Original published by warfiles.ru; translated from Russian by J.Hawk
Russia is strengthening all of its intelligence and reconnaissance assets in the Middle East in order to hasten the terrorists’ demise. This announcement was made by MOD representative Major General Igor Konashenkov.
–In order to more rapidly locate the coordinates of terrorist sites and facilities we have increased the scope of all intelligence-gathering and reconnaissance activities in the Middle East. It allows us to identify new targets and engage them in practically real-time.
Konashenkov also said that Russian aircraft attack only those sites which were properly researched and confirmed ahead of time. The coordinates are received from Syrian government forces command and detachments of “patriotic opposition.”
Reserve Colonel Viktor Murakhovskiy, a member of the Experts’ Council at the Russian government’s Military-Industrial Commission, says that Konashenkov’s statement likely sums up the efforts to improve intelligence gathering which began in November of 2015.
–On November 17, Russian Armed Forces General Staff Chief Valeriy Gerasimov noted that surveillance of Syria’s territory is performed by 10 photoreconnaissance and electronic reconnaissance satellites, including civilian models, which was accomplished by changing the orbits of some spacecraft in order to ensure Syria’s territory receives proper coverage.
One should also add that which the GenStaff did not mention: it is known that an Il-20M reconnaissance aircraft is operating in the region, as is an A-50 airborne early warning aircraft. The latter aircraft allows tracking of aerial targets at long ranges, which is an important consideration given Turkey’s provocative actions, and the flights and airstrikes performed by US-led coalition. The Il-20M, on the other hand, is equipped with optical and radar systems, including a synthetic aperture radar used to detect ground targets.
Then there are also the drone flights and reconnaissance sorties by Syria’s aircraft. Of course, we get some intel data from the coordinating center in Baghdad from both Iran and Iraq.
Intelligence-gathering using agent networks was probably also intensified. In recent weeks, MOD reports often feature announcements that “Syrian patriotic opposition” provided certain information, etc. Naturally, such information is not passed through the usual chain of command. It’s clear that kind of work was intensified in the last couple of months.
–How is the data obtained by the GRU’s Space Reconnaissance Directorate satellites integrated with data obtained by other agencies?
–Right now everything centers on the National Defense Command Center (NTsUO). There is a special department which integrates and collates all space data in a single system, irrespective of whom the satellites belong to, be it the GRU, Ministry of Natural Resources (for example the Resurs-DK remote sensing satellite), or the Russian Geographical Society.
–Intelligence-gathering was stepped up in November. In your view, what caused this development? Was it suddenly harder to detect Islamist positions or are there more players, some of which are “potentially dangerous”?
–I think it’s because there are many mobile targets in Syria–tanker truck columns, munitions and resupply trucks, etc. There are an estimated 10,000 tanker trucks, which are constantly on the move. Turkey’s actions are also causing concern.
–On December 25, Russia’s GenStaff announced that IS redeployed 2,000 militants to assault Deir-es-Zor. Why are the Islamists able to transfer forces from one part of the front to another without being struck by aircraft?
–Yes, but then on February 1 the MOD reported VKS strikes interdicted the assault on Deir-es-Zor and destroyed 23 IS targets…Which means militants can be tracked in real time, with strikes following thereafter.
Some of the aircraft at Hmeimim are not only engaged in scheduled airstrikes but can also find themselves in the condition of “airfield alert.” We know that usually an aircraft pair is in the “air alert” mode, cruising over a specified region. If needed, the “air alert” aircraft can strike assigned targets within 10-20 minutes, while the “airfield alert” aircraft can get there in no more than 40-50 minutes.
Doctor of Military Sciences Konstantin Sivkov believes that the greatest improvement was in agent network activities, since no other means can identify specific individuals, such as Islamist detachment commander, and we have been receiving frequent reports of the death of this or that leader.
–Stepping up intelligence gathering is necessary because certain well-known countries are still arming and supplying the militants, so their strength is growing. In spite of constant VKS bombing, Islamists do manage to launch counterattacks which, unfortunately, are sometimes successful. Moreover, Turkey is continuing to push its own agenda–it gives terrorists cover using artillery fire from Turkish territory. Therefore it was crucial to detect the militants as quickly as possible and then strike them to ensure they were cut off from Turkey.
Technical intelligence-gathering means (space and land-based) permit locating terrorist infrastructure such as command points, storage dumps, etc. Photo reconnaissance determines their configuration and coordinates, electronic reconnaissance uses communications intercepts to do the same.
Computer reconnaissance, which tracks internet channels to locate information sources so that they can be targeted by other means, is also very important. Aerial reconnaissance can likewise fulfill a range of missions.
But the problem here is that the militants often camouflage themselves as civilians. Therefore a lot here depends on the work by intelligence agent networks.
–Judging by available information, we have stepped up all manner of intel gathering, including using agents, which naturally nobody will talk about in public, says a GRU veteran, retired Major General Sergey Kanchukov. Technical reconnaissance assets are not vulnerable to attack, while agent networks naturally operate in enemy territory.
Military analyst Vladimir Karyakin believes that the Baghdad coordinating center plays a major role in facilitating information and agent-based intel gathering.
–While we learned of this center only in September 2015, there are indications it became operational in October 2014. Few people at the time paid attention to Arab media reports that the Royal Tulip al-Rasheed hotel housed 60 Russian military advisers in order to teach Iraqi military to fly Mi-35s and to create a joint staff to counter the khalifate.
Naturally, Russian intelligence agents aren’t running up and down Syrian deserts and mountains to meet with their sources. Due to their personal appearance, our countrymen have a harder time working in that region, and since USSR’s collapse we have lost a great deal in terms of secret service capabilities. During the Soviet era the “service”, namely the GRU, was one of the main analytical centers dealing with the military and defense potential of probable enemies.
Right now, it appears that intelligence work consists of cooperation between the GRU and Syrian secret services, including the Shu-bat al-Mukhabarat al-‘Askariyya military intelligence service and the Idarat al-Amn al-Amm political intelligence service, which use their own agent networks in the war zone. Much in the Middle East can be resolved through “bakshish”, which means that if you are willing to pay good money you can learn a lot, as long as you can avoid disinformation. This corresponds to the level of the source. IS has both an idealistic and a materialistic faction. The latter includes many former officers who theoretically are easier to recruit. Technical intel-gathering can locate the Islamists’ positions and movements, but without agents and sources it would be difficult to learn who is meeting with whom, will there be civilian population nearby, etc.