Turkey showed how to fight in the air: Ukraine can use Turkish drones in Donbas

Author : Yuriy Butusov

Source : 112 Ukraine

The triumph of the Bayraktars: how the Turks defeated the Russian-Assad troops in Idlib. The "Spring Shield" operation lessons for Donbas
23:30, 5 March 2020


The Turkish Spring Shield operation is the most impressive example of the successful defeat of the enemy during the local war, and the conditions of the war are in many respects similar to the situation in Donbas. Moreover, as you know, a set of Bayraktar drones was purchased by Ukraine for $ 69 million, but a year later this unit has not yet reached combat readiness. So our Bayraktars are not used in the war in Donbas. Why are the Turks successfully fighting, and the Ukrainians are afraid to use Bayraktars? And how exactly can the Turks dominate in the air and destroy the enemy with small losses?

In Ukraine, there was strong criticism of the purchases of Turkish drones, and primarily because of their extremely high cost (six UAVs with two control stations and 400 guided bombs and missiles). The main argument was the inapplicability of the Bayraktars in Donbas due to the presence of strong Russian air defense - allegedly, they will be easily shot down. I was originally a supporter of the purchase of Bayraktar UAVs, and the events in Turkey only once again emphasize what I have been repeating all the time: there is no invulnerable and perfect weapon, people win the war - their will to win and the right tactics of combat use, and modern weapons allows to apply new methods of battle, unexpected for the enemy.

So what do we see on the battlefield?

The Syrian province of Idlib is located on the border with Turkey. After sending the Russian army to Syria and intensifying hostilities, the Turks introduced their army to control Idlib. In the province, the Turks created their loyal power. Their army was located on a large territory - separate tactical groups took control of the communications.

Russia is now the main ally of the Assad regime, which controls part of the country's territory. But it is impossible to keep Assad’s power and withdraw Russian troops - the regime will immediately crumble. US forces are holding oil areas of Syria, and without control of Idlib Assad will not be able to stay in Damascus.

The Russian command understands this, they carried out a reform of the Assad forces, took full responsibility for reconnaissance, command, supply and air support, provided training of Iranian mercenaries and launched an offensive operation. The purpose of the operation is to penetrate Idlib through large gaps between Turkish strongholds and create their strongholds. And with the support of Russian-Assad aviation, defeat the pro-Turkish forces without engaging in battle with the Turkish army. Thus, the Turks would be forced to enter into negotiations on a settlement in Idlib with Putin and Assad, and Assad would be able to regain control there. The first key target of the offensive was the city of Serakib and the area around it, through which one of the strategic highways goes.

But Erdogan decided otherwise. During the Russian-Assad offensive, the Turks did not silently look at what was happening, the Turkish army introduced additional forces into Idlib. Assad troops, which were approaching Turkish ones, began to shoot. The Turkish military, as part of the Idlib pro-Turkish forces, began to suffer casualties in battle. Russian aircraft destroyed two Turkish M-60 tanks, and on February 27, Russian or Assad aircraft attacked Turkish regular army convoy - 33 soldiers were killed. This became a trigger and an excuse for further actions, the operation "Spring Shield" began.

Turkish drones staged an unprecedented terror in the air. For several days, the Turks posted dozens of videos about the defeat of the military equipment of Putin’s allies. It can be seen that strikes were made even against individual militants, against the Grad MLRS artillery batteries, and that losses reach many hundreds of dead and wounded.

The most impressive is how Bayraktar destroys the latest Russian Pantsir-S1 anti-aircraft cannon-missile system at a cost of $ 75-80 million on the world market. It is clearly seen that the Pantsir’s radar works, but nevertheless the drone goes unnoticed, and the operator without interference hits the target with a bomb. Judging by the flickering of the lamp in the rear part of the bomb, this is most likely MAML-L (Ukraine bought 200 of these bombs for its Bayraktars).

Turkey is waging a truly contactless war, which Russia and Assad can not oppose. But why? After all, Russia has forces in Syria, a large number of air defense systems, why do heavy drones hang freely over Idlib and remain invulnerable? Since the beginning of the operation, there is reliable information about the defeat of only one Turkish Ansa drone.

