War of Logistics in N. Syria as Rebel Forces Close in on Aleppo Airport

The rebel strategy of taking Syrian government bases and airports in north Syria to prevent the regime from resupplying its forces in the north has made strides this week. The LAT reports that the revolutionaries are fighting for Aleppo International Airport, having taking Jarrah military airport a couple of days ago. The regime cannot easily supply its troops and bases in the north by road, since rebels control key points along the highway and can ambush convoys. If Damascus loses all the airports in the north, rebels will be able to starve out the troops, who will run low on ammunition and supplies.

The rebels are claiming major advances in the airport area, saying that they have taken virtually complete control of Base 80, which had been in charge protecting Aleppo International Airport.

As translated by the USG Open Source Center, al-Sharq al-Awsat reported on the fall on Tuesday of the Al-Jarrah Military Airport near Aleppo.

“The union of revolution coordination committees in Syria has affirmed that the Free Syrian Army (FSA) seized the Al-Jarrah Military Airport where fierce battles raged between the two sides that ended with the capture of a number of regular army personnel who were stationed at the airport on the Al-Riqqah-Aleppo road. The Syrian Human Rights Observatory pointed out that the FSA brigades took over the airport that houses military aircraft and arms. It said: “Combatants affiliated with the Islamic fighting brigades stormed the airport and succeeded in gaining total control over it. The fierce clashes raged since the morning of the day before yesterday (Monday)”. The observatory added: “The operation led to the death of five fighters; a number of others were wounded. About 40 elements of the regular forces were killed, wounded, and captured; ammunition and heavy machine guns were also seized”… This is the first operation of its kind in which the opposition succeeds in seizing Mig military planes since the revolution erupted in the middle of March 2011. The operation is part of a strategy adopted by the Syrian opposition to gain control over all the aircraft in the country to prevent the regime from using to bomb the liberated areas. According to Colonel Arif al-Humud, operations commander of the Syrian martyrs and brigades grouping, “the fall of the Al-Jarrah Airport will expand the area that the Syrian opposition controls in the eastern region. It also further weakens the morale of the regular forces that is already very weak in that region”.”

Because they lack fuel and air traffic control capabilities, the rebels cannot fly the captured Migs against the regime. They maintain that planes at the airport had been prepared to bombard civilian cities.

Amateur footage of the taking of the airport is visible in this video. As with all such video footage, its veracity cannot be independently verified by outsiders.

If these advances are borne out and can be maintained, the rebels appear to gradually be winning Aleppo and the north. It is not a good sign for the regime to have even small military airbases be falling into rebel hands. And the taking of Aleppo airport, if it can be accomplished, would be a major turning point in the revolution.

Meanwhile, Russia said Thursday that it will continue to supply the Baath regime in Damascus with weaponry.

7 Responses

  1. The jets being shown off in the video aren’t Migs, I think they’re L-39ZA light attack jets, a Czechoslovakian design. Not that it really matters.

    • Areo L-39ZA instead of MIG or Sukhoi is not world-historic news, but yes it really matters.

      According to John M. Guilfoil, writing in Air Cache 9 August 2012 when these aircraft were photographed bombing Aleppo:

      “The L-39ZA is very popular with developing nations as a cheap ground attacker. It is also used by Algeria, Bulgaria, Cambodia, the Czech Republic, Nigeria, Thailand and several other air forces around the world.

      This has to raise some questions about the capabilities of the Syrian Air Force. The L-39 is weakly armed compared to its Soviet-built jets. A single Mig-23 can carry twice as much weaponry as the L-39ZA. An Su-24 “Fencer” can carry six times more bombs and missiles than an L-39ZA.

      Syria is clearly having difficulty maintaining, arming, and using its more advanced Russian jets.”

      link to air.blastmagazine.com

      • Is that really the only explanation, though?

        For instance, might not Assad be keeping his MiGs available to defend against a feared foreign incursion, since he’s getting all the “bang” he needs from the Areos? Related – wouldn’t sending the MiGs out on civilian-slaughtering missions, loaded up with ground-attack armaments, leave them vulnerable to an air incursion?

        Also, wouldn’t the Areos be cheaper to use, require less resources and maintenance time?

        I can think of all sorts of reasons why the Assad government might choose not to use its most advanced weaponry against the insurgents.

    • The other part that matters, for people who are starving, or dying of thirst, or seeing the military leadership stealing their economies, or getting the business end of whatever rockets and bombs even a puny L-39ZA can carry, is this:

      A quarter of the world’s wealth, and growing, is dumped into armaments of all sexy and puny types, from little antipersonnel mines and 9 mm and 5.56 and 7.62×39 and RPG rounds, to F-16s and F-22s and F-35s, and tanks and littoral combat ships and submarines and all kinds of kinky, murderous munitions. And of course into assembling the many bits of the dysfunctioning, always-vulnerable, always on the edge of collapse, Interoperable Network-Centric Battlespace thing, the stuff that no self-respecting Battle Manager would ever settle for less than, with all the necessary contracts and procurements for ever-more-complex “improvements.” All, of course, marketed, heavily and actively and very profitably and with a fill range of “Defense Department” corrupt and corrupting initiatives and tactics and skills, by an overarching, interlocking, world-wide collective of “Defence Industry” corporations that actively share technology — e.g., Chinese chips in US avionics and fire-control and guidance devices, that may or may not have trap doors and vulnerabilities built into them, for one small example. Of which only a tiny fraction might be said to be “fostering democracy” or “providing security,” maybe only the part that ends up in the hands of the Opposition in places like Libya and Syria.

      The Kabul-centric Afghanis who are soon to become the Thieus and Kys of this phase of the Forever War want the US to gift them with the sexy, heavy-duty stuff, to terrorize and dominate the indefatigable parts of their nominal polity with, and to “control their borders.”

      How does any of this world-wide arms-bazaar behavior, pioneered industrially by the Krupps in the runup to WW I, do damm-all anything beneficial for either the nations and peoples who are yoked into paying for all of it and suffer for the many failures of policy and “pragmatism” that the militarized rulers repeatedly display? As pointed out, the L-39ZA is only one of many attack jets out there, relatively simple but still deadly, and we are invited to do what, chortle? that like the Iranians post-Shah, saddled by the arms trade and US “policy” with F-4s and “older” stuff, were unable to do the skilled maintenance mostly contracted out by our own war machine, or get spare and replacement parts, so as to keep their sovereign air force, which every self-respecting nation has just got to have, flying and able to “control” its territory?

      Yeah, it matters. But that’s the downhill line we are on…

  2. The taking of Aleppo airport would, I’m guessing, increase the pressure on Lattakia which I understand to be an Allawite redoubt. Is it possible that Lattakia might fall soon and might that be the end?

  3. cute map. Why does it have Resafa in it, it hasn’t been inhabitated for more than a millennium? (I love that place)
    Now, seriously: is there a map of today’s Syria available on the net that shows who has their stronghold where, or is it too difficult to tell at the moment?

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