Syrian Civil War: military operations (the show must go on)

Frank81

Ad Honorem
Feb 2010
5,149
Canary Islands-Spain
I open this thread to discuss "normal" military operations in Syria, away of the great powers clashes in the area.

The SAA conquered 1,200 km2 south of Hama and north of Homs, a long standing pocket finally subjected, that Rebels used to block easy transit between Latakia and Damascus. The government mop up operations over isolated pockets is resulting in a solid area from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates.

However, fighting in Yarmouk area is really insane




Accounts of suicidal battle with ISIS inside civilian areas reminds me to a kind of Okinawa fighting.
 

Menshevik

Ad Honorem
Dec 2012
9,405
here
Cool video there, brings you in deep.

A random question about the lack of helmets being worn: is it due to a lack or resources that these combatants aren't wearing their cover/helmets? Is it due to ignorance or is it a modern lesson of the urban battlefield that helmets aren't that important?
 

tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
14,062
Cool video there, brings you in deep.

A random question about the lack of helmets being worn: is it due to a lack or resources that these combatants aren't wearing their cover/helmets? Is it due to ignorance or is it a modern lesson of the urban battlefield that helmets aren't that important?
Possible reasons

Extra weight
Lack of ennemy artillery (helmets initially were preliminary to defend against all kinds of shrapnell, against assault rifle bullets they dont work so well)
Heat / discomfort
Constraint in hearing/ seeing / feeling the environment
 

aggienation

Ad Honorem
Jul 2016
9,813
USA
Cool video there, brings you in deep.

A random question about the lack of helmets being worn: is it due to a lack or resources that these combatants aren't wearing their cover/helmets? Is it due to ignorance or is it a modern lesson of the urban battlefield that helmets aren't that important?
Lack of resources partly, but it really comes down to a lack of discipline, poor standards, and poor leadership who don't ensure they do the right thing.

Wearing helmets isn't fun. They're heavy, they wear on your neck muscles. They are hot, they mess up your scalp after wearing them a lot time. They are often uncomfortable (depending on design), even painful sometimes. They made some things awkward. They don't stop rifle rounds very well (though that depends on type, ammo being shot at, range, angle, etc).

So many don't like wearing them. But they are fantastic for cutting down on head injuries, either from fragmentation from high explosives (by far the biggest killer on the battlefield), and general bumps common in combat, especially urban combat where one will typically slam their heads against at least one hard and unmovable object per day while entering and clearing buildings, etc.
 

Menshevik

Ad Honorem
Dec 2012
9,405
here
Lack of resources partly, but it really comes down to a lack of discipline, poor standards, and poor leadership who don't ensure they do the right thing.

Wearing helmets isn't fun. They're heavy, they wear on your neck muscles. They are hot, they mess up your scalp after wearing them a lot time. They are often uncomfortable (depending on design), even painful sometimes. They made some things awkward. They don't stop rifle rounds very well (though that depends on type, ammo being shot at, range, angle, etc).

So many don't like wearing them. But they are fantastic for cutting down on head injuries, either from fragmentation from high explosives (by far the biggest killer on the battlefield), and general bumps common in combat, especially urban combat where one will typically slam their heads against at least one hard and unmovable object per day while entering and clearing buildings, etc.
I'm inclined to agree and I value your knowledge but I'm wondering if there are any tradeoffs to not wearing a helmet? Like Tomar mentioned, easier to hear, etc..... remember in Black Hawk Down the Delta guys weren't wearing traditional Kevlar, they were wearing..... something less formidable, why was that?
 

aggienation

Ad Honorem
Jul 2016
9,813
USA
I'm inclined to agree and I value your knowledge but I'm wondering if there are any tradeoffs to not wearing a helmet? Like Tomar mentioned, easier to hear, etc..... remember in Black Hawk Down the Delta guys weren't wearing traditional Kevlar, they were wearing..... something less formidable, why was that?
The book Black Hawk Down actually mentions that, they wore skateboard helmets as "Bump Helmets", to prevent injury from slamming heads into stuff. Additionally, the bump helmets had a mount to attach night vision goggles, allowing them to not have to rely on the very crappy and uncomfortable head mount. Big thing with Operation Gothic Serpent, nobody was really anticipating a bad fight. Once that happened, SFOD-D assaulters' helmets might as well be made out of tissue paper. One Delta assaulter wore a real helmet, the only one, and they others made fun of him, but after the battle started they weren't making fun of him anymore.

