Summary of Vlast’s insights on preparation and execution of Russian military campaign in Syria

“Russia and Syria: View from Above. Results of the 1st month of Russian military’s presence on the Syrian land and in the Syrian air,” Ivan Safronov, Sergei Goryashko, Kommersant Vlast, 10.26.15.
The Russian military operation in Syria began on September 30. The Russian air force had struck at hundreds of facilities that belong to terrorists of the Islamic State since then, but not all of these actions were welcomed by everyone in the international community. Kommersant Vlast has summed up the first results of the Russian military’s presence in Syria.
The Russian Defense Ministry had started preparing for the first full-fledged military maneuver since the 2008 war with Georgia long before President Bashar al-Assad officially appealed for help and long before the Security Council of the Russian Federation met on September 29 to decide to help the Syrian troops in the fight against terrorists. According to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Vladimir Putin informed President Barack Obama about the upcoming strikes at a meeting "on the sidelines" of the UN General Assembly in New York. Obama's answer was brief: "That’s what we have expected."
According Vlast’s sources, reinforcement of the forces and means at the naval facility in Tartus began in August, when large landing ships "Novocherkassk", "Korolev", "Saratov", "Azov", "Tsezar Kunikov" and cargo ferry "Alexander Tkachenko" were fully loaded with special equipment, ammunition, fuel and lubricants at the Novorossiysk port and then went through the Bosporus to the Mediterranean Sea. Having accumulated a sufficient number of weapons (aircraft gun rounds, bombs and "air – ground" missiles), the military had only one task left to solve- the relocation of the aircraft. It was not very difficult to do, with the  "Center-2015" exercise, which involved 150 aircraft, running in the background. Under the cover of this exercise, Russia’s Su-30SM, Sukhoi Su-34 and Su-24M, Su-25 flew to airfields in Krymsk and Mozdok, and then, bypassing the Caspian Sea (or the airspace of Azerbaijan), flew through Iran and Iraq to Syria. By 30 September a full-fledged mixed aviation group of more than 50 aircraft had been established at the Hmeimim air base near Latakia. By that time also Mi-8 and Mi-24P helicopters had arrived. Since then, they were carrying out strikes at Syrian provinces, where rebels of "Islamic State" and "Al-Nusra" are located.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, Russian pilots performed 934 sorties (of which more than a hundred took place at night), and destroyed at least 819 objects on September 30-October 22. The warplanes mostly used precision "air to surface" Kh-29L missiles and guided KAB-500S bombs, whose maximum deviation from the target, according to the military, is not more than 5 meters. According to Vlast’s sources in the military-industrial complex, due to increased demand in the supply of military weapons for the operation in Syria, Russia’s corporation "Tactical Missiles" had to switch to production in three shifts a day (24 hours). Russian Navy urgently bough eight transport ships from Turkish ship-owners and commissioned them as auxiliary ships because the Navy’s existing fleet of landing ships could not cope with the demand for transportation of materiel to Tartus.
In addition to the aircraft, four ships of the Caspian Flotilla (small missile warships "Uglich", "Grad Sviyazhsk," "Great Ustyug" and "Dagestan") launched 26  3M14 "Caliber-NK" cruise missiles to 11 ground targets on October 7. This launch stood out: Russian reconnaissance discovered rebel facilities, which the Russian Defense Ministry decided to immediately destroy. The military succeeded in a very short period of time to obtain Iran’s consent to send the missiles via Iran's airspace.
According to the updated data of the Defense Ministry,  Russian strikes were mainly concentrated in the provinces of Aleppo, Idlib, Deir ez-Zor, Raqqa, Latakia, Palmyra, Damascus and Hama. According to Russian intelligence, it is in these provinces that the majority of rebels’
positions are located (in particular, fortified areas and mortar positions), as well as armories and training camps. The first attack immediately drew criticism from Western countries.
Vlast’s source in t in the General Staff said the selection of targets is not only based on their own Russian data (monitoring of the situation almost around the clock is carried out by electro-optical reconnaissance "Persona N2” satellite and unmanned aerial vehicles "Orlan-10"), but also based on  information received Iran, Iraq and Syria. An information center was set up by these countries  in Baghdad to coordinate the actions: its main function is to collect, process, summarized and analyze the current information about the situation in the region. Officers of the armed forces of the four countries will rotate to head the center for three months each (currently the center is headed by commander of the Russia’s 6th Combined Arms Army General Sergei Kuralenko).
Deputy chief of Russian General Staff General Kartopolov insists that a special form gets filled out for each target before it gets attacked. Computer modelling of the pending strikes is carried out before it is decided whether to strike a target.  "We strike only at facilities of the internationally recognized terrorist groups. Our planes do not work in southern Syria, where according to our information, formations of the Syrian Free Army are located,” Kartopolov said.
The Kremlin and the Defense Ministry have been saying from the beginning that Russia does not intend to participate in ground operation. The military contingent is present in Syria. It consists of  contract servicemen of the 810th separate Marines Brigade (based in Sevastopol) and the 7th Air Assault Mountain Airborne Division (Based in Village Raevskaya), according to Vlast’s source in the General Staff. However, the main task of these soldiers is to defend facilities, not participate in combat operations in accordance with  Italian General Giulio Douhet’s doctrine. In 1921 he published a book on supremacy in the air, which describes the leading role of aviation in war and insists that air strikes on key enemy targets can lead to victory. Prior to the Syrian operation, the Russian armed forces had conducted maneuvers in a completely different way: relying on the land component.

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