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Russia Rolls Out Big Guns To Syria’s Front Line

Russia continues to be proactive in its efforts to prop up the Assad regime under the guise of joining the fight against ISIS.

Russia Rolls Out Big Guns To Syria's Front Line

Russia’s army brings the big guns

While Russia has been using its air power as well as cruise missiles launched from Russia to target rebels opposed to the Syrian regime of Assad, they have yet to take a truly active role on the ground in Syria.

Yes, Russia has been striking at ISIS, but it seems only in additional support for Assad rather than trying to rein in the barbarity of its combatants.

While Russia’s big guns (artillery) have been stationed near the cities of both Homs and Hama since October, the bulk of Russia’s ground firepower was stationed at Latakia air base in the West. Now, however, it seems that more and more is being rolled-out to join in the pounding of all that get in Moscow’s and Damascus’ way around Homs and Hama. Officially, Russia continues to maintain that it is not involved in ground operations despite many claims that this simply isn’t true. The same could be said for the Eastern Ukraine.

Pro-Hezbollah Al Hadath News hails new strategy

Shortly after Russia began moving out heavy equipment, the Syrian military has enjoyed a surge against the rebels in the country. Essentially, they are moving forward against rebel forces with the support of Russian air power. But, it’s quite clear from Al Hadath’s reporting that they are also enjoying the support of Russian mortars and artillery.

“The (Syrian) forward forces are supported by mortar cover and artillery regiments behind the support lines, as well as aerial cover from the Russian Sukhois,Al Hadath stated in a recent article.

“The Syrian army surge is proof of a new tactical military model, spiced with Russian flavors and led by the Sukhois from above, and which also includes greater use of artillery batteries,” the article continued.

Syria, prior to Russian intervention, had thousands of Soviet and Russian made artillery pieces available to it in its fight against rebels looking to oust Assad, now it has even more advance weaponry including: 152-millimeter MTSA-B guns, BM-27 Uragan and BM-30 Smerch rocket launchers.

“Due to the Syrian army’s strong reliance upon artillery, it is unsurprisingly that providing artillery assets is one way that Russia is attempting to bolster the Assad regime,” OE Watch noted. “Perhaps what is surprising is the types of artillery systems that are being provided.”

The biggest and baddest of them…..

Russia has been taped as firing its TOS-1A rocket launcher at the airbase in Latakia. The rocket launcher is mounted on a T-72 tank chassis and is capable of firing 30 220mm incendiary or thermobaric rockets at nearly the same time.

“The resultant explosion—which is usually much larger than an equivalent weight of conventional ordnance—creates a massive high temperature blast and a high-pressure shock wave,” Dave Majumdar wrote recently at The National Interest about the sheer killing power of the weapon systemTOS-1A Solnitsa rocket launcher. “Those who are in the affected area—who are not immediately incinerated—die when the overpressure destroys their lungs.”

A Russian military analyst speaking on Russian news show, recently recounted the success enjoyed by the Syrian army in its offensive with help from Russian weapons. Speaking of a “fire wave” produced by 300 artillery pieces concentrated over a half-mile line, Konstantin Syvkov said, “This method consumes a lot of ammunition, but it is very effective in getting through fortifications.”

“This allowed the breakthrough via the enemy defenses.”

Thermobaric rockets explained

While the TOS-1A Solnitsa rocket launchers have been deployed around the airbase in Latakia, it’s unknown how many have been deployed elsewhere. They are potential game-changers in their ability to decimate areas the size of 4-5 football fields in a single salvo.

Unfortunately, at least in the eyes of the United States and others, is that they will potentially be used against moderate rebels rather than in the fight against ISIS.

The use of Buratino in Syria will certainly draw concern from many quarters depending on the target. Human rights groups are rightfully worried about the collateral damage that they cause while questioning their use in cities fearing thousands of civilian deaths.

The TOS-1 Buratino can effectively city blocks disappear in a single salvo of 30 220mm rockets. The fuel air explosives or thermobarics use the atmosphere to provide oxygen for the resulting explosion unlike conventional weapons which incorporate their own oxidizers. The thermobaric missiles release a cloud of chemicals like tetranite into the air before detonation. The explosion therefore has a higher yield than conventional explosives and creates both a high-temperature explosion as a well as a devastating shockwave that literally destroys the lungs of those in the blast area.