Military balance in Efrin, Syria.

In the last weeks after rumors of a Turkish invasion of the Syrian province of Efrin, and after an incendiary speech made by President Recep Tayip Erdogan the likeliness of an assault has become a reality where a lot of people has deeply overestimated the military capability of the Kurdish forces in Efrin, so what we want to show in this article is the military balance in Efrin.

Strategically the importance and location of Efrin can not be worst: It is isolated from the rest of the so-called Rojava, the Kurdish protostate in north Syria. Its importance to fight ISIS has been low depriving them from most of the US support, also the availability of heavy material is almos nule while just a handful tanks and IFVs might be ready to fight.

The Turkish Army on the other side has suffered important purges that may have affected them in some way, however it is still a capable army equipped with hundreds of tanks and ready to suffer heavy casualties in the event of a full-scale war due to its reserves in men and material. Their Air Force is also a capable force armed with modern aircraft, systems and ammunitions.

Turkish tanks manoeuvre during military exercise near Turkish-Iraqi border in Silopi
In spite of the problems of the last years Turkish Army is still a very capable force that has been able to deploy multiple troops throughout its frontier from Syria to Iraq.

In spite of the alleged attrition suffered by Turkish Army we must take in mind that it is a well established army with procedures, tactis and training that even after the purges is able to maintain a good level of preparation. While some appoint at the Turkish lack of readiness due to events such as the battle of Al-Bab against ISIS in our opinion that has more to do with the cooperation with the low quality Free Syriay Army that spearheaded their efforts during Euphrates Shield, also while the casualties suffered by their heavy material can be considered pretty high against a non-state like ISIS that doesn not have an air force or a good armoured force, however the truth is that those are just low figures in comparison to what this armies train for, that is a high intensity warfare against another State.

Opposing to the Turkish Army we find a light infantry guerrilla Kurdish forces armed with a few ATGMs and trusting their antitank defenses to recoilless guns, RPGs and mines, all of them are light antitank weapons unable to penetrate most Turkish MBTs on the front, while that weapons well used can inflict heavy casualties to an unwary enemy as Chechenya war shows it is not likely that Turkish will commit such fails.

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The main motorized vehicle for Efrin Kurdish are their technicals armed with HMGs certainly not enough to deal with an armoured force for a long time.

Kurdish just have the advantage of the terrain thanks to the complicated geography of the province but they can be attacked from various sides forcing them  to disperse their always scarce forces.

Taking in to account all of this we think that if a purely Turkish full-scale invasion happens with let’s say three armoured brigades attacking from various axis heading to the capital they should be able to occupy it in a matter of days, however to use a high intensity conventional force for the attack does not sound the most possible option and rather they will decide to use tha same formula as with ISIS, that is let the FSA lead a slow offensive supported by Turkish artillery, tanks, jets and SFs, this would allow the Turkish to accomplish the mission in more time but with a smaller effort on their part and in our opinion with a force of just an armoured brigade they should be able to provide the necessary backing for the FSA, however the willing to fight of the FSAcan result in certain problems for the Turkish planners.

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FSA has shown a very little combat value, however they are backed by a strong military machine that compenseate its weakness

If this second course of action is followed we can expect situations similar to Al-Bab, with certain tactical victories for the Kurdish but in the end they will be surpassed by a simply overwhelming force.

To support our view we found two interesting stories: On 1991 as we all know Iraqi Army was baddly wounded after a tragical defeat against the International Coalition led by USA, at the end of that war very important Shia and Kurdish revolts started but even the leftovers of the shattered Iraqi Army were able to take control of all places in a short time, that shows that even a relatively primitive army in a very bad status is usually much more powerful than any guerrilla.

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Turkish artillery and air force provide an absolutely overwheling fire power against the Kurdish and against any other actor actually involved in the Syrian conflict.

Another interesting example can be found in Iraq, there the Kurdish Autonomous region has been existing since 2005, they have been able to recruit forces and even to have a certain armoured force, they also account with the prestige of stop ISIS in its tracks and also the support in training and material from the West to fight the yihadists.

