Lessons Of Syria: Russia Creates Super Light Motorized Infantry

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Written and produced by SF Team: J.Hawk, Daniel Deiss, Edwin Watson; Voiceover by Oleg Maslov

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One of the iconic weapons of the Russian Civil War was the tachanka–a light wheeled carriage pulled by a team of horses and mounting a Maxim heavy machine-gun, which was a weapon system ideally suited to the wide open spaces and low troop densities of that conflict. Tachankas were used by virtually every combatant in that conflict to provide mobile direct fire support to infantry and cavalry formations.

After the war, with the Red Army ultimately becoming a regular force well equipped with modern weapons, the tachanka vanished from its arsenal. However, decades later, it was reincarnated as the “technical”–a 4-wheel drive pick-up truck mounting a heavy machine gun, automatic cannon, or even a multiple rocket launcher–for use in the brushfire wars of Africa where once again the conditions of the Russian Civil War obtained.

Once the wave of regime change had swept over the Middle East, it was inevitable that the “technical” would see extensive use in those wars. Indeed, the fleets of brand-new, customized Toyota Hillux trucks became indelibly associated with ISIS during its triumphant advances across Iraq and Syria.

Their usefulness in that conflict was, again, due to the conditions prevalent in the theater of war: low troop densities and open terrain favoring mobile operations. Even airpower was not an effective countermeasure against this veritable desert light cavalry. ISIS mastery of this method of warfare became particularly evident in its recapture of Palmyra in 2016, when it was able to hit the extended salient from several directions and at many points, thus collapsing the Syrian defenses. The light truck-mounted ISIS units also proved effective at thwarting offensive operations by harassing the vulnerable lines of communications of heavy mechanized forces.

With time, however, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its Russian advisory forces have developed effective measures against ISIS tactics, in part by creating similar forces themselves. The Russian military has gone so far as to organize one battalion of the newly formed Samara-based 30th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade of the 2nd Guards Army in the Central Military District as a force equipped mainly with the 21st century version of the tachanka, the UAZ-3163 Patriot.

The Patriot is an extended-cab 4-wheel drive light truck with a cargo bed optimized for mounting heavy crew-served weapons such as the Kord 12.7mm machine-guns, AGS-30 automatic grenade launchers, and Kornet ATGMs. In addition, the “tachanka” battalion is equipped with man-portable 82mm mortars. While the rest of the brigade has the standard equipment of BTR-82A APCs and T-72B3 tanks, its artillery is limited to towed 122mm D-30 howitzers, which suggests the entire brigade is intended to be trained for low troop density desert warfare mission. Reports from exercises indicate the brigade artillery is working out techniques for dealing with highly mobile enemy light truck forces.

The reliance on light trucks, wheeled APCs, and truck-towed medium howitzers also gives the unit the combination of strategic and operational mobility. Other than the tanks, all of its weapon systems could be rapidly airlifted into a conflict zone in a manner only the VDV could match. However, the predominantly wheeled mobile platforms of the brigade mean that, unlike the BMD-mounted VDV units, the 30th Brigade would have considerable operational mobility once in the conflict zone. The tracked vehicles’ advantage in tactical mobility was not felt nearly as strongly in the Syrian theater of war due to the terrain favoring wheeled vehicles even when moving off-road.

The permanent establishment of a force which appears to be custom-designed for the conditions of modern desert, and possibly also steppe, warfare, suggests the Russian military is not viewing the Syrian conflict as a unique experience that is unlikely to repeat itself. There are other ongoing conflicts in which Russian forces may yet be called upon to influence, including Iraq and Libya. Moreover, the uncertain future of Afghanistan and ISIS emergence in that region means that the states of Central Asia are in danger of becoming theaters of war themselves. There are enough citizens of those states fighting in the ranks of ISIS and other Islamist forces in Syria to make that threat quite plausible. Having a force that is capable of switfly and decisively intervening in that kind of environment is the best guarantee of nipping any 21st century version of the “basmachi” in the bud.

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  • Serious

    Lessons of Syria. rather, lessons of HISTORY.

    Just look at history and you will see the future.

    The US empire is vulnerable but nobody uses the right weapons.

    • occupybacon

      Put this man President ^^

  • Vidura

    Too late the US already uses them in the theater.

    • Jan Tjarks

      So does the SAA. =)

  • Solomon Krupacek

    and is this car as good as toyota, ot like uaz? ;)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPQMA5tkwEM

    • Manuel Flores Escobar

      Because the car as for example my 4×4 Nissan X-trail has a separate lock for the 3 passanger doors on the dashboard if it is activate only can open pressing a switch buttom in front of the driver! thats why they cannot open the door and would have to press the switch button of the right front door in the panel front of driver!…anything is good to ridicule the Russians..but By the way!..What happen 2 days ago with an Israeli apache helicopter crashed due to tecnical failure??…

      • Vidura

        Technical failure.

