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Aerospace Forces Commander Bondarev on Syria

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Aerospace Forces Commander Bondarev on Syria

Original by Viktor Baranets published by Komsomolskaya Pravda; translated from Russian by J.Hawk

Colonel General Viktor Bondarev made an initial assessment of our forces’ operation in Syria with an interview with military analyst Viktor Baranets.

Several dozen Russian aircraft and helicopters have been operating in Syria for a month, launching strikes against Islamic State and other terror groups. How was the air operation conceived? How is it proceeding? Why is the US refusing to fight against IS alongside Rusians? These and other questions were answered by the Aerospace Forces commander Colonel General Viktor Bondarev.

Phony Bombing

–Viktor Nikolayevich, what is your estimate of the tragic events in Syria?

–This is a war against the black plague of the 21st century–international terrorism. The worst of the worst from the whole world has assembled on the long-suffering soil of Syria. ISIL, al-Nusra, and other such discards of humanity.

–But US and allied aircraft have been bombing ISIL for over a year…

–Yes, they were “bombing” it so effectively that ISIL captured first 30% and then almost 75% of Syria’s territory, including major oil installations! It was all for show, a make-believe fight against terrorists. That so-called “moderate” opposition was not powerful enough to overthrow Assad. We heard: coalition aircraft are bombing Syria, but nobody has seen any results. And if the lawful Syrian government were to give in to ISIL thus confirming that organization’s power, their ranks would have increased manifold.

–Have you been to Syria?

–Yes, I have. Where our aircraft and helicopters are based.

–What was the purpose of your visit?

I went there, where 80% of our personnel are stationed. I needed to see how prepared we are to fulfill the assigned mission. I saw how our pilots were living, talked with them. I was glad to see them in fighting spirits.

Aerospace Forces Commander Bondarev on Syria

–Why was it decided to use mainly Aerospace Forces aircraft and helicopters in Syria, what was the concept of operation?

–Well, what else could we have used? Launch missiles every day? That’s very expensive. And moreover ISIL is a highly mobile pack of bandits. They use cars, motorcycles, bicycles, donkeys, mules. It’s no use chasing after t hem in tanks, trucks, BTRs. They change positions after every strike to avoid losses. Aviation is another matter. That’s how we decided to use the weapons that we did.

The Beginning

–How did the air operation preparation begin?

–From assessing all the possible threats. We deployed not only fighters, attack aircraft, bombers, helicopters, but also air defense systems. Because there can always be a force majeure incident. Let’s say, a combat aircraft could be hijacked from neighboring country and used to launch a strike against us. So we needed to be ready for that.

–How did our aircraft and helicopters reach Syria?

–Aircraft flew on their own, helicopters were transported. Because their range is too short.

–Did you have intelligence suggesting the Americans sensed the deployment was imminent?

–We managed to confuse them…
–We’re not about to reveal our strategic concealment methodology…Red Circles
–And yet just prior to the start of the operation (September 30), one of the Pentagon’s generals said that “Russian aircraft are ready and can start operating in a few days”…Was this objective information?
–In principle we were ready to start in three hours.
–Right after landing?
–Yes, sir.
–Or maybe they were just pretending they did not notice the deployment of our equipment?
–I don’t think so. Our appearance in Syria and the start of the air operation radically upset their plans in that strategically important region. The Russian Army has transformed itself in just the last three years. We’ve begun intensive rearmament, rapidly increasing the number of contract soldiers capable of professionally wielding high-tech weapons. We started to receive 250 aircraft a year! Also the training systemhas changed. Since 2012, we’ve been conducting emergency alerts which taught us a lot. After all, the enemy will not send you a telegram prior to the attack specifying when and how he’ll invade or strike Russia. Emergency alerts allow us to learn what is the real level of combat readiness. We can now assemble to launch combat missions in a minimum amount of time, even less than what we had planned earlier for this or that readiness category. This is what allowed us to achieve the element of surprise we did in Syria… It’s not because we are such hot-shots who are able to throw themselves into battle from the word go. It’s because we’ve thoroughly studied ISIL’s entire infrastructure and basing regions.

Aerospace Forces Commander Bondarev on Syria

–Ahead of time?