At the same time on 2014 the Iraqi Army suffered heavy casualties, disorganization and a huge loose of equipment and after a reorganization and also with the support of the West they were able to ride ISIS out of Mosul after a long and bloody battle.

When ISIS provoked the runaway of the Iraqi Army the Kurdish occupied some polemical territories like the important city of Kirkuk that has a certain Kurdish population. On 2017 while the Iraqi Army was still fighting ISIS on the Western desert and just after the battle of Mosul they threatened the Iraqi-Kurdish to give back Kirkuk, what happened ultimately is that Kurdish left Kirkuk almost without fighting. Iraqi Kurdish had a certain force equipped with some armoured units, they had experience and certain resources and they were fighting one of the weaker Iraqi Armies in the last 60 years and even under this balance they did not feel confident enough to even try to defend Kirkuk in our opinion this is a good example of why normally light infantry forces are far inferior to conventional heavy geared forces.

Before end this article we must take in to account the reasons why Turkey has probably decided to invadie Efrin.

First of all nobody forgets the bad Turkish-Kurdish relation because it is well known that Syrian Kurdish have deep relations with PKK that can find a sanctuary for their actions in Rojava, and also this region represents an undesirable example for the Turkish-Kurdish, the game with  Assad and in certain sense with Russia is also still there.

For Assad the Rojava thing is an internal polemical question, and the final accord between SDF-YPG-Rojava and Bashar al-Assad will probably end in something similar to the Kurdish Autonomous region in Iraq, not just because SAA is quite weak after so much years of war, but also because Russia may find Rojava pretty useful to negotiate, attract or threat Turkey.

Also while the Efrin province has seen less action against ISIS than other Kurdish areas and their isolation has limited the amount of support received both in material and politically, especially from the US it is less likely that its invasion will produce reactions from USA, aslo while Russia places certain buffer zones they do not cover the whole province and in the end Turkish Army is the most capable force in the area by far, even combining SAA, Russian troops and Kurdish they would not likely win a war so the Russian presence has just a limited value.

The direct motivation for the Turkish action might come from the battle of Idlib that now is engaging Turkish and other foreign backed rebels and Assadist forces, the conquest of Efrin would allow the Turkish to give more strategic deepth to Idlib province and also to consolidate the exposed flank of the territory occupied during Euphrates Shield on 2016, the final doubt that we have is if the Turkish plan to use Efrin to boost the rebels in Idlib and resist Assad or if they just want to occupy one last territory before the Idlib campaign ends.

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Illuminating the new Turkish M-60T1 Sabra deployed in Syria

Before anything I want to thanks in first term to @trubia_t but also to @TarMilus and @WithinSyriaBlog for give me their valuable opinion while I was doing this article.

On this article we are going to have a closer look to the new Turkish tank that has also appeared in Syria, the M-60T1 Sabra.

Fist of all the M-60T Sabra is a very deep upgrade designed in Israel and based on the Magach 7C tank which is in turn based on the M-60 Patton, the Israelis called it Sabra Mk. II but when it was chosen by the Turkish Army it was called M-60T from “Türkiye” (Turkey).

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Israeli Magach 7C, the father of the M-60T Sabra, also called Sabra Mk. II

In the end of August, 2016 Turkey launched the Operation Euphrates Shield (OES) with the aim of kick ISIS from some areas in the nort of Syria and also there was a hidden objective to prevent Kurdish from unify their cantons in Syria and ensure survival of some Turkish backed rebel groups.

Since the begin the armored spearhead of the Turkish and its allies during OES was the M-60T Sabra, the tank was quite good and was able to even resist on the front the impact of a 9M133 Kornet, one of the most advanced Russian ATGMs, this is not a small matter as far as the M-60T in the end was based on a tank from the 60s, but despite of that the numerous impacts on the sides of the M-60Ts showed that they still were very vulnerable to the ISIS ATGMs.

The amount of losses of men and material was increasing at a relatively high rate and it finally lead to the appearance of the Leopard 2A4TRs to replace at a certain degree the losses suffered by units equipped with the M-60s.

So the situation was relatively bad and Turkey came up with a new upgrade that has probably been conceived in less than a few months, unless it was a previous secret program, so this is why the M-60T1 probably bornt, to meet the demanding requirements of the new Syrian operational environment.

