Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Rumors Of War: Trouble Brewing On Golan Border As Hezbollah-Iran Forces Gather, Israeli Jets Hit Syrian Targets, Russian Jet Intercepts U.S. Navy Plane Over Black Sea

The positioning and staging for Gog-magog is ongoing, whether by intent or not:

Hizballah units regroup on Israel’s Golan border

A large Hizballah force, backed by the Syrian army and pro-Iranian Shiite militias, is building up outside Quneitra, just 2km from Israel’s Golan border. The Lebanese Shiite fighters, under the command of Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) officers, are streaming into southern Syria, armed with tanks and artillery.

Monday night, Sept. 5, Iranian state-controlled media shed light on this movement, reporting that the combined force had “completed preparations necessary for an extensive operation in southern Syria,” adding, “Hizballah aims to put an end to the presence of armed men in the area close to the border.”

The nature of the “armed men” was not specified, but the goal of the new operation was clear: after evicting the assorted anti-Assad groups, including the Islamic State, holding territory “close to the border,” Hizballah and its backers planned to regroup on the Syrian-Israeli boundary.

This would position Iran and its Hizballah surrogate ready to realize their six-year old design, which is to open a second warfront against Israel.

Hizballah units were detached from the Aleppo arena and redirected to the Quneitra front in southern Syria to face the Israeli border.

Those sources report that the incoming troops were sighted this week when they arrived at Madinat al-Baath and Khan Amabeh, the main Syrian army bases on the Syrian Golan. They came with tanks and heavy artillery. Seen for the first time in the Quentra sector were heavy, self-propelled KS-19 artillery batteries, which are Russian anti-air guns adapted to ground warfare. They have a range of 21km and a firing capacity of 15 shells per minute.

The newly-arrived Hizballah force appears to have set the capture of Syrian rebel-held al-Hamdiniyah 2km from the Israeli border, as its first objective.

 Iranian media attached photos of Israel’s security force opposite Quneitra to their reporting on the new move, thereby framing the target of the Syrian-Iranian-Backed Hizballah build-up.

This fast-approaching development poses two tough questions:

1. Will Israel lie down for the avowedly hostile Hizballah and Iran to occupy territory along its eastern border?

Israel officials have repeatedly emphasized that these forces would not be allowed to take up positions on the Golan border, a message Russia most certainly passed on to Damascus.

If Hizballah and its allies go through with their planned offensive, Israel will have to consider serious military action to prevent them from reaching the border fence, i.e., an operation on a scale quite different from the small-shot IDF reprisals for rockets or shells straying across into the Golan from fighting on the other side.

2. Will the advancing Iranian-led force have Syrian air cover? If it does, the Israeli Air Force will also be involved in aerial combat over the Golan.

The Israeli Air Force overnight Wednesday-Thursday hit a number of positions belonging to the Syrian army after a projectile from the neighboring country struck an open area on the Israeli side of the Golan Heights earlier Wednesday evening.

A Russian fighter jet carried out an intercept of US spy plane flying over the Black Sea, according to US Defense officials, cited by the Reuters news agency.

A Russian fighter jet intercepted a US spy plane flying over the Black Sea, according to US Defense officials cited by the Reuters news agency. 
The officials said that there were multiple interactions between two aircraft and called the intercept by the Russian jet "unsafe and unprofessional."
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the incident lasted about 19 minutes and the Russian Sukhoi Su-27 fighter came within 10 feet of the US Navy P-8 surveillance plane.

A new generation of Russian and Chinese-built long-range air-to-air missiles could threaten the critical nodes that enable U.S. air operations. Those nodes include the AWACS, various intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) assets, aerial refueling tankers and electronic attack aircraft.

While often overlooked in favor of advanced anti-ship and surface-to-air missile systems when examining Russian and Chinese anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities, such long-range air intercept weapons—coupled with the right fighter—could cut the sinews that allow the United States to conduct sustained air operations in both the Asia-Pacific and the European theatres. 

Essentially, Russians and/or Chinese forces could pair long-range air-to-air missiles with aircraft like the Mikoyan MiG-31 Foxhound, Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA and the Chengdu J-20 to attack American AWACS, JTARS and aerial refueling tankers like the Boeing KC-135 or forthcoming KC-46 Pegasus. Especially over the vast reaches of the Pacific where airfields are few and far between, lumbering aerial refueling tankers could be an Achilles’ Heel that Beijing could chose to exploit. There are three long-range air-to-air missile programs that bear watching—the Russian Vympel R-37M RVV-BD, the Novator KS-172 (aka K-100) and the Chinese PL-15.
Thus, with the information available, it is likely that Russian and Chinese deployment of long-range air-to-air missiles—and the fifth-generation fighters to carry those weapons—could pose a significant problem for the Pentagon. It’s a problem that certainly bears watching in the coming years.

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