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Sunday, November 19

For President Trump's information: Your friend the general misled you.

"As of now [March 2016], Syrian Su-24 and MiG-23’s are able to execute precision bombing missions by day or by night, at altitudes which are out of range of portable ground-air missiles. ... and therefore, for more than a year, the Syrian Arab Army has no further need of barrels of explosives dropped from helicopters, which in any case would have been destroyed by MANPADs."

President Donald Trump, from his interview with TIME magazine published May 11, 2017:
And the interesting thing is, a friend of mine who’s very much a warrior and a person over there, a general, said you know when they hit a barrel bomb right in the middle of a town, the kids are more brutally damaged, and people. [sic]
You have arms and legs and everything else laying all over the town where it is. A real problem too. But you know, it just seemed, when they start using gases, it’s something that is just terrible. But honestly barrel bombs are incredible when you see the damage done by these. …
My friend said to me that, he said you know it’s interesting, he said you hit them [referring to Trump's order of U.S. airstrikes on a Syrian airbase] because of the gases but the barrel bombs are worse. He said what they do to people is unbelievable. You have arms and legs laying two hundred yards away."
From The rebirth of the Syrian Arab Army by Valentin Vasilescu, published March 14, 2016 at Voltaire Network: 
[...]
AVIATION
Until the arrival of the Russian contingent, the Syrian planes were not equipped with high-precision guided weapons which could assure support for ground troops. They used mainly 57 mm calibre rockets and FAB-50 and FAB-100 bombs, launched in a dive at 1,500 to 3,000 metres. At that height, Syrian planes were vulnerable to fire from Islamist artillery, either 23 mm and 30 mm calibre, and also to portable ground-air missiles (MANPADs), which explains the numerous losses suffered by the Syrian aviation. 
During this time, 21 Su-24MK bombers from the Syrian Arab Army were updated in Russian aeronautical factory N° 514 ARZ in Rzhev, and re-configured to Su-24M2 standards, equipped with systems integrating navigation and precision weapons-guidance (PNS-M), the same as the Russian aviation from the air base at Hmeymim. In 2015, Russia had supplied the Syrian aviation with state-of-the-art motors and avionics in order to raise 64 MiG-23BN/MLD’s to the standard of their MiG-23-98’s.
These MiG-23’s have OLS-M LANTIRN-class equipment for night navigation, infra-red detection of terrestrial targets and the guidance systems for several types of smart weapons, such as those used by Russian bombers deployed in Syria. 
As of now, Syrian Su-24 and MiG-23’s are able to execute precision bombing missions by day or by night, at altitudes which are out of range of portable ground-air missiles. In particular, they used penetration bombs to destroy the underground headquarters that the jihadists had built in many different areas, and also to hit ground troops, and therefore, for more than a year, the Syrian Arab Army has no further need of barrels of explosives dropped from helicopters, which in any case would have been destroyed by MANPADs.
TIME did not nail down what President Trump meant by "over there," so it's not clear where, exactly, his friend the general was stationed -- in Syria, Iraq, Jordan, or somewhere else in the Middle East. Wherever he was, the general didn't seem to know that the use of 'barrel' bombs by the Syrian Air Force was in the past.  He would not have been alone in his ignorance. From Vanessa Beeley's 17 January 2017 report for 21st Century Wire, SYRIA: Consign “Barrel Bombs” to the Propaganda Graveyard:
... The “watchdog” that has been cited by The Independent is none other than the Syrian Network for Human Rights, a long term purveyor of the barrel bomb myth and one of the multitude of NGOs affiliated with the anti-Syria-war-propaganda-impresario, George Soros, ... The report documents that Syrian regime helicopters dropped 12,958 barrel bombs in 2016. ... 
As to the general's mention that barrel bombs cause limbs to be severed and scattered -- my understanding is that this occurs even with victims of suicide bombs that are packed with shrapnel, and with victims of the 'Hell' and 'Hellfire' improvised cannons used by opposition forces in Syria. Those are also packed with shrapnel, and are wildly inaccurate; they've killed many civilians.

So if the general was hearing accounts of scattered limbs since the Syrian Air Force had stopped using barrel bombs, perhaps his informants had confused the cannon fire with bombs dropped from helicopters. 

Or perhaps his informants didn't know what they were talking about, or were lying. 
   
No matter whether they're calling pipe bombs or barrel bombs, they are accurate when dropped from a low altitude, but the introduction of MANPADs forced the Syrian Air Force on many occasions to drop them from a higher altitude, thus sacrificing accuracy.  

Now just how and when did the 'Syrian rebels' get hold of MANPADs?

As early as July 2012 there were mainstream news reports that the 'Free Syrian Army' had acquired MANPADs, which might have precipitated or accelerated Russian contributions to the Syrian Air Force. From a Reuters report dated 31 July 2012, it was unclear at the time which government supplied the MANPADs; to my knowledge it remains unclear.

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