Rumors are starting to flow about an alleged attack on the Russian Aerospace Forces airbase in Khmeimin Syria. I have been parsing the Russian news sources and here is what I can say so far:
- an attack did indeed take place
- it was a combined multiple rocket launcher and mortar attack
- the rockets were all intercepted and destroyed
- the mortars did land and inflict damage
- the original report was based on two single Russian “military-diplomatic sources”
- the original claim was four that 4 Su-24 bombers, two Su-35S fighters and an An-72 transport plane, as well as an ammunition depot were hit
- the original claim also said that more than 10 Russians personnel were wounded
It appears that the reality is much less dramatic: mortars did land on the periphery of the base. However 2 soldiers were killed and 7 wounded. At this point in time, it does not appear that any aircraft were hit. Apparently the photos of damaged aircraft posted in the Russian social media have been taken elsewhere. The Russian MoD as specifically denied the veracity of this rumor and called it a ‘fake’.
As a rule, I would never say never.
However, I note that so far:
- nobody has shown any footage, not even from cellphones, of the attack
- nobody has shown any footage of the afthermath
- neither the USA nor even the Takfiris (Daesh/ISIS/IS/al-Qaeda/New Syrian Army/etc.) claim that attack
- in the past the Russians always reported their failures (SU-24, shot down helo, etc.)
- normally when attacked, the Russian admit it and make promises of merciless retaliation
It is, however, true that the Russian aircraft at Khmeimim are not under shelter and that is not a good thing.
Conclusion: at this point in time (0105UTC) I am calling this either a fake or a big exaggeration.
UPDATE: various Russian sources are saying that the defense of the Russia Aerospace Forces base in Khmeimim was protected by three distinct zones: an immediate close one ranging to up to about 1km, a medium one ranging from about 1km through 5km and an external one ranging to about 5km through 40km. The interior one was protected by Russian forces. The 2nd, middle one, was protected by Syrians while the large one was protected by Russian air defenses. The first zone would be the one of small fire. The second one is the tricky one: in includes urban areas and was under Syrian control. That is were the incoming mortar fire came from. There is now a lot of criticism coming about letting the Syrians be in charge of zone 2, but I personally doubt that the Russian would have the manpower to cover it. Not only is the airbase itself very large, but if we project the perimeter of the base to a distance of 1km-5km that would be a huge area to secure. Zone 3 is securely covered by Russian air defenses. So the real solution is to get the Syrians to introduce a much stricter control regime in Zone 2. That will no doubt be done. Oh, and whether this is a coincidence or not, but Bashar al-Assad did reshuffle his cabinet and replaced the Defense Minister.