Have Russian S-400s changed the ongoing operations?
The US military is showing clear signs that it is increasing its efforts in Syria to strike Islamic State militants. The US DoD looks set to deploy a Special Operations Forces (SOF) team to support both Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces. The SOF force will presumably help air assets to direct effective air strikes against IS positions as well as gather intelligence to degrade IS and target IS leadership.
Recent images of a US Navy EA-18G Growler showed a ‘kill’ marking against an individual – presumably indicating involvement in a kill chain that targeted an individual – possibly via mobile phone tracking.
The US Air Force has now deployed F-15s to Incirlik, Turkey, as part of an attempt to intensify its missions in Syria and Iraq. Six F-15E Strike Eagles from RAF Lakenheath’s 492nd Fighter Squadron arrived at the Turkish base on November 12, hot on the heels of six F-15Cs, also from the 48th Fighter Wing, which deployed the previous week.
The Eagles are operating alongside the 75th Fighter Squadron A-10Cs from Moody AFB that are also now located at Incirlik.
The USAF has also spearheaded a sharp increase in airstrikes against the oil fields controlled by IS in eastern Syria, which acts as a major revenue stream for the organization. Operations to date have only temporarily halted oil production and President Obama has resisted attacking the 1,000 oil tanker trucks that keep supplies flowing, over fears of civilian casualties. However on November 16 over 100 trucks were understood to have been targeted near Deir al-Zour, an area in eastern Syria controlled by IS.
Reports indicate that A-10Cs and AC-130U gunships led this operation, dubbed ‘Tidal Wave II’.
More details on this and more in the new January 2016 issue of Combat Aircraft, on sale from tomorrow.
Following the shootdown by Turkish AF F-16s of a Russian Su-24M ‘Fencer’, Russia has drafted in S-300/400 surface to air missile systems and has armed its Su-34 ‘Fullback’ strike aircraft with air-to-air missiles. It has also added Su-30SMs as escort fighters for its bomber strikes in Syria. The addition of these significant air defence and self-defence systems will surely have an impact on how the coalition conducts operations in Syria. The 400 km engagement zone of the S-400 means that Cyprus, Israel and other close territory comes under the gaze of this deadly SAM system.