David Williams, Jay Akbar — Daily Mail March 28, 2016
They have been dubbed ‘Moscow’s war games’, a deadly flexing of Russia’s military might in the battlegrounds of Syria that has seen Vladimir Putin‘s forces tip the balance of power towards the once beleaguered leadership of Bashar al-Assad.
For ranged now in the name of Putin’s war on terror is an awesome array of firepower, with Russia’s iron man president deploying an arsenal of his latest weapons to Syria – operating from land, sea and air.
In the latest major campaign to support Assad, the Russians have helped to drive Islamic State out of the ancient city of Palmyra, inflicting what the army called a ‘mortal blow’ to militants who seized the city last year and dynamited its ancient temples.
The loss of Palmyra represents one of the biggest setbacks for the ultra-hardline Islamist group since it declared a caliphate in 2014 across large parts of Syria and Iraq.
As Putin’s intervention turns the tide of Syria’s five-year conflict in Assad’s favour, MailOnline spotlights the terrifying arsenal of weapons, armour and warplanes that have become so pivotal to the fate of all sides inside Syria.
BY AIR: Fleet of fighter jets with precision-guided missiles so advanced some are even controlled by the pilot’s helmet
While the Russian Command Group and Co-ordination teams are based at their embassy in Damascus, it is their base in the port city of Latakia, north western Syria, which is providing the hub for the air power. Dozens of daily sorties were flown from these headquarters when the campaign was at its height.
Based there is the astonishingly powerful Air Group of Su-34, Su-35S, Su-30SM, Su-24 and Su-25 combat aircraft, the Helicopter Group of Mi-24 and Mi-35 gunships, Mi-8 utility helicopters and the Airlift Contingent of An-124, II-76 and Tu-154 aircraft.
The supersonic Su-24 tactical bomber, Su-25, Su-30 and Su-34 are all equipped with air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles to assist Syrian ground troops and destroy enemy bases.
The KH-29L air-to-surface missile – weighing up to 690kg – is designed to level hardened ground targets including railways, bridges, factories, runways and aircraft in reinforced concrete shelters, according to the Tactical Missiles Corporation.
Fitted with high explosive, penetrating warheads weighing up to 136kg, the rocket can reach speeds of up around 900mph. It has a range of up to six miles and can hit a target within an accuracy of just two metres.
It uses a ‘semi active laser guidance system’ whereby the pilot marks a target using a laser sight which the missile follows.
Russian warplanes are also using the smaller KH-25 missiles, weighing around 300kg, to destroy ships, armoured vehicles, ammunition caches and oil reserves.
Meanwhile the 80ft long, 60ft wide Su-24 can reach speeds of around 1,400mph and can climb at a rate of 29,000ft a second, according to experts at Military Factory.
It is also equipped with a six barreled GSh-6-23 cannon and 500 rounds of 23mm ammo.
Russia claimed a Su-24 bomber destroyed the ISIS command centre in the Idlib on February 11. ISIS’s presence in the province is disputed.
In November, a Russian Su-24 was shot down by two Turkish jets after the country claimed their airspace was violated. Both of the flight crew ejected before the plane crashed in Syria.
Russia responded by arming its Su-34 jets with AA-10 and AA-11 air-to-air missiles.
Costing £26 million and dubbed the ‘Fullback’, the two-seat Su-34 possesses a state-of-the-art fire control system, a phased array radar, and a powerful electronic countermeasures (ECM) suite.
The AA-10 and AA-12 air-to-air missiles can hit targets from 60miles away and, when fully loaded, have a maximum speed of Mach 1.8. They fly to a range of 2,500 miles before needing to refuel.
The A-11 Archer is the best short range air-to-air missile in Russia’s possession, according to military experts at Federation of American Scientists.
The smart rocket is connected to the pilots’ helmets, which they use to target enemy aircraft.
The technology also means the missiles can be fired at jets flying either side of the aircraft, which a traditional system of targeting and guidance cannot manage.
Just like the AA-10, the AA-11 is designed to destroy helicopters, drones and cruise missiles – but can also engage modern and ‘next generation’ fighter jets.
