October 23, 2012

Russian weapons to Syria - Minister Lavrov, any comment?

Despite Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov's recent protestations to the contrary, there is ample evidence of Russian resupply of weapons and armaments to the Syrian regime. Here is more.

This video, allegedly acquired from an airman at the Hamah air base, adds credibility to the accusations that have been on the table since at least March of this year. See my earlier article, Video analysis: Syrian Air Force delivers materiel to Hamah Air Base (March 2012).

Here is my interpretation of the Arabic narration of the video - it pretty much speaks for itself. This happened in July of this year, and seems to be an ongoing Russian resupply operation to the Syrian government. I have interpreted what the speaker says without comment, some of it is incorrect - my analysis follows.

"This is a military air base in Syria. An aircraft of the Syrian civilian airline has landed at Hamah air base, coming from Russia carrying Russian weapons. This air base is located in Hamah governorate and is located in a strategic military position and can extend its reach to all the governorates of Hamah, Idlib and Homs, the areas in which there is revolutionary activity.

"This video was provided by someone who works at the base to indicate the support of the Russians to the Syrian regime that is suppressing its own people, via the air bridge between Moscow and Damascus. It is supplying ammunition, rockets and bombs to the air bases.

"Four flights have supplied 8,000 S-5KP and S-5KO rockets, between 150 and 200 bombs ranging from 250 to 500 kilograms, plus weapons for the modern attack helicopter as well as the Mi-8 and Mi-17. That includes 1.5 million machine gun rounds. These have been used to attack cities from high altitudes. This video shows Russian weapons used on the Syrian people.

"These air bases are also for use by civilian aircraft in case of emergency. Now, the air bases are being used to supply the Syrian army in these areas.

"These civilian aircraft are the sole means to move weapons from Russia to Syria without being subjected to inspections. This is a clear message to the Security Council that the Russians are supplying weapons to Syria, thanks to an airman at the Hamah air base."

1. Hamah air base is located just southwest of the city of Hamah at 35 07N 36 43E. It is easily observed from Route 35 or the Kafr Bahum road.

2. The rockets referenced in the video are the S-5KP high-explosive/fragmentation shaped charge with a wound wire fragmentation jacket and sensitive piezoelectric impact fuse, and the S-5KO has a high-explosive/fragmentation warhead with 10 notched steel rings and 220 fragments. Nasty stuff, designed to kill tanks and people, respectively.

3. In the video, it shows the cargo from the IL-76 at 1:10, then at 1:46 it moves to the interior of an Mi-8 (NATO: HIP C). I have flown on Mi-8/Mi-17 helicopters in Iraq. That yellow tank is a 500-gallon extra fuel tank - I never really liked that. At 2:04, you see the launcher for the S-5 rockets mounted on a helicopter.

4. At 2:42, you see weapons/ammunition being transported in an IL-76. I was asked if this was the same IL-76 that landed at Hamah air base. I don't know for sure, but from personal experience, this is in fact the interior of an IL-76, and those sure look like Russian weapons crates.

5. Although the IL-76 aircraft are painted in the colors of Syrian Air, the civilian airline owned and operated by the Syrian government, the aircraft are actually part of the Syrian Air Force's 29th Air Brigade headquartered at the military ramp at Damascus International Airport. This is an IL-76T with registration YK-ATA.

6. I am told that many of the numerous IL-76 flights between Damascus and Moscow fly through Iraqi, Iranian and Azerbaijani airspace. This is not surprising, since the Turks have forced at least one Syrian Air flight to land, being suspected of transporting illicit cargo to the al-Asad government. If you have questionable (meaning illegal or illicit) cargo, only fly over countries who will not challenge you.

If you have not come to the conclusion that the Russians are materially supporting the Bashar al-Asad regime, I will say it. The Russians are supporting the Bashar al-Asad regime with weapons and ammunition.

Is that really a surprise to anyone?