The Su-25 attack aircraft of the Russian Aerospace System of the Russian Federation (Frog foot according to NATO classification, received the nickname “Grach” during tests in Afghanistan) reappeared in the sky of Syria. At a minimum, they were spotted near the runway at the Russian Hmeimim airbase – Israeli monitoring agency ImageSat Intl. posted on Twitter satellite imagery, the objects on which are identified as planes of this type. The Su-25 has not been here since July 2018, when 6 attack aircraft returned after a long mission to the airfield based in the Krasnodar Territory (4th Army Air Force and Air Defense of the Southern Military District). Now they came back.
Deja vu. This has already happened. In mid-March 2016, the Su-25 ground attack aircraft were also removed from the Russian air group based at Khmeimim airfield. Then, according to the Ministry of Defense, all the “Rooks” flew home, and in Syria there remained “just as much technology as is necessary to fight terrorist groups”. However, less than half a year later, they returned as “dryers” – noted in the Latakia region, where government forces were conducting an offensive in the middle of September 2016. After that, their presence in Syria was no one to hide, and the intensity of the sorties reached almost a hundred per day.
Now attack aircraft “breathed” in Russia for more than six months, but returned again. Straight some sort of seasonal migration “Rooks”. And if the rook bird is a sign of the approaching spring (remember the picture of Savrasov “The Rooks Have Arrived”), then his metallic “relative” arrives, as a rule, appear before the start of another “sowing campaign” – the offensive. And if we compare the facts of the targeting of missile strikes of the Russian Aero Space Forces to the province of Idlib in March 2019 (the last is March 13), then it is here that the Su-25 will be used to support the offensive.
For the last air attack, a multifunctional fighter-bomber Su-34 was used, which used laser-guided missiles. The targets were warehouses with weapons and ammunition of terrorists, which were located near the capital of the province Idlib of the same name, Idlib. It was reported that the strikes were accurate, while the prison was seriously damaged, which led to a massive escape of prisoners – mostly by militants of the Syrian Arab army captured by the militants. The air strike against the Hayat Tahrir ash-Sharm objects (a terrorist organization whose activity is prohibited in the Russian Federation) was reportedly agreed with Turkey. The Turkish army knew all the goals of the Russian Aerospace Forces and gave the go-ahead for airstrikes.
Idlib is called the last stronghold of jihadists in Syria – it’s like a bone in the throat for President Bashar al-Assad. More than 50 thousand militants (according to some estimates up to 100 thousand “bayonets”), including the terrorist group “Jabhat al-Nusra”, concentrated (were driven out from other regions of the country). Illegal armed gangs daily violate the cease-fire and destabilize the situation in the demilitarized zone in Idlib. The settlements in the north of the province of Hama and in the mountainous Latakia are also regularly shelled from mortars, and the positions of the Syrian army are regularly attacked. It is from here that attempts are being made to strike at the Russian base at Hmeimim.
It is likely that the attack on Idlib will take place in the near future. This is confirmed by the increasing number of terrorist positions by the Syrian army, the resumption of missile strikes by Russian air forces, coherence with Turkey (back in August 2018, Erdogan persuaded Putin to postpone the attack on Idlib) and … the arriving Grachi Rooks.
Su-25 attack aircraft is a unique combat vehicle. This armored subsonic aircraft, which has been in operation since 1981, will remain in service with the Russian VKS at least until 2020, and in the improved version of the Su-25SM3 much longer. These are now arrived in Syria. “Rook” is capable of delivering combined strikes both with unguided (NUR) and guided missiles (air-to-ground), it has powerful cannon armament. In addition, it can be used as a bomber carrying uncontrolled
In addition, bombs and precision bombs and missiles can be used as a bomber carrying unmanaged bombs. For self-defense and combat helicopters attack aircraft equipped with two guided air-to-air missiles. Its main purpose is to support a ground offensive from the air, when the Su-25 literally irones the enemy’s positions with all types of weapons.
Rook also has weaknesses – at mid-altitude, it is vulnerable to man-portable air defense missile launches. This happened in Syria a year ago, when on February 3, 2018, in the same Idlib, the Su-25, piloted by major Roman Filippov, was shot down. Knocked him out of MANPADS. The pilot managed to report the incident and catapulted, but landed in the militants’ location and after a fierce battle, he blew himself up with a grenade to avoid being captured (awarded the title Hero of Russia). This is the only case of the destruction of the Su-25 for the entire operation of the Russian VKS in Syria. It is likely that now in Idlib the “Rooks” will rather be used as bombers at high altitudes in order not to fall into the zone of destruction of MANPADS, which the militants have in abundance.
The Su-25 appeared now in Syria on March 8 – three attack aircraft in a disassembled form were delivered to the Khmeimim airbase by a heavy An-124 military transport aircraft. Already by March 12, they were assembled and, probably, on the 13th they took part in Idlib air strikes along with the Su-34. At the same time, experts note, in fact, we can talk about 6−9 attack aircraft, which will be used to storm the last stronghold of militants and terrorists in Idlib. Where do the missing Rooks come from? It is possible that another ride will be brought from Russia, but it can be assumed that last summer not all combat vehicles returned home. A couple or three could be hidden in Hmeimim itself as well as at one of the Syrian military airfields, which the VCS used as spare areas. However, without the main “flock” “Rooks” in the sky of Syria over the past six months have not been noticed.
In the application of the Su-25 in the attack on Idlib (and this is already an obvious fact), there is no doubt – why did you arrive then? The question is whether we won the terrorists in Syria, as stated by the military leadership and President Vladimir Putin himself? If the whole matter is limited only to air support, then there are no questions here, in fact, the Russian military aviation, which did not fly away from Hmeimim, was intended to deliver only pinpoint strikes. And, as noted by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, the intensity of its sorties will decrease from one hundred per day to two or three per week. And what will happen if now the Syrian army is once again bogged down in offensive battles in Idlib? All hope for “Rooks” or Russian special forces?