The heat seeking AA-10, which carries a 39kg warhead, can intercept flying targets travelling at a speed of up to 2,000mph.
CRUISE MISSILES: White swan that carries KH-101 and KH-55 cruise missiles
Russia responded to the downing of a passenger jet over Egypt’s Sinai province in November by deploying its colossal 24 foot long, two tonne KH-101 cruise missile for the first time.
Carried by a Tu-160 bomber dubbed the ‘White Swan’, the cruise missile can be fired 6,000 miles from its target, flies as low 30m off the ground to avoid enemy radar, and is said to have an accuracy of between 25m to 30m.
Its astonishing range means the KH-101 could be launched from Moscow to hit an enemy base in Syria.
The satellite-guided smart rocket hugs the terrain using a digital map, which is downloaded onto its on board computer before it is fired.
Both the KH-101 and its predecessor, the KH-55, are fired from Russia’s largest long range strategic bombers, the Tu-95 and the Tu-160.
The Tu-160 Strategic Bomber is the heaviest combat aircraft ever built. It can accelerate to a maximum speed of 1,380 mph, climb to a maximum altitude of 49,235 feet and has a range of 7,643 miles.
It is capable of carrying up to 12 Kh-55 cruise missiles and Kh-15 short range missiles. It is also capable of carrying with nuclear and ‘regular’ bombs.
A nuclear version of the missile, the KH-102, can carry a 250 kiloton warhead, which the United States has expressed concerns about.
GUNSHIPS: Helicopters fitted with tank-destroying rockets and cannons
Russia has three helicopter gunships operating in Syria – the Mi-35s, Mi-24Ps and the new generation Mi-28, which is designed to carry out search and destroy missions on tanks and armoured vehicles.
Syrian TV crews filmed what is believed to be an Mi-28 near Humaymin air base in Syria, Russia based Sputnik news reported.
Called the ‘Night Hunter’ by pilots, the Mi-28 is equipped with 16 tank-destroying missiles, the Shturm and the Ataka, one unguided S-13 rocket and a turreted 2A42 cannon that fires up to 550 30mm shells a minute.
The helicopter is said to be one of the new pieces of equipment being tested in Syria and is being used to destroy tanks and other armoured vehicles.
The Mi-28’s 30mm cannon, the 2A42, weighs around 115kg and can hit armoured ground targets from around 1,500m away
It has a range of up to 5,000m, hits the target travelling at 400m per second and its warhead can penetrate around 560mm of armour.
Up to 16 missiles can be fitted on the Mi-28, which can operate at any time of the day and in severe weather.
Dramatic footage from October showed two Mi-24 helicopters firing rockets on a Syrian town which was thought to be occupied by US trained rebel fighters.
SMART BOMBS: Satellite-guided ‘smart missiles’ that move at the speed of sound
Syria has been a testing ground for Russia’s precision guided bombs.
Its warplanes have deployed the satellite guided KAB-500S to devastating effect on both ISIS and rebel strongholds – and plans to test the smaller KAB-250 in the conflict too.
The state of the art KAB-500, which made its combat debut in Syria in September 2015, is guided by Russia’s space based GLONASS global positioning system (GPS).
The missile can be fired from heights of between 500m and 5,000m, and can be moving at the speed of sound when they strike their intended target with an accuracy of between 7m and 12m.
It is designed to destroy munitions depots, factories and ships in dock.
Footage from October showed a Russian Su-34 bomber dropping a KAB-500 on a Syrian rebel group’s headquarters.
Another video released by Russia’s MoD showed a KAB-500 being used to destroy an ISIS artillery stronghold in Latakia.
Konstantin Sivkov of the Russian Academy of Rocket, Missile and Artillery Sciences claimed the rocket was used against ISIS.
He wrote in the Military Industrial: ‘Our aircraft have employed the latest product of Russia’s defense industry, the KAB-250, to eliminate targets in the immediate vicinity of civilian infrastructure.
The KAB-250 was made to destroy lighter, thin skinned vehicles and other small enemy installations.
