« "The Triumph and Tragedy of Greater Israel" Henry Siegman | Main | What the US Constitution is really about »

07 September 2012


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Col: Our local paper focused on the "threat of chemical weapons" today. Can we assume that means the Western governments know the rebels are losing?


"The picture is of a T-54 tank. Far better to use these old tamks against guerrillas than the more modern T-72. pl"

What advantages do the T-54 possess?


Interesting article. To quote:”“They are pairing their elite, reliable units with their less reliable units to prevent defection”

So the conscripts are getting they same combat experience the rebels are getting, however are fighting side by side with the best Syrian army troops and they are winning; however we are to believe they are actually losing? In addition the article mentions the shabiha, “ a pro-government militia whose membership is drawn largely from Syria’s Allawite religious minority”. So if the army does ‘disintegrate’ whoever ‘takes over’ faces a combat hardened force in one or more regions of the country they now ‘control’? What a victory.

Seems like the time is ripe for a political solution, something other than demanding the current government surrender to those they are currently beating.


I would guess its cheapness. A T-72M or T-72M1 would get turned into a funeral pyre generally by the same things that the rebels have that would turn a T-55 into one. The T-72S might be a little different, but the Syrians don't appear to have many of those.

They both have powerful HE shells, so you are not losing much using the things.

Medicine Man

I'm curious about that too. Is it just a question of cheaper, more accessible replacement parts for the older tanks? It seems to me that either would do the job if the rebels don't have the means to take out armor.

Neil Richardson

"What advantages do the T-54 possess?"

T-54/55s are cheap and plentiful. Without aftermarket modifications they're vulnerable to RPGs, but tank hunting is not that easy provided an armored task force has proper infantry support. Unless the rebels have access to antitank guided missiles like Kornets, Syrian T-55s can pretty much operate with impunity in direct fire support role.



Yes. i saw these (T-54) used in combat in Yemen against tribesmen when I was DATT there. You don't need modern gunnery grear just telescopic sights. THe Syrian started with 2250 T-54. As to shooting at these with RPGs. Yes, but unless there are no infantry with the tanks this is likely to nbe a once in a lifetime experience. People don't understand the usefulness of this big, mobile gun in urban terrain if it is protected with infantry. pl

Neil Richardson

Dear Col. Lang:

Do the rebels have access to old Saggers? They'd give them a little longer reach. However as you pointed out, it's not that easy to keep a steady hand on the joystick when accompanying infantry and overwatch elements mass their fires on the operator as soon as they spot the missile plume.



I have seen no indication of Sagger in rebel hands as yet. Perhaps they have seen "Private Ryan" and will try sticky bombs. pl

Neil Richardson


To quote:'They are pairing their elite, reliable units with their less reliable units to prevent defection'

This is otherwise known as "corsetting." The Afrika Korps did it with their Italian allies. The Eighth Army did it during the Korean War and Wellington did it with the Dutch at Waterloo. It's probably a more effective method than having NKVD units marching behind weaker units.

Medicine Man

I thought that part of Private Ryan was mostly Hollywood fancy. Could something like that work?



the film looked quite real to me. the purpose of Captain Miller's "sticky bombs" was to break the tread's integrity. It might work but you would need to have balls (cojones) as big as basketballs. it could happen. I have seen some incredibly brave things done. I remember watching NVA RPG teams stand in the open to duel with Cobras. That sometimes worked as well. I remember one getting a hit through the tail 'boom' of a Cobra at less than a hundred yards. The grenade did not arm and the Cobra limped away smoking. Yup, as big as basketballs. pl


There is a lot of Youtube footage (for what it's worth) which suggests that the SAA has repeatedly sent tanks into urban areas without infantry support.



Yes, i have seen that as well. This is a mistake if they are doing that. They do not seem to be losing a lot of tanks. The numbers are what - ten? pl

Neil Richardson

The British Army had S.T. grenade and the Gammon bomb which were used by both the Paras and US airborne troops at Normandy. If a sticky bomb (or a Molotov cocktail) could be thrown accurately enough to hit the top of the engine compartment, it could disable a tank (mobility kill).

