassis. Some research I have done on the T-78’s, show they are designed with a flaw and have a problem with ammunition exploding prematurely when hit from underneath or the rear. These Tanks have no CASE systems installed and the charges are stored below the feet of the gunner. Not a good place for storage against IDE’s or a good RPG shot.
There is no time reference of the videos. All the operations flow into each other in what seems as an attempt to show on going and 24×7 operations. The amount of fuel that must be maintained has to be tremendous. Most of the T-70 variant tanks have a 1000 plus horsepower engines. Range is measured in gallons and not so much in miles. I can’t imagine more than an operation every couple of days based on the lack of logistical support and spares.
If you’re interested, ANNA News has the best videos of all that are out there. They attach GoPro cameras to the vehicles for some pretty good views of the shooting for the Russian consumer TV market.
From this Tank amateurs point of view, the SAA is pretty beat up from the insurgency they have been fighting for the past number of years. I personally don’t see it getting any easier for them. The tankers are not trained professionals by any stretch and are really running and gunning for all they are worth. But Soviet material is designed for the peasant to jump in and operate with little training or knowledge.
I personally still cannot get past the absolute destruction of some of these cities. It will be generations before things get back to a “normal” state with the infrastructure destroyed on so many levels.