BY SEA: Black Sea fleet provides air defence ‘umbrella’ and boasts quietest submarine in the world
Russia has a Black Sea Fleet of at least ten ships headed by a Slava class guided missile cruiser in eastern Mediterranean waters, which provide logistics and an air defence ‘umbrella’ over Latakia and Tartus regions.
It includes a diesel electric submarine known as the Rostov-on-Don, which launched Kalibr cruise missiles against targets near the Syrian city of Raqqa, ISIS’s de facto capital on November 17.
Commissioned in late December 2014, the submarine is a Project 636 Varshavyanka sub deemed to be one of the quietest in the world.
The stealth submarine is so advanced it is dubbed the ‘black hole’ because it is so hard to detect. It is the second submarine out of six planned for the Black Sea Fleet by the end of 2016.
It is backed up by Buyan-M class warships – four of which launched a barrage of 26 cruise missiles which blitzed ISIS targets located more than 930 miles away.
Each Buyan-class ship carries eight 3M-54K cruise missiles – known as ‘Sizzlers’ – which are 27ft long and carry a 450kg warhead.
The missile system is designed to destroy submarines, other ‘surface vessels’ and ‘slow moving targets whose coordinates are known in advance’. The rockets have a range of up to 410miles.
Despite their ‘relatively small launch weight of 1,570kg, the rockets can ‘blow up very large surface craft,’ according to experts at Global Security.
They added: ‘The missile’s moderate weight allows even warships with a small displacement to take aboard quite a few of such deadly weapons.’
BY LAND: Russian tanks can stop ‘any missile in the world’ and the ‘Grizzly’ that can defend attacks from 24 angles
Russia has sent at least 24 T-90 tanks to Syria and this month, they were used to push back the forces opposing Assad around Aleppo.
A local rebel commander told the Turkey-based Yeni Safak website his troops were attacked by more than 80 T-72 and T-90 tanks, although that number has not been verified.
The T-90s are the most advanced tanks in Russia’s arsenal and are fitted with an anti-tank missile system that can stop any missile in the world.
When they were first transported to Syria, they were seen as the latest heavy armour by Russia to prop up Assad’s forces in the ongoing civil war.
The armoured tank, which costs around £3million each to produce, is made from Kontakt-5 armour, which deflects the true force of the blast over a larger surface area to reduce damage.
It is also armed with a 2A46M cannon which fires 125mm shells, as well as AT-11 missiles that can destroy tanks and low flying helicopters up to three miles away, according to Military Today.
Russia has also deployed SA-17 surface-to-air missiles in an area along the Turkish border known as the Azaz Corridor, a major infiltration route for jihadist and other anti-government forces.
The SA-17, also known as the Grizzly, can engage up to 24 targets flying from any direction at any one time, experts at Army Recognition have said.
It can shoot down strategic and tactical jets, cruise missiles, air launched rockets, guided bombs and helicopters.
The missiles can reach an altitude of 24,000m and have a range of up to 31 miles, depending on conditions.
Russia is also said to be equipped with 25 D30 Howitzers that fire 122mm rounds and 12 Smerch Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS).
The Smerch has a 12 launchers which fires 300mm 3M-55K missiles at targets between 12 and 43miles away.
The rockets, which are used to destroy vehicles and other missile systems, are around 24ft long and weigh 800kg.
Satellite images from October showed 12 towed artillery pieces – ‘probably 122 mm D-30 howitzers’ – deployed at Russia’s Latakia air base, according to defence and security intelligence organisation, IHS Jane’s.
BY INTERNET: The Krasukha-4 Land Jammer can disrupt radars and even low-flying satellites
The Krasukha-4 jammer is the newest electronic warfare system in the Russian arsenal.
As a broadband multi-functional jamming platform, it could disrupt ground-based radars, airborne radars (especially AWACS systems) and low earth orbit satellites.
The jammer is said to cause permanent damage to targeted radio-electronic devices.
The Russian contingent in Syria is believed to possess a Krasukha-4 platform, which has a reported range of 200-miles.
It is claimed the Krasukha-4 could blind some AWACS planes and make it difficult for NATO to generate the air picture of the eastern Mediterranean and Syria.