Russian Special Forces Officer Reveals Syria Fighting Lessons

A word of caution — I was not able to verify the origination/link to the article below.  RCP,



October 24, 2017


Russian special forces officer reveals Syria fighting lessons

Russian special forces subunits have been active in Syria ever since the start of the Russian operation there. They not only call in air and cruise missile strikes but also take part directly in armed clashes with terrorists. In August Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu personally presented orders to men of the Special Operations Forces. In an unequal fight they were able to halt an offensive by and inflict defeat on several hundred militants belonging to ISIS, which is banned in Russia. And quite recently the “polite people” were able to extract a platoon of Russian military police from an encirclement.

An officer serving with a Russian special forces subunit has told Izvestia  about his experience of combat operations in Syria.

Changing threat

[Izvestia] What is your assessment of the ISIS militants? Have their detachments changed in any way recently? Have new arms, tactics, modern armament made an appearance?

[Soldier] We’ve had a number of temporary duty (TDY) assignments, and on each occasion the militants have changed. So it has not been the case that we have arrived there and the adversary has remained as he was previously. Things aren’t standing still. For example, the militants have now acquired many night vision devices. Both binocular devices and the Cyclops (night vision device with two eyepieces amalgamated in a single unit – Izvestia). There are also “scopes” – night vision sights. They are mounted on small arms. The militants also have “thermals” (thermal imagers – Izvestia). There was none of this good stuff previously.

For example, we even seized Belarusian Pulsar night vision devices from the adversary. Reasonably good and relatively cheap items of Chinese make. They also had Pulsars with range-finder units.

[Izvestia] But how effectively do the militants use the PNV [night vision sights] and thermal imagers?

[Soldier] As yet the militants don’t entirely know how to use this technology. For instance, when they operate using night vision sights they fail to allow for the weapon’s ballistics. A bullet isn’t a laser beam. It flies along a particular trajectory. In order to hit the target, especially when firing from a great distance, you have to make corrections, make the offsets, achieve the leads. They don’t do this. So they frequently miss.

Lookouts at their posts don’t make constant use of their night vision gear. They will look for a certain amount of time and lay the devices aside. And then they simply listen to what is going on around them. Therefore they are often unable to discover in time what is happening right next to their position.

But all the same, in our combat activities we constantly have to be aware of the fact that the adversary has thermal imagers and night vision devices at his disposal. Particularly when you’re approaching the militants’ positions at night. You have to conduct yourself very carefully, control your movements, and pay close attention to the lookouts.

Eyes in the sky

[Izvestia] We know that ISIS detachments are making frequent use of various drones. Have you encountered these items?

[Soldier] Mainly they make them with their own hands. They buy the engines, control systems, and other parts on the Internet. They also employ quadcopters. They operate the drones and the quadcopters very effectively.

This is one modification we have seen, for example. A Phantik (Phantom-series quadcopter – Izvestia) with a hook attached. An improvised explosive device (IED) is suspended from the hook. The IED has a remote-control unit and little legs. There is a grass-covered masking device. The Phantik stealthily delivers it and places it in the grass alongside the road or in a ditch. The militants keep watch, and when someone approaches or a vehicle drives past they detonate the charge remotely. It is powerful enough to smash the wheel of a truck.

We encountered quadcopters with improvised bombs. Small tubes, firing pins made from nails, stabilisers from sliced-up packaging. The charge contains shot. The quadcopter is virtually silent. It flies up and drops its bomb. You can sustain serious fragment wounds within a 5-m radius.

For all that, the militants understand the importance of drones. And they endeavour to bring down ours and Syrian drones. They downed a quadcopter belonging to one of our subunits. By all appearances they got it using an SVD sniper rifle.

Night raids

[Izvestia] Can you speak about your own combat activities?

[Soldier] We would try to hit the enemy in his weakest spots, where he was not expecting us, and inflict maximum damage. On one occasion we went a fair way from the line of contact into the militants’ rear. And we made a night-time raid on their positions.

The terrain in the area we were operating in was like a Martian landscape. Fissures and crevices in the ground and everywhere stones that had been gathered into piles and ramparts. And every rampart 2-3 m high and between 500 m and 1 km in length. At night it’s difficult to get your bearings on the terrain because of the twists and turns. At the same time it’s not easy to find the enemy. The heated stones are very like the head or other parts of the body.