Modern assaulter helmets are ballistically rated. They stopped doing that skateboard bump helmets after Battle of Mog, modern "minimalist" combat helmets used by modern US military are all based on the designs for their helmets after that battle.

Armor really is a tradeoff. As for individual armor, one can cover themselves in kevlar like the Bank of America bank robbers, or like the juggernaut in Call of Duty (though little of that armor is resistant to rifle fire, it would stop pistol and fragmentation). But then they're going to be slow, heavy, and likely suffer heat stroke inside 45 minutes or so if they are moving.

I wore a ton of armor in Iraq. If I had my way, I'd have ditched my vest for a good plate carrier (with minimal kelvar protecting sides, neck, etc). No shoulder protection, not unless I was manning top turret. I'd have ditched side ballistic plates, those were next to useless and weren't even positioned properly for what they were designed, snipers taking side shots. I'd have kept the cod piece groin protector, because I like my genitals to remain as they are, so I want that psychological protection. And I'd have kept my helmet for most missions (though I actually did take it off occasionally in combat, like when we were doing ambushes, hiding inside buildings to cover road intersections and the like where we'd try to catch enemy planting IEDs), since we were often just looking out a window or looking through a loop hole in a wall.
 
May 2017
1,201
Syria
Happy Ramadan.

Is this thread specifically dedicated to discuss the military operations in the war?
 

aggienation

Ad Honorem
Jul 2016
9,813
USA
For some more interesting info regarding these sorts of videos, for context, if you watch the one in the OP and many others in Syria, Iraq, etc, you'll see lots of use of artillery rockets being used. The reason being is that the Syrians, really Arabs in general, are pretty horrible at coordinating fires for artillery.

In order to be truly effective, each tube artillery piece must be positioned at a known point, a fire direction center (FDC) to compute target location to each gun, at which point they accurate direction (side to side) and deflection (up and down) adjustments in mils to get them on target. All done with radios, runners, and trained artillery men. The guns need to be massed for proper effectiveness. A battery (arty speak for company size) has 6-12 guns. A battalion has 2-3 batteries. Numerous battalions can be massed as fire brigades. Corps level artillery uses their own FDC that has the ability to mass every single artillery piece inside an entire corps to fire on a single mission. While corps level fire missions were common in WW2 (where these skills made US Army artillery soundly superior to anyone else) and would have been used often in a WW3 fight in Europe, the more common use these days is for a single battery per fire mission, with sometimes an entire battalion on call.

Once on target, after spotting rounds are adjusted, a "fire for effect" mission is called, at which point each gun fires numerous rounds using the same coordinates. The result of a well run artillery battery can be devastating, numerous rounds impacted every second, with very short gaps between volleys.

But even with only a battery, that takes a LOT of coordination and skill to perform.

Rockets are great because they allow the essence of a large coordinated artillery barrage with only a single launcher, or only a few. They have a large impact area (artillery people call this a sheaf), so it means less precision is necessary to get rounds on target. They can all be fired in rapid succession, which allows a single launcher to do what an tube artillery battery can do. Lots of rounds on target in a very short amount of time.

With a few launchers, its deadly. Massing a companies worth, wow. Massing a battalions or even regiments of them for single missions, that was something not seen since WW2, something the Germans and Russians did for preparatory fires before big operations. This was the reason that German Screaming Meemies Nebelwerfer rockets in WW2 were so feared, why the Russian Katusha were too. Their use was generally the only way small numbers of artillery units could do a lot of damage without needing to coordinate and mass tube artillery. A few rocket launchers could replicate something close to an entire battalion, a company of rockets could replicate an entire brigades worth of tube artillery for a single mission!