The tricky part is making sure you don't catch a machine gun burst or worse from overwatching tanks that have already saturated probable cover spots for potential tank hunter teams with recon fires. And infantry would usually clear a path before tanks anyway in urban areas. If a team executes bounding overwatch properly, it's very difficult to get close enough.


Yes. Seems like it will work to make thier weaker units better in the long run also?


Ten losses out of the 2250 mentioned above? They can keep that going for a long time. The article only mentions SA losses, how many have the 'rebels' lost? Any idea where thier recruits are coming from?



Ah, no. The total tank holdings of the SA are about 5,000 including T-72. T-62 and T-55. pl

Medicine Man

Thank you for the feedback, Col. Lang (and Neil Richardson).

I guess the open question is whether the rebels in Syria have the grit to attempt any of these tactics. I wonder how many of Syria's disabled tanks were lost due to mechanical failure or breakdowns?


A couple of comments:
1.McClatchy is just about the only wire service worth a damn for this kind of stuff. CS Monitor makes a go at it once in awhile.
2.What do you suppose are the economics for the Syrian government? Aleppo is an economic hub isn't it? Commerce must be grinding to a halt. Iranians are probably flying in plane loads of cash to the government but still one wonders about the sustainability of the economics and general financial attrition on the population.

The Twisted Genius

As long as the rebels are engaging tanks in built up areas rather than open "tank country," they're better off with their RPGs. An amateur could never hit a tank with a Sagger at short range and only a well trained gunner could use it effectively at longer ranges. I remember how hard qualifying with a Dragon trainer was and that was supposed to be a lot more user friendly than a Sagger. Maybe some kid who played video games all day could have some luck with a Sagger without a lot of training.


Here's something interesting which is apropos to the conversation:



There is no way the SA has only lost 10 tanks. I arrived in Gaziantep from Aleppo and I saw four burnt out tanks along the way. The first was just outside the city limits by the Shahba Mall and the other three were in Azzaz - the last town before the Turkish border. I'm told the countryside is littered with destroyed military vehicles and there is a scrap market in which the parts are being sold.

As for reckless bravery, I've seen a youtube clip of a young man run up to a tank and fire his rpg from 10 metres away then hide in a building, only to come back 30 seconds later after 2 more explosions are heard. I have no idea where the infantry were??

Also, we've repeatedly seen different clips of the the infantry taking civilians hostage and forcing them to walk alongside the moving tanks. Surely that is done for a reason?

The latest news from Aleppo is that the army recruitment center has been overrun by the rebels along with the nearby Hanano military base where many prisoners were kept. The rebels have certainly been beaten back in certain areas but their audacity is astonishing. For example, they stamped my passport at the border, after entering my details on a computer.

I have heard first hand accounts by worried property owners of Libyans and Algerians fighting alongside the rebels. They grumble about the foreigners destroying Syria but grudgingly accept that they are disciplined and do not pillage, unlike some of the local rebels who are basically bandits.

Also, some branches of the security services are getting really desperate - bodies of executed people are simply dumped out of cars in the neighborhoods surrounding their bases, within the checkpoint perimeters - i.e. the bodies could not have been dumped by anyone without security clearance.

All a bit much for a civilian like me to stomach...



OK. What's your realistic number? I have seen two or three destroyed tanks in rebel or pro-rebel video. Taking a hard headed attitude, so far there are not a lot of pictures of destroyed/captured armored vehicles. The rebel guerrilleros seen attacking police stations don't aim their weapons. They merely point them more or less in the general directoin. did you see that also? pl


I would have guessed more like a hundred tanks as we have seen clips from all around the country for about a year now.
A quick google search provided the following link:
I have no idea as to the authenticity of the above, but the authors claim to have received information from the part of the army that is responsible for repairs listing 600 destroyed tanks and armoured transports and 200 being repaired.

Sorry I can't be more accurate but the mainstream media such as Aljazeera report approx 2 destroyed tanks per week - some of these are probably armoured personell carriers mistaken for tanks but there is constant attrition. In one incident a whole convoy was destroyed while on its way to Aleppo (over 25 armoured vehicles including tanks).
We also have to take into account that some captured tanks were destroyed by the army.

As for the wild firing, yes, much of the fighting seems amatuerish. Plenty of loud bangs for very little result.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

May 2020

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
Blog powered by Typepad