Russian artillery ups the ante in Syria

It looks like Russia is moving more and heavier artillery into Syria in its fight against fundamentalist Islamic terrorists (and opponents of the Assad regime).  That’s not surprising, of course:  the former Soviet Union placed immense emphasis on artillery, with Stalin calling it “the God of War”.  The Soviets also gained experience in the use of artillery in counter-insurgency warfare during their occupation of Afghanistan.  All those lessons appear to be coming into play now in Syria.

Here’s a video clip of one of Russia’s modern rocket artillery systems, the TOS-1, in action in Syria.  Note the thermobaric warhead explosions on the hillsides, and the way the rockets are spaced to cover a wide area – typical reactive fire to ‘targets in the open’.  The blast and overpressure caused by such rounds will kill anyone in the vicinity by collapsing their lungs, even if the fireball, shrapnel and debris don’t;  and the same effects will collapse buildings if the round explodes inside them.  Watch in full-screen mode for best results.

I reckon the Russians must be reorganizing the Syrian Army’s artillery arm as well.  It’s already well equipped with Soviet-era artillery systems, although they probably needed some intensive maintenance and their crews would probably have needed re-training.  In an interview with a news program a Russian officer, Konstantin Sivkov, had this to say.

The success of the Syrian Army in the first day offensive in Hama province towards Idlib was partially due to the method that is called “fire wave”. This means very dense artillery shelling, using 300 or more artillery pieces per 1 km of the frontline. The fire is aimed at the defense lines and is moved forward as the troops advance. This method consumes a lot of ammunition, but it is very effective in getting through fortifications. This allowed the breakthrough via the enemy defenses. I would like to point out that after that there was no information about the use of such a concentrated artillery fire. This suggests that the Syrian forces used up much, if not most, of the ammunition they had, including those supplied by Russia. Apparently, now they don’t have enough ammunition for adequate artillery support of the troops. That would explain why the rate of advance was greatly reduced.

There’s more at the link.

That sounds very like Soviet-era artillery doctrine to me.  I daresay many of the ships and aircraft pouring into Syria from Russia are carrying more ammunition.



  1. Another anon

    Great post peter!

    Some guesses:
    Assad will be saved.

    East Syria will stay Isis.

    Syria / turkey border will be secured that is not Kurd controlled., this will hurt rebels a lot in the North.

    Russia is not going to put in enough forces to secure the entire country. Just enough to maximize value, for least cost.

    Gulf states and turkey will keep on supporting rebels. The problem will be supply lines in the north when the Turkish border is secured.

    Be interesting to see if Iraq invites in Russians…

    The solution is Syria is break it up into 3 or 4 countries, but nobody wants to bear the cost.


  2. Interesting. I read about the way that ISIS breached defensive lines in Iraq and elsewhere. They would send suicide truckbombs into the line and blow up the defense strong points. Sort of a can't miss guided missile. By all accounts it was hideously effective

  3. I don't hink I've ever seen rocket artillery being used in direct fire mode like the second sequence shows. Do they have sights for that?

  4. Go get 'em Ivan. As a Gen-X child of the Cold War I'd have never dreamed I'd be rooting for the Russians.

    As a regular liveleak and YouTube viewer I can't help but notice all of the fresh stock top of the line Raytheon built TOW missiles ISIS uses. Seems as if the U.S. is backing the wrong side of a war yet again. They clearly show the serial numbers on the tubes too. If the U.S. was serious about ISIS you'd think they'd be asking Raytheon who bought those and be sanctioning the supplying nation. There's a good 6 or 7 likely suspect nations if we include ourselves.

  5. The weapons were almost certainly captured when the Iraqi army nearly collapsed. At least a couple of large bases with lots of equipment fell into the so-called Caliphate's hands. I hope this self-proclaimed caliphate falls just as thoroughly as the last one in Sudan did (see Churchill's The River War for a splendid account).

  6. There is no losing scenario for the jihadists, it's all win. They either strengthen their frigging "caliphate" or they move out… into the loving embrace of Mama Merkel, TIME mag "Person of the Year 2015".

  7. That thing about Syrian artillery tactics sounds like a creeping barrage to me – it's something right out of the Great War, but I'm given to understand it's still good times today – provided you have enough ammunition and cannons, and your troops are disciplined/foolhardy enough to tolerate the occasional big of errant shrapnel.

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