Estimates by Chinese experts of the activities of the Turkish Air Force against the Syrian Arab Republic Air Force


As one know, on March 1, 2020, the Syrian Arab Republic Air Force lost two Su-24M2 front-line bombers (deployed at Tiyas aviation base) as part of the operation to liberate Idlib province. These aircraft were supposed to strike at the identified targets and support the advancing units of the Syrian government forces.

The Syrian Su-24M2 were hit by AIM-120C7 air-to-air guided missiles launched by the Turkish Air Force F-16C Block 50 fighters. The first Su-24M2 crashed near the village of Beneen, and the second near the village of Marshureen.

Chinese experts distinguish the following components of this loss of two combat aircraft.

Firstly, the Syrian Air Force operational control authorities are deprived of ground-based radar stations in the province of Idlib or in the adjacent regions of the country, and for this reason it does not have the ability to form an adequate picture of the air situation, which is affected by the actions of the Turkish side.

Secondly, the Aerospace Forces of the Russian Federation, present in the Syrian Arab Republic, cannot provide a full-fledged field of radar surveillance, since they do not have a sufficient number of radar stations and equipment of the radioengineering forces that will make it possible to detect heterogeneous air targets both over Syrian territory and in airspace of the Republic of Turkey. To date, the main threat to the Syrian government forces operating in the province of Idlib comes precisely from the decisive actions of the Turkish side, since the high command of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Turkey intends to act decisively, but selectively under the guise of “self-defense”.

In this regard, Chinese analysts highlight the third component of the episode under consideration with the loss by the SAR Air Force of two Su-24M2 bombers. The Turkish military managed to form a full-fledged network-centric system for the operational management of hostilities (NSOMH) — it allows operational tactical aircraft to carry out combat missions safely even taking into account the probable appearance of Su-30SM or Su-35S of the Russian Aerospace Forces over the Idlib province.

The possibility of the full-fledged functioning of the network-centric system for the operational management of hostilities of the Turkish Air Force is due to the fact that the Russian military does not have the necessary tools to identify its constituent elements. In the framework of this aspect, we note that the Russian Aerospace Forces are extremely “sporadic” use long-range radar patrol and guidance aircraft A-50U and radio-technical reconnaissance aircraft Tu-214R.

Chinese experts note that the capabilities of the A-50U aircraft are not enough to conduct effective reconnaissance of the actions of the Turkish side, which has more modern American-made technology. Chinese analysts highly appreciate the capabilities of the Tu-214R equipment, however, there is only one such aircraft in service with the Russian Aerospace Forces, while information collection and monitoring of enemy activity must be carried out constantly in order to form the most complete picture of the operational situation and the subsequent disclosure of intentions of both Islamists and and the Turkish side.

According to observers of Chinese specialized military-technical publications, the relocation of additional reconnaissance and electronic warfare units of the Russian Aerospace Forces, which will reveal the locations of ground elements of the NSOMH of the Turkish Air Force and reveal the flight patterns of Turkish long-range radar surveillance and observation aircraft E-737 Wedgetail, will help turn the tide in the operation to clean up the province of Idlib. The latter are a key element of this system.

At the same time, additional ground-based radars and EW air defense systems will need to be deployed. The former will conduct reconnaissance of Turkish airspace, while the latter will provide cover from intelligent ammunition — cruise missiles of the SOM-J type, which have already allowed the TR Air Force to hit two anti-aircraft missile and artillery systems 96K6 “Pantsyr-S1” of Syrian air defense deployed in Idlib.

A certain danger for the Buk-M1 anti-aircraft missile system of Syrian air defense is also represented by high-precision planning feathered UPS bombs, which were created by Turkish gunsmiths on the basis of American-made free-fall bombs Mk.82 (weight 454 kg) and Mk.83 (weight 908 kg). The range of the discharge of such ammunition varies from 37 to 110 km.

As the fourth element, Chinese experts highlight the lack of coordination between the Air Force of the SAR and the Russian air defense and Aerospace Forces, which carry out reconnaissance of airspace. This is one of the key factors for the loss of aircraft by the Syrians as part of an operation in the province of Idlib.

Chinese experts note that the Turkish Armed Forces, for their part, are actively using the Koral mobile electronic warfare systems, which quite effectively impede the operation of a large number of electronic systems that are in service with the SAR and the Russian Federation.

The fifth component that caused the loss of two Su-24M2 was the low qualification of the Syrian officers planning a combat mission, because they did not take into account the sad experience of the Russian Aerospace Forces during the first years of the operation [in Syria].

According to Chinese sources, over the past seven years of the internal armed conflict in Syria, the main damage to the government air force was caused by the pilots of the 182nd and 192nd fighter squadrons of the Turkish Air Force. These units are permanently deployed at the largest air base “Konya” and are the most combat-ready in the operational and tactical aviation of the Turkish Air Force.

At this airbase, major NATO Air Force exercises are annually held under the symbol Tiger Meet. Target firing fields and airborne areas allow one to work out tasks, both to combat air targets, and to deliver training attacks on ground targets. Periodically, it is the 192nd squadron that plays the role of a likely adversary in these exercises.

With regard to this unit, it is known that it was formed in 1948 as the 102nd Bomber Squadron — the P-47 piston fighter-bombers were in service. In 1950, the honorary title “Tigers” was assigned, and two years later, the unit number was changed to “192”.

Over the next 18 years, this squadron was equipped with F-84G/F bombers and RF-84F reconnaissance aircraft. From 1970 to 1975, RF-5C reconnaissance aircraft were in service, and from 1976 to 1993 the squadron had F-104 aircraft. It is noteworthy that in the period from 1984 to 1988, it was the 192nd squadron that was the unit of constant combat readiness. Since 1993, the TR Air Force unit in question began to receive F-16 fighters in various modifications.

Currently in service with the 182nd and 192nd squadrons of the TR Air Force are F-16C/D Block 50 fighter jets, which are equipped with the LINK-16 encrypted guidance data transmission system, which allows combat aircraft pilots to disable the AN/APG-68 airborne radars and perform launch of guided air-to-air missiles AIM-120C7 only according to data received from long-range radar surveillance and observation aircraft E-737 Wedgetail.

It was such a scheme that allowed Turkish pilots to shoot down the Su-24M2, since the airborne alarm systems of these aircraft did not detect radiation from the radar of Turkish fighters and the Syrian Air Force pilots continued flying without firing heat traps and performing anti-ballistic maneuvers.

To summarize the above, we note that thanks to the NSOMH and such an aircraft as the E-737, the TR Air Force specialists reliably identified the Su-24M2 as Syrian and thereby avoided problems with the Russian Aerospace Forces. In addition, the aforementioned long-range radar surveillance and observation aircraft of the Turkish Air Force operates outside the detection and firing zone of S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems.

According to Chinese observers, the Syrian air defense units, equipped with Russian air defense systems, received permission to shoot down any air targets (Turkish and Israeli aircraft and UAVs) over the province of Idlib — the Syrian military has undertaken to close the airspace over this administrative-territorial unit. In turn, the Turkish military made appropriate adjustments to the combat aircraft operation scheme.

Institute of the Middle East.

Maxim Kazanin. March 4, 2020.


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