In an escalation of the on-going violence between the Syrian government and rebel groups the Syrian Air Force have commenced a bombing campaign targeting the countries second city and economic hub, Aleppo. The Free Syrian Army (FSA) have been mounting a fierce attack on both Aleppo and Damascus over the past few days in an attempt to dislodge the defending government forces. Other air elements in the form of helicopter gunships have also reportedly been seen providing air support in the city.
These new developments, building on the past history of this conflict, demonstrate the Assad governments new strategy, a Blitzkrieg offensive against rebel forces to deny them strongholds in the country's cities. Harking back to its origins in WWII, Blitzkrieg (literally 'Lightening War') refers to a tactic of using overwhelming artillery and armoured forces backed up with fast-moving storm-troopers to punch through enemy forces. While the Syrian conflict is not perhaps so manoeuvrable the comparison is reasonably accurate. By using heavy bombing runs to remove any enemy cohesion then using ground troops with close-air support to force the gaps left by the jets, pro-government forces are using similar urban tactics to the original Blitzkriegs of the 1940s.
The use of air forces is a strategically good move when fighting forces such as the FSA and other rebel groups. These forces have become adept at dealing innovatively with heavy infantry assaults and even tanks which were one of the governments most heavy tools of war used until today. Without their own air cover or workable way of targeting the enemy planes and helicopters en masse, the rebel forces biggest weakness is from the air. The range and destructive power of air assaults, coupled with the regimes unflinching use of violence on civilian centres and cities means that this new move removes any safe zones or regrouping points the rebels have. However remote or embedded within the population these areas are the use of fast jets forces the rebels to constantly be on the move and stops them coalescing into a large fighting force capable of threatening the regimes strongholds.
There is another large advantage in the governments new use of bombing campaigns. In a time of uncertainty where government troops have often mutinied and changed sides to form the backbone of the FSA, morale is all important. By deploying air assets, morale is strengthened both by its presence and also by its ability to keep pro-government ground troops from facing dug-in opponents or obstacles which can now be tackled from the air.