A building used to stand in the depth of the enemy’s defence. At one point the militants blew it up, and it collapsed on itself. But if you climb up onto the roof, or what’s left of it, you get a good view of the enemy’s positions. But in order to get to the building you have to cross a road. And it is situated on a 1.5-m-tall embankment, and when you’re negotiating it you become very conspicuous. And a little farther on, at an intersection, the militants are dug in with a heavy machine gun. Of course, I was drenched in sweat. We began to watch the enemy. We waited until the militants dropped their guard. Then we swiftly made that line. We occupied the positions, got ourselves prepared, and went to work.

The militants clearly weren’t expecting such a bold attack at night or to come under such intensive fire. We then “finished off” a few dozen of them. The enemy was in shock initially. They didn’t understand what was happening and where the fire was coming from. But then they brought up their reserves. The enemy regrouped, and they opened up against the “house” with everything they had, flattening our shelter. Evidently the enemy realised that the best thing to do was deal with the “house.” Plus the fact that we detected their surveillance devices.

The militants even tried to execute a small flanking movement and began to pour machine gun fire on us from the flank. There were also some quite audacious guys. Some militants really went for it. They hid behind rocks. They managed to cover around 100 m. True, we did take them all down.

We began falling back from the “house.” But the machine gun on the flank stopped us getting across the road. But we couldn’t stay where we were. We’d be straddled by mortar fire. We had to withdraw along the road. We made a sharp dash across the road while the enemy was replacing the magazines on his assault rifles and reloading the machine guns. After this we were assured a relatively safe withdrawal.

Repeat performance

A few days later we decided to plan an operation applying the same procedure in a different area. First we made a study of the area, thoroughly examined all the issues involved in the operation, and took the previous experience into consideration.

This time we decided to take more powerful weapon assets with us – shoulder-fired grenade launchers. We also had assault rifles, sniper rifles, and machine guns.

The location was relatively close by. But we moved very cautiously. So the approach took us a few hours. En route we came across some abandoned positions. And there were still tents and matresses there. We had to stop and examine them. There could have been mines there. There was a lot of garbage in the grass, cans and cartridge zinc. If you even merely snag it it’ll make a lot of noise.

It was fairly late when we reached our objective. It would soon be dawn. We therefore needed to act swiftly and boldly. We split up and kept the militants’ positions under observation, we estimated their number, weapons, the nature of their actions. And then we got down to work.

One building and the approaches to it became the object of our interest. As we understood it, this was some sort of guardhouse. There the militants were resting, eating, and getting ready to go on guard duty. This was precisely what we needed. A large cluster of the enemy, who believed they were safe and secure and were in no way expecting an attack. We identified a moment when a large number of militants had assembled, apparently for a briefing.

Then everything unfolded rapidly. We opened up with the grenade launchers. The building went sky high, the militants panicked. With precision fire our rifles picked off those who had been thrown aside by the explosion and were starting to pick themselves up. Subsequently, according to information from a radio intercept, we were informed that we had accounted for four important commanders and several dozen militants.

Admittedly, the grenade launcher rounds immediately gave away our positions and, just like the last time, the militants again began climbing out of all the slits. The enemy had concealed lines of communication along which their machine gunners moved out toward us. They deployed and opened fire with a fair amount of precision. The bullets fell so near your body could feel their tracks. The impact splats were very close.

We began an organised fallback, covering one another under enemy fire. The first man provides cover, the second man moves and takes up a position, then the first man moves up to join him, and so on and so forth. Again the militants acted very defiantly. Plus the fact that they were very familiar with the terrain. We had already withdrawn a fair distance from the site of the firefight. Suddenly on the flank a militant leaps out and opens fire. He managed to almost empty his magazine in our direction. And right then I ran. But my partner acted with precision. I just heard two shots – bam-bam. A precise “one-two” right in the centre of the “carcass.”

If he had held back just a little then the daring militant would have found himself in our rear.

The operation was a very successful one. We taught them a pretty good lesson there.

Working with Syrians

[Izvestia] And how did you collaborate with the Syrian military?

[Soldier] We need to establish collaboration with them and involve them in mission performance in every possible way. If we are undertaking a mission we assemble the Syrian commanders from the entire front. Frequently it’s only at meetings such as these that they make each other’s acquaintance. We assist them to organise collaboration with each other. We explain to them where, how, and from where we will be operating, we take their personnel along with us. We definitely instruct them on allowing us to return from an action and not hit us with friendly fire. We aim to leave our own representative for coordination purposes.

The Syrian soldiers vary. There are fighters. But it happens that under fire you say to him “run” but he’s rooted to the spot – his legs have turned to jelly. And sometimes they start crying. On the one hand it is possible to understand them. We are here on a temporary assignment. We do some fighting and we return home. But here they have already had six years of constant fighting.


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