While tube artillery has shorter reload time, can fire for longer periods, rounds are smaller and weigh less so easier for logistics, the only thing they do better than rockets is a time on target mission (which is something impressive to see!).

So for poorly trained forces, rockets are awesome. With a few launchers, if they know the basic compass direction of the enemy position, and the distance, they can saturate them rather well with artillery fire. With no need to worry about counter battery, they aren't rushed to move, so it allows them to be sloppy with mobility and get away with it.
 

aggienation

Ad Honorem
Jul 2016
9,813
USA
The rise of the FSA, ISIS, Nusra Front, and other insurgent groups to the point that they were able to drive out pro-govt forces from entire sections of cities, sometimes entire cities themselves, even nearly entirely out of governorates, was due to pro-govt incompetence when it came to counter insurgency methods, and the insurgents national strengths operating from the shadows (while also employing the lessons learned from the Iraq war).

But once the insurgent forces grew strong enough to take and hold ground, they moved away from the Phase 1 and 2 insurgencies and started fighting conventionally. I don't mean to suggest they are just like any other army, they are not. But they are fighting in the open, overtly. They have lines, they have to hold them. They govern the areas they hold. They launch relatively conventional attacks to get more ground, through or around conventional enemy lines, and they repel assaults conventionally too.

This was fine and dandy when it was the poor performing SAA, poor leadership, poor morale, decimated from battle casualties and desertions. Even with artillery, tanks, and aircraft, the SAA still was losing ground daily. When the Iranians IRGC Quds intervened, and Hezbollah joined the fight, that didn't tip the scales at all.

So what changed?

Russia. Russia brought with them the most important things in modern conventional warfare. They brought accurate, 24/7 firepower (strike aircraft). They brought ground personnel to embed with local SAA and other pro-govt forces to direct air strikes. They brought drones and other intelligence gathering equipment to more accurately locate and target insurgent positions, headquarters, vulnerabilities. Lastly, they brought competent military commanders who have not only knowledge but the tact in order to work with local forces, advise them, help them plan their operations (meaning do it for them), run logistics for them (which locals are helplessly incompetent in), and assist with training of forces (which the locals are also generally bad at).

Poof. Success in conventional war. Couple this with the US and Gulf States providing less and less weapons to the insurgent groups (including less AT weapons like TOWs), no effective air defense weapons given to them (there is a very small supply of MANPADs smuggled into Syria, and those would likely turn the tide).

Likewise, the US military did the same thing for the Kurds and the Iraqi govt when it came to ISIS, which is why ISIS was essentially destroyed as an effective fighting force, as an organization, with its survivors forced back into the shadows as Phase 1 or 2 insurgents (should they continue to fight).

The real problem comes after retaking those insurgent controlled areas. Because now they're just back to square one. The insurgencies still exist. People are still angry. They're still armed. They still have a will to fight. The only thing that happened was that they were broken conventionally, which is actually rather common for insurgencies. Look at the Vietnam War, the Vietcong tried to go conventional, with the North Vietnamese Army supporting them, they tried and failed three times for a nation wide offensive to take it over, before finally, after the US pulled out and essentially abandoned the South Vietnamese to their own, they finally succeeded in 1975.

At that point, politics plays a bigger part than military operations do, even when coupled with very effective counter insurgency techniques, the ultimate decision on whether the insurgents give up or keep fighting comes down to addressing their grievances for taking up arms in the first place. Even if they are only placated, their concerns must be heard. Some will have to be acted on in a way that is reasonable enough for them.

So that is the challenge Syria faces. Damascus, which controls Syria, and the Assad regime, must not only defeat the overt insurgency, they must also defeat the covert one, which Russia's firepower wont really help with. They must win the tribes back, they must make amends for blood feuds. They must throw money at destroyed cities and rebuild them, flooding them with support to show they give a crap.

If they don't, if its just business as usual, everything that has happened will happen again.