MOSCOW --- The combat operation of the Russian Air and Space Force to destroy terrorist targets in Syria is in its third week. The sortie rate of the Russian aircraft has diminished owing to an active offensive of the Syrian Army. Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Maj.-Gen. Igor Konashenkov told journalists on Friday.
According to him, the Russian pilots operating in Syria have logged 33 sorties over the past 24 hours, flown against 32 targets presented by the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group compared to 41 sorties to attack 40 targets on October 13-14.
"This is because the forward edge of the battle area is fluid owing to the aggressive advance of the Syrian Armed Forces," Konashenkov said. Last week, Syrian General Staff Chief Gen. Ali Ayub announced a large-scale offensive of the Syrian Armed Forces. The latter is reported to have made progress in several areas.
Meanwhile, Russian aircraft has destroyed a well-camouflaged artillery battery in Hama Governorate, a militants-seized Osa air defense missile system near Damascus, an IS command post in Aleppo Governorate and an improvised explosive device workshop in Idlib Governorate.
IS militants have started a retreat in Syria, prompting the Russian air task force to ramp up reconnaissance sorties, Konashenkov said.
"The militants are retreating, trying to assume new positions and modifying their logistic routes on the hoof," Konashenkov said.
According to the general, Russian intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets have noticed these changes, and the intelligence both gathered by Russians and supplied by the information center in Baghdad is being processed and analyzed.
"Certainly, we have increased the number of manned and unmanned reconnaissance sorties to check out the intel," he added.
The Russian air task force attacked 475 targets on 543 sorties during the first two weeks of its military operation in Syria (September 30 - October 14). Of them, 146 sorties struck 91 targets between September 30 and October 7 (daily sortie rate averaged 21) and 397 sorties (the number is approximate because the Defense Ministry did not provide data for the October 10-11 sorties) hit 384 targets from October 8-14 (average daily sortie rate - 56).
According to Konashenkov, the Russian warplanes handled the following missions between September 30 and October 15:
-- September 30 - October 1: 28 - 12 targets;
-- October 1-2: 18 sorties - 12 targets;
-- October 2-3: over 20 sorties - nine targets;
-- October 3-4: 20 sorties - 10 targets;
-- October 4-5: 25 sorties - nine targets;
-- October 5-6: 15 sorties - 10 targets;
-- October 6-7: 20 sorties - 12 targets;
-- October 7-8: 22 sorties - 27 targets;
-- October 8-9: 67 sorties - 60 targets;
-- October 9-10: 64 sorties - 55 targets;
-- October 10-11: attacks of 63 targets;
-- October 11-12: 55 sorties - 53 targets;
-- October 12-13: 88 sorties - 86 targets:
-- October 13-14: 41 sorties - 40 targets:
-- October 14-15: 33 sorties - 32 targets.
The Russian Federation launched the operation against Islamic State militants on September 30 by request of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The Russian air task force comprises more than 50 combat planes and helicopters, including Sukhoi Su-34 (NATO reporting name Fullback) multirole bombers, heavily upgraded Su-24M (Fencer) bombers and Su-25 (Frogfoot) attack aircraft, Su-30SM (Flanker) multirole fighters and Mil Mi-8 (Hip) and Mi-24 (Hind) helicopters.
In addition to the Russian Air and Space Force, the Russian Navy is taking part in the operation. On the night of October 7, Caspian Flotilla ships launched a mass attack on IS targets in Syria from the Caspian Sea, using sea-launched cruise missiles of the Kalibr-NK system.