–Not ahead of time but continuously. We have conducted and are conducting thorough reconnaissance, we have been receiving and are receiving information. The flight crews study areas over which they will operate. We have studied all the sites which are “sensitive” to Syria’s peaceful population. These are mosques, schools, holy sites, hospitals, maternity wards. We’ve identified them on our maps with red circles and points. So that not a single bomb would strike them, no matter what…

–Identified on a map?

–Yes, every pilot’s flight map.

–This was before the operation?

–Before first combat flights. Because we had and have no right to behave otherwise.

–Could you name the number of our aircraft and helicopters supporting Syrian army from the air?

–There are over 50 aircraft and helicopters there. Exactly as many as was needed. At the moment we don’t need more.

–How were the pilots, navigators, technicians selected for the Syria mission?

–Based on their level of training demonstrated during exercises and alerts.

–How do you estimate your flyers’ level of professionalism?

–There’s little to say about it, we have shown everything at the  Aviadarts contest, at the exercises. I am pleased, I am proud of my pilots.

–What was your aces’ average annual flying time before the start of the operation?

–That was the end of September, therefore by then everyone had over 100 hours in the air by that time. And now they will have had far more.

One can see Syria from the Arbat

–Can the Aerospace Forces commander see Syria and his aircraft there from space?
–Yes, he can.
–And when you visit the National Defense Command Center, can you observe there everything in real time?
–What for? I have my own command post. There I see everything I need to see…
–Right here, at the Main HQ?
–Yes. I only need to go to a different room…
–How are our flyers in Syria receiving information on ISIL and other terrorist positions?
–First of all, from space, of course. Secondly, it’s drones. Third, aerial reconnaissance. We are receiving information from sources on the ground.  We thoroughly verify every assigned target and coordinate with local leadership, Syrian generals, and then make a decision on every target.
–US and other NATO country media regularly report that Russian aircraft are hitting civilians. How do you react to such reports?
–I closely observe our pilots’ work. And can assure you 100% this cannot be. It was only to be expected the Americans and their lackeys would make up things like that. Lies are their information weapons. They need to tarnish our work using whatever means they have. We are operating in a transparent fashion–we show each of our targets to the world. By comparison, look at US work in Afghanistan. They haven’t shown it to anyone! But as far as our colleagues are concerned, it’s not up to me to evaluate them.
–What if ISIL blows up a target and says it was Russians, how will we react?
–We have the coordinates of every target, and we have objective control.
–How has the intensity of our airstrikes against ISIL changed?
–We launched 9 strikes on the first day. One day it was 80. On average we have 50-60 strikes a day.
Aerospace Forces Commander Bondarev on Syria

–ISIL has changed its tactics. They started to hug towns, mosques, hospitals. Does it force our flyers to adapt?

–Of course.


–They are forced to do so. To strike with greater precision. On the other hand, it’s actually a good thing that the terrorists are abandoning their positions and opening up the way for Syrian army’s advance. They have nowhere to go, and they understand any stationary object will be destroyed by us. They don’t occupy small villages because once they are easily covered by artillery. So the bandits are forced to concentrate in large cities and towns. Which ultimately is to their disadvantage.


–Because it makes it easier for the Syrian Army to surround a single large city and finish its work there…For us the main problem is that our work has to be done with jeweler’s precision so as to avoid hitting peaceful Syrians.

–How are you achieving that precision?

–First of all, reconnaissance. Secondly, thorough planning of every mission, study of every target, programming the coordinates. Everything is checked several times. Once the pilot arrives at the target, if there are any reasons to believe that the ordnance might fall long or short of target, he aborts and makes another pass. So the pilot cannot make a mistake.

–How did we manage to divide Syrian airspace with the Americans?

–You know, this is probably the only issue on which we and the Americans signed a memorandum on using the airspace.

–Syrian, Iranian, Iraqi aircraft are also participating in our operations?

–Yes, Syrian aircraft are participating, both army aviation helicopters and strike aircraft. Iraqis operate over their own territory.

–How do you assess their professional capabilities?

–What can I say…Their equipment is rather elderly compared to ours. But thanks to combat experience, they’ve gotten better and they do good work.

–They trained in Russia?