        • dkkharanti

          You dlund like an ungrateful indian who does not realise that without russua indua would have lost 1965 and 2971 wars orchestrated by england and usa in collaboration with pakistan

          • Vidura

            It’s a good thing Iam not an Indian or that I didn’t live to see the 2971 wars lol!

          • Jim Mooney

            We’ll all be dead from the nuclear war the Democrats are hatching, before then.

          • Vidura

            We aren’t going to die from a nuclear war, we’ve been closer in the 70s and 80s.

          • Jim Mooney

            Accident happen. We almost got into one by accident three times, due to computer error, but cooler head prevailed. In this current hateful atmosphere there are fewer cooler heads. Why take the chance based on a Bogus story. The Clinton emails were a leak, not a hack. That has been definitively proved by the data transfer rate.

          • Vidura

            What are you going on about lol! We are further from a nuclear than ever not closer.

        • Jeff Lewin

          Perpetual problems with democracy and partisan politics are the typical lack of consistent international policies, and the tendency for principles and ethics to descend to the “lowest common denominator” through changes in administrations, and in this, India is not unique.

          • Vidura

            Why are you people bringing in India ? This is the US and Syria we are talking about.

      • Solomon Krupacek

        1st armata, then uaz… childish problems. and uaz is army terrain vehicle, your nissan is not. and civil toyotas are super in servise of terrosist in all world.

        take easy the things, otherwise you get cancer :)

        • Daniel Castro

          To be fair, the difference in performance between toyotas and even a old 4×4 truck wouldn’t make any difference, as long as it can carry a weapon on the back and ride through the country it will perform the mission, Don’t take too hard on the russians, they can’t have the best cars, best planes, best tanks, and so on,.. having good enough selfmade national equipment on every single role of the military forces is already quite an achievment. God, they’re even making their own 5th gen fighter whith a fraction the money USA spends on their projects…

  • Jan Tjarks

    As I already wrote in the last article regarding the Russian ground forces, with the advent of drone warfare the military vehicles will have to adapt too.

    The technical is only reasonable for low density warfare in open landscapes like deserts and steppes, but other terrain will be more difficult for it. Furthermore, it is a step back, which is understandable, as Russia currently sees a need for such a formation.

    However, the technical itself is a step back, while a similar light vehicle specialized on drone warfare is required for the future. It’s not the vehicle to strike it’s opponents, but the drones employed.

    The ADC (Armored Drone Carrier) will be a lightly armed and armored vehicle only, mostly wheeled, to enable it to cope with the speed of the future wars. for a very rough comparison: It is what the big aircraft carriers are for the navies, only smaller and instead of planes utilizing drones.

    For the drones, there will be many different developments, until a proven design will lead the way, similar to the frenzy before the dreadnought streamlined all the different types of ships into the battle ship design.

    Most likely semi-autonomous drones will be part of such a setup, with an ADC being able to field many small and medium sized drones, utilized for reconnaissance mostly, but some heaver drones, which are carrying the weapons load itself, striking from a distance. And, with the recon drones having to face the brunt of opposing jamming technology and countermeasures.

    The command link, as it already had been pointed out before, will be the weak spot in drone warfare to cut into the opposing forces. Nevertheless, losing some cheap recon drones has less impact than losing soldiers or the bigger drones which are meant to strike from a distance, homing in their missiles and even gunshots, similar to snipers, but way advanced to what a sniper team can do.

    • Shhh

      You are right.

  • FlorianGeyer

    The potency of long range and accurate man portable ATGM’s has given infantry a new lease of life in hit and run operations and in the defence of built up areas. The plethora of off road commercial vehicles across the globe has also revolutionised the ability of all parties to current conflicts. Many of these vehicles are more durable and easier to maintain than the bespoke and expensive state military alternatives.

  • Ronald

    Now if they reproduce the computer , battery – gas combination of the Prius (Toyota) , so that it can achieve , # 1 stealth mode , and # 2 outstanding fuel economy , then they are achieving .

  • esathegreat

    They should use propeller driven ground attack aircraft,not jets.

    • Shhh

      The drones are often efficient propeller power. The need for a twin engine drone two 500 hp diesels with airspeed 150-200 MPH to loiter above battlefield 48 hours at a time with video surveillance of radius of 30 miles at altitude of 7000 to 10000 meters. It can carry 2500 kg glide bombs that arrive in 30 -120 seconds. Allows 48 hour control of a whole theater with 10 glide bombs of 250 Kg a piece and range 30 miles at 10 /1 glide ratio . Projected cost 500,000 to 1 million apiece. Each drone covers 2500 square miles of immediate attack service . One hundred drones in Service over Syria at any one time. The fuel per drone is 120 pounds per hour diesel. 500 gallons diesel per 24 hour day….$1000 dollar a day…… 365.000 dollars year or 30 million annual dollars for 100 continuous flying drones over Syria. Syria need 300 drone pilots plus 600 drone mechanics….. Goal Keep whole country under constant surveillance and deliver 250 Kg bomb to any location in 120 seconds.

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    • Romjo

      Propeller driven planes are much more vulnerable to HMG and small arms fire