Facts on combat application of Su-25 attack aircraft in Syria
The assault squadron of the air group included ten Su-25SM and two Su-25UBs from the 960 assault aviation regiment of the 1st Guards mixed air division of the 4th Air Force and Air Defense Army of the Southern Military District stationed in Primorsko-Akhtarsk.
The Kuban pilots started practical development of the updated materiel at the end of February 2013, after the regiment received the first 8 ground-attack planes from the Kubinka suburb near Moscow (repair and modernization of the Su-25 to the Su-25SM level is carried out at 121 aircrafts in Kubinka). By that time, most of the regiment's flight crew had undergone theoretical retraining at the Training Center for Aircraft Personnel and Military Tests of the RF Ministry of Defense in Lipetsk (the former 4th pulp and paper plant and PLC), and ITS - at the plant in Kubinka. The first flights to the Su-25SMV in Primorsko-Akhtarsk took place on February 25, 2013. Thanks to the new sighting and navigation complex PrnC-25SM "Bars" and the digital-analogue weapon control system SUO-39M, modernized attack aircraft could hit ground targets day and night with visual visibility, carry out navigational bombing (according to the target coordinates of the target) around the clock in any weather conditions with a horizontal flight and complex maneuvers. The range of airborne weapons was expanded: R-73E air-to-air missiles (instead of P-60M) were included in the armament of the airplane and new modifications of NAR-S and C-13 were introduced. The new equipment of the cab, first of all the collimator indicator KAI-1-01 and the multifunctional color LCD indicator MFTS-0332M as part of the information display system C0I-U-25, made it possible to improve the working conditions of the pilot and improve the efficiency of combat use, which in general for the modernized attack aircraft The experts' estimates increased 1.5 times. In 2014, the Su-25SM planes fully manned the first and second air squadrons, while the "simple" Su-25 was brought to the third squadron, removing surplus equipment for the staff. However, in October-November 2014, one squadron of SM-s was transferred to the formation of a mixed aviation regiment in Gvardeiskoye. Thus, at the beginning of the Syrian campaign, 960 Shap had only one squadron of modernized attack planes, which they decided to use in the operation.
On September 16, 2015, Su-25SM aircraft No. 21, 22, 24, 25, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32 from the Primorsko-Akhtarsk and Su-25UB airfields No. 44 and No. 53 from the Budennovsk airfield Aerodrome Mozdok. After the preparation of the flight crew and the receipt of the combat mission, on September 19, they began a stage-by-stage relocation to the Syrian Arab Republic. Three groups of four aircraft (the "sparks" of the Su-25UB were leading the first two links), accompanied by the aircraft-leaders Il-76 flew to Iran. Most of the route lay over the water area of the Caspian Sea beyond the coastline. An intermediate landing for rest and refueling was made at the high-altitude airfield Hamadan, which is over 1,700 meters above sea level. After the preparation of aviation equipment and recreation for the flight crew, three squadrons, accompanied by the leader aircraft, flew to the final destination of the route - the Khmeimim airfield.
The personnel of the group was housed in residential modules equipped with everything necessary for comfortable living, rest and preparation for combat missions. After restoration of forces and acclimatization, the flight crew proceeded directly to work. On September 23, the first flights to familiarize with the area of military operations took place, and on September 30 the crews of the Su-25 carried out the first combat sorties to strike ground targets.
The main method of conducting combat operations by the Su-25SM crews in Syria was the successive infliction of air strikes against predetermined land targets (targets) at a fixed time in the navigational bombing mode alone, in pairs, links from the position of duty on the ground. For combat use, storm-troopers usually flew groups of 2 to 6 aircraft. For the strike, the group was assigned targets in an area with a radius of up to 20-25 kilometers. For completeness of the analysis of the quality of combat use, unmanned means of objective control of attacks of assigned ground targets (ZNC) were carried out with an interval of 1 or 2 minutes between the aircraft in the group, and repeated strikes were carried out by the group, usually in 5-6 minutes. In the absence of visual visibility between pairs or single crews, the group was assigned a micro-enrollment - usually at least 100 meters. Even if there was 10-point cloudiness over the target, a group of 6 storm-troopers, out of sight of each other, calmly carried out the assigned task, having a separation of 150-200 meters between the aircraft, and striking at the set time with an interval of 1 minute. Thus, a group of 6 aircraft having a load of four OFAB-250 for 30-40 minutes hung over the front edge of the enemy, striking at 24 targets and not allowing him to "raise his head." Syrian aviation was used up to heights of 3000-3500 meters. Su-25SM could also be stably and guaranteed to hit targets from the heights of both 3000 and 4000 meters. Combat loading in this case, as a rule, was 4-6 FAB of various types of caliber 100, 250, or 2-4 FAB-500 kg, with two PTB-800 suspension fuel tanks. The bombing was carried out from a horizontal flight from "safe" (in the event of a possible application of an MPAD) to heights from 3,500 to 4,100 meters. The blows were applied point-by-point - for each air-bomb its purpose. For example, four FABs hit four targets (the principle of one bomb - one goal was for the modernized storm-troopers law). To destroy clusters of enemy manpower, RBC was used, equipped with various types of ammunition.
Since November 2015, storm-troopers have begun to fly to reconnaissance and strike operations - the so-called "free hunt". Take-off was carried out singly or in pairs (after which each departed along its own route), then carried out a flight to independently search for and destroy mobile targets. They hunted for columns as well as for single military equipment and vehicles (wagons, gasoline tankers), thereby suppressing the supply of weapons, ammunition, fuel, food, medicines and other logistics to bandit formations. Sometimes 4 PTB-800 and 2 NAR B-8 units were hung on planes, and then they were "hanging" in the zone for two hours for two hours.
The intensity of the combat work of the group's assault aviation initially reached 6 sorties per pilot per day, later decreased somewhat to 4, and closer to the conclusion in February and March 2016, on average, there were 2 sorties. Su-25SM flew for combat use round the clock, while the ratio of day and night departures was approximately equal, sometimes even flying even more. Training flights to familiarize with the area of operations, commissioning and restoration of skills after breaks in flying work on the "sparks" were carried out over Latakia and the Mediterranean Sea - flight crews were counted as flights to air reconnaissance.
A huge burden fell on the shoulders of the engineering staff. Preparation of aircraft for flights, equipment of their TSA were conducted around the clock. Air bombs were ripped off on a common area, after which they were transported by planes. Brake parachutes were laid right in the parking lot between the aircraft. To prepare for the launch of the Su-25SM after receiving the combat mission, it takes 10-15 minutes. The time of preparation of other attack aircraft may differ in the direction of increase at times. It is for this reason that the stormtroopers have so many airplanes. They can not only be quickly raised on task to the air, but also the time of the combat cycle, they also have the smallest among all existing attack aircraft. As the practice showed, ITS was preparing the Su-25SM to re-take off in just 10-15 minutes, which, of course, favorably distinguishes it from other types of combat aircraft. For 5.5 months of combat operations in Syria, the modernized Su-25SM attack aircraft proved to be extremely reliable machines and did not annoy serious failures.