On 7th February some images of a tank called “M-60T1” merged and that was quite strange as far as we didn’t hear nothing about that upgrade before.

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First image of the M-60T1 Sabra in Syria, via @huseyinbozan

The first interesting thing is the Remote Weapon Station (RWS) that replaces at the left-back of the turret the M85 HMG weapon station, that was not remotely operated, the new RWS uses a typical 12,7 x 99 mm M2 Browning HMG, the new RWS looks like is a N-2000 from the Turkish company Nurol Makina who has put it on the Ejder Yalçin 4×4 armored vehicle, also it is possible that this product has been developed with some know-how from ASELSAN or could be a SARP RWS from the same Turkish company with a lot of experience in the field of RWS design.

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Ejder Yalçin with one variant of the N-2000
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Ejder Yalçin with another variant of the N-2000, this one looks closer to the one featured in the image of the M-60T1

The company provides some information about the N-2000 that is stated to use a DNP-28 ASELSAN night and day vision system and also it can be rotated manually from inside between -20° and +60° in elevation and 360° in azimuth (multi-turn).

In opposition to most tanks in the world the M-60 was one of the few with a commander’s machine gun fired from a protected station without the need to expose himself to the bullets or the shrapnel when firing the machine gun so the motivation of this improve can not be the protection, we think that the reason is due to the optics and at a less extent because of the standarization.

The N-2000 possess good optics, specially for night operations much better than those of the original M-60T M85 machine gun, and also it is the standarization which is a minor point. The M85 is a machine gun only operated in the M-60 series  and, in spite of be similar to the M2 Browning it is still different and could have some disadvantages against the M2 that is used in a lot of vehicles and by the Turskish infantry and so it has a less complex logistic.

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M-60T1 in Syria

The other main improvement of the M-60T1 is the “artifact” located at the side of the turret, but before treat it we would like to say that the opinion emitted about the artifact must not be taken as a fact because we are far from sure to be able to say what it is exactly.

The artifact looks comprised of two different elements that we have not been able to ID, the one on the top looks like a Laser Warning Receiver, a device that would be useful just against the 9M133 Kornet, the only laser guided missile on hands of ISIS, the device below could be a camera or a dazzler, the camera could be useful for driving and at close range during urban fighting, but for us it looks fixed so at a certain degree it wouldn’t have sense to install such a big camera fixed in the end we find this second theory less likely.

The lower part of the artifact could be a TLUS LWRS from ASELSAN but unleast some better images appear we can’t be sure.

Also the theory of a non hard-kill APS similar to the Shtora-1 has some weak points as @trubia_t notest because just 8 smoke-launchers on the tank are not enough to fully exploit a system like this.

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*SARP or N-2000 RWS

So in our opinion the most likely and desirable device would be a dazzler similar in concept to the “red eyes” of the T-90’s Shtora, essentially it consists in a special light able to confuse the automatic part of the guidance system from a Semi Automatic Line of Sight (SACLOS) ATGM, a system present in most ATGMs in Syria, with the exception of the 9M14 Malyutka that is MCLOS, that would explain the fixed position looking at the sides of the device, as far as the M-60T front has shown to be very well protected against all the threats in Syria and so the tank  does not need protection on the front but rather on the sides were nearly all of the impacts had happened.

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T-90A with the dazzlers of the Shtora-1 activated

It is interesting to note the arid camo paint on the M-60T1 what proves the especialization of this upgrade for the Syrian scenario, at the moment just the Leopard 2A4 TR and a few M-60Ts deployed in Syria had get something like it while most M-60Ts even keep the typical Turkish green camouflage.

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M-60T Sabra in Syria with arid camouflage

We are not sure if this is a prototype or an incoming massive upgrade for M-60Ts but it is interesting to note that Turkey has recently launched a competition to upgrade 40 M-60A3s, 40 Leopard 2A4s and 120 M-60Ts, while of course this has no direct relation with the M-60T1s it makes us think that maybe the M-60T1 is a temporary patch until those upgraded tanks are ready.


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