–Yes, nearly all of them. Granted, they had their own aviation school, but in general they are our graduates.

–Is there a unified coordinating staff with our representative who coordinates all the air operations?

–Yes, naturally.

–Is this done online every day?

–Yes, that’s how we do our coordination for every flight, for every strike.

Our ill-wishers’ falsehoods

-Some foreign media reported shot down Russian aircraft and helicopters, there was even video. Do you have any comment?

–I’ll say they are engaging in wishful thinking. Thank God we haven’t had any losses thus far.

–How often do your receive information on our airwing’s condition?

–That’s how I start my every day. I receive a report at 8am.

–A US newspaper reported that terrorists were able to attack our airfield with rockets, another that the airfield security force suffered heavy losses as a result of ISIL attack. Was there an attack on the airbase?

–No, there was no attack on the airbase. Everyone’s alive, thank God.


Aerospace Forces Commander Bondarev on Syria

Battle Landscape

–Syria’s territory has a very specific landscape, there are also sandstorms. Do you take all these peculiar features into consideration when assessing your flyers’ performance?

–Yes, Syria’s territory, particularly closer to the sea, has a lot of close terrain, some of it mountainous and covered with vegetation. But beyond that, nearly all of Syria is a flat sandy steppe, then desert. Therefore the Syrians’ main task is to eject the terrorists from the mountainous terrain and then move into the open areas.

–But there are severe sandstorms, they say that they can start blowing by the end of the year…

–Right now it’s the rainy season, and hardly a day passes without a storm. They usually happen in daytime. Therefore we will operate at night. Although it’s all the same to us, day or night.

–How is the relationship between our flyers and Syria’s civilian population?

–Syrians know perfectly well where our airbase is. We’ve been there for a lengthy time, and haven’t had a single complaint. I’m 100% certain it will be that way in the future.
–For our aircraft and helicopters operating in Syria, this is something akin to a laboratory, a test of our equipment in realistic battle conditions?
–No doubt about it. We are trying out all of our equipment there, its capabilities. We are verifying our munitions, how they behave in this or that situation. Naturally, we can’t leave all that without proper analysis or study or further improvement, etc.
–There’s information that one of our factories is working on three shifts…Supposedly our pilots in Syria don’t have enough missiles…
–Total BS! No director has called me to say they are overburdened.
–How do you assess the effectiveness of these weapons?
–I think they are magnificent weapons, it has acquitted itself well. No wonder other countries are buying it. So no complaints. Except from those on the receiving end…
–What about the incident when our aircraft entered Turkey’s airspace? And caused considerable hubbub?
–Our aircraft was on a mission in northern Syria. There was heavy cloud cover. When our fighter flew alongside the border with Turkey, onboard equipment indicated ground-base air defenses are trying to lock on to the aircraft. Therefore the pilot was forced to perform an anti-missile maneuver. Which took him slightly into Turkey’s airspace. Which we honestly acknowledged…
The Premiere
–The Syria operation is, in effect, the Aerospace Forces premiere. This is the first Aerospace Forces participation in actual combat operations.
–Yes. The first since August 1.
–And what do you think of that premiere?
–Naturally, the power of our forces has grown. The Commander in Chief has made an absolutely correct decision to unify everything into a single “fist.” We unified space, air defenses, aviation. All these areas are now unified, and we are on combat alert in each of them. Right now we are fine-tuning this whole “inventory”, including in Syria…
–Any words for your subordinates in Syria and for the pages of KP?
–First of all, I’d like to thank our pilots, technicians, air defense specialists for their outstanding work. I would like to also express my enormous gratitude to their families for their understanding that their sons, husbands, brothers are doing something important there. I am very happy there was not a single complaint, not a single refusal, not a single request for reassignment. And I would also like to thank the national leadership and the Ministry of Defense for our wonderful equipment that allows us to carry out any mission we are assigned.оставят.

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Go to school on this, Yanquis!

“The flight crews study areas over which they will operate. We have studied all the sites which are “sensitive” to Syria’s peaceful population. These are mosques, schools, holy sites, hospitals, maternity wards. We’ve identified them on our [pilots’] maps with red circles and points. So that not a single bomb would strike them, no matter what…”

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