Moscow has decided to send additional advanced aircraft, including K-52 helicopter gunships, to Syria “in order to strengthen the Russian military grouping that takes part in anti-terrorist operations" – Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yuriy Ivanovich Borisov announced this week. The new consignment, he said, would replace the bombers and Su-25 fighter jets which will be recalled to Russia.
The Ka-52, 'Alligator'- NATO codename “Hokum-B” – is a two-seat attack helicopter which fits the requirements of the different battle sites in Syria. Rated one of the world’s most sophisticated of its kind, it is highly maneuverable, capable of abruptly altering flight directions and angles without prior adjustments.
Alligator is equipped with an advanced battlefield management system for running contact and exchanges of data with other helicopters/airplanes and ground units. The battlefield management system can also serve as an airborne headquarters for ground and air forces in battle.
The Ka-52 has six external hardpoints for different combinations of weapons, among which are Vikhr and Vikhr-M anti-tank missiles and Igla-V air-to-air missiles. The helicopter also carries bombs and rockets. For targeting armored forces, these helicopters carry 12 Vikhr ATGMs laser-guided anti-tank missiles with a range of up to 8km and the ability to pierce 950mm-thick armor. The helicopter is also equipped with extra-strong advanced casing against ground fire.
On July 7, Russian Navy headquarter in Moscow announced that the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov will be deployed in the Mediterranean opposite Syrian shores. In October, the carrier will begin military operations against terror organizations in Syria and in particular against ISIS. On its decks are 15 Su-33 and MiG-29K/KUB bombers and fighter jets, and 10 Ka-52K, Ka-27 and Ka-31 helicopters.
debkafile’s military sources say there are six reasons why Russia has shifted its reliance in Syria and the Middle East on helicopters rather than on bombers and fighter planes.
1. To adapt is aerial assets to expanded military cooperation with the US air force in Syrian air space. It is possible that we will soon see US and Russian helicopters attacking Syrian terror targets together, especially ISIS. Russian helicopters may even be deployed in support of US special operations forces in this arena.
2. US-Russian negotiations on joint air force operations are already underway, with a couple of provisos set by the Obama administration, especially the discontinuation of Syrian air force strikes against Syrian rebel groups supported by the US.
debkafile counter-terror and intelligence sources report that Washington and Moscow have not agreed on which of these rebel forces are to be immune. The debate centers on rebel groups close to al-Qaeda, ISIS or other radical Muslim organizations.
3. The continued US failure to successfully wield CIA-trained and armed Syrian rebel forces is forcing the Americans to fall back increasingly on the Russian forces in Syria. In recent weeks these pro-US forces were repeatedly beaten back by ISIS before achieving their mission.
The latest examples are: the bitter defeat of The New Syrian Army near Abu Kamal in eastern Syria, and the failure of Syrian Democratic Forces – SDF, another pro-US force, operating in northern Syria near the Turkish border, to capture Manjib from ISIS, despite aerial support.
4. As the US has withdrawn its aircraft carriers from the Mediterranean, the arrival of the Admiral Kuznetsov carrier ready to go into action in October will make the Russian navy the only military force to deploy an aircraft carrier in the region.
5. Since Moscow and Ankara buried the hatchet earlier this month, the Russian air force no longer needs to maintain advanced fighters jets in Syria against the Turkish air force.
6. The Russians are also aiming to reach an agreement with Turkey for joint aerial operations against terror targets in Syria.