Related: Escalation in Idlib: Turkey and Russia approached crucial milestone in Syria

We have our own successful experience of using Ukrainian heavy drones, which repeatedly penetrated the depths of the Russian defense. For example, in July 2019, in the Mayorove area, a Ukrainian reconnaissance drone discovered the Thorn-MD electronic reconnaissance station and Zhytel electronic warfare station and adjusted the real-time fire of Ukrainian artillery. As a result, both cars were destroyed by 20 shells. Even large drones can sometimes operate in the depths of Russian battle formations, despite the strong air defense system of the Russian Federation in Donbas, which knocks down a lot of our UAVs.

Why? Because no country in the world can provide continuous radar field at low altitudes, this task was not fulfilled even in the days of the USSR. Without constant radar monitoring, it is impossible to provide effective target designation for anti-aircraft missile systems and for electronic warfare systems, the capabilities of which to independently search for air targets are very limited.

All radars could be easily found by the forces of electronic intelligence. Their characteristics, coverage, data are updated in real time from satellites. Therefore, it is always possible to find the air defense group and their vulnerable zones.  Therefore, in my opinion, the tactics of the "Spring Shield" was chosen as follows.

In the course of maneuvering hostilities, a significant part of Assad’s units found themselves without any air defense cover at all, they were closely mixed with the Turkish military formations, so that they could be beaten with impunity. In such a maneuvering war, the Bayraktars are most effective. Turkish troops do not carry out a ground attack. But they carry out reconnaissance and hit the enemy with concentrated artillery fire and MLRS from their strongholds. And hidden targets are destroyed by detachments of drones. This is the tactic that we need in Donbas. In order to inflict unacceptable losses on the enemy and demoralize, it is not necessary to launch a ground attack.

I believe that judging by the scale of the use of drones, the suppression of air defense was one of the priorities of the Spring Shield operation. Turkey is also armed with modern American AGM-88HARM anti-radar missiles and modern electronic jamming equipment. The Turks massively used the Kasirga 300-mm multiple launch rocket systems - an analogue of our Vikha and Smerch. The Kasirga range is up to 100 km, one battery can reliably cover any radar that will be detected and / or fixed by satellite. Turkish self-propelled guns Firtina hit up to 40 km range, that is, in this zone any air defense systems are extremely vulnerable.

And after the destruction of the radars and the communications system, the Turks began to strike at the Pantsirs. At this point, the Turkish Armed Forces announced the destruction of five Assad air defense systems.

Judging by the minimal losses and the number of drones that strike, the air defense radars of the Assad and Russian forces in Idlib are reliably suppressed. In such circumstances, the Russians also cannot use fighters from the Khmeimim base - they will be shot down, because the Turks reliably control the air.

Thus, the success of the Turkish troops in the "Spring Shield" operation lies in the integrated use of diverse forces and means, in the speed of action, in accurately determining the right tactics, in effective provision of intelligence information in real time. The Turkish strike was so quick and massive that Russia did not have time to react. And the transfer of forces and means from the Russian Federation to the Khmeimim base has just begun - obviously, to hide the losses.

Unfortunately, having Bayraktars in their hands, and having a very effective intelligence system Ukrainian command is not trying to work out modern tactics in Donbas. Although fighting an enemy on their land, the army must prepare for battle and new methods of warfare. Why do you buy weapons if you are afraid to use them in battle? Why do soldiers die at the front, and expensive cars that were bought so as not to risk their lives, continue to stand on the ground, forgotten by the command? The sad fact: the lack of combat readiness of Bayraktars a year after the purchase shows that the command of the Armed Forces poorly understands the significance of this new type of weapon and the new tactics it requires.

It should be noted that when investing in the construction of Ukrainian drones and guided weapons for them, when arming the troops with Vilkha missiles and finalizing the Neptune project, which has the functions of an anti-radar missile, the Armed Forces will receive modern contactless warfare instruments that are in great demand in Donbas. The invaders will not strive to peace until Ukraine demonstrates a force capable of inflicting heavy losses on the enemy in Donbas.

Related: Escalation in Idlib: Turkey and Russia approached crucial milestone in Syria

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