As has been all over the news today, the Russian Air Force has officially joined the fray in Operation Inherent Resolve and conducted its first combat missions against the Islamic State.
Within hours of the Russian lawmakers’ approval of President Vladimir Putin’s request to use force in Syria, Russian fighter-bombers were airborne and moving to attack targets in the north of Syria. But this is where things get interesting.
At approximately 0900 local time, a Russian three-star general in Baghdad met with U.S. officials and informed them airstrikes would begin post-haste, and then made the demand that any and all U.S. assets in the area get out of Dodge. Yes, FighterSweep Fans, that just happened.
A couple noteworthy things about the prelude to the first Russian airstrikes:
1) pretty gutsy demand to make, considering Inherent Resolve has been underway for a year, with coalition aircraft enjoying relatively unmolested use of Syrian airspace and, 2) the general only gave an hour’s notice to his visit. Not a whole lot of time to move pieces around the chess board, if one were inclined–which we weren’t–to comply with said request.
The Russian fighters delivering the initial volley, according to some photos seen on Twitter, appear to be Su-24M2 “Fencer” fighter-bombers, similar in design to the venerable F-111 seen in our own inventory in years past. According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, eight ISIS targets–to include “military material, communications centers, ammunition and fuel supply depots”–were targeted. The MoD also reported that a total of twenty sorties were flown.
Here’s a sample of the targeting pod video released by the Russian Air Force of their strikes in Syria:

Remarkable in the video is the apparent lack of precision to the delivery of the ordnance. Either the targeting pod was slewed prior to impact, or the CEP (Circular Error Probable) on the weapons used is…well…not awesome, and definitely would indicate a “dumb” munition of one variety or other.
Something else noteworthy is the fact the airstrikes were centered in the city of Homs, an area not known to be an ISIS hot-spot, yet replete with those opposed to the current Assad regime. The targeted group appeared to be the Free Syrian Army which, as one may recall, are equipped with U.S.-made hardware and have been the focus of an effort to fight back against the Syrian government.
So to recap: 1) little notice to strikes, 2) a demand for sanitized operating space, and 3) raining hate on folks decidedly not ISIS with what appear to be–based on visible effects–4) unguided bombs that didn’t hit the intended target(s). All food for thought.
There are many, many geopolitical implications of today’s events. It would be premature to opine on most of them, because this is only the Russians’ initial foray into combat in Syria. Is it cause for concern? Without a doubt. Are any US personnel in danger now that the Russia has joined the fight? That’s not an unreasonable conclusion to draw. Is there potential for catastrophic outcomes based on miscommunication or hidden agendas? Yes, and that potential is very high.
So as we say in the trade, the plot thickens. We’ve been fielding questions about this subject all day and well into the evening, and we promise to bring you more, including a deeper look into the unstated agenda.
Stay tuned!
(Featured photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons)