Coalition SOF in the Wild, Syrian edition

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In a recent broadcast by a channel called France 24, French reporters in Syria unexpectedly came across a coalition special operations unit, coordinating air strikes and working with Kurdish YPG units in the fight against Daesh in Shaddadi (northern Syria). Somewhat untypical of these types of units in going this long without realizing that a video crew was at work directly behind them. But we saw this in the early parts of the invasion of Afghanistan with a film crew capturing SAS operators in a firefight.

Similar to our earlier post on the captured Russian SF equipment, this segment of video brings us some valuable insight into what these rarely seen SF guys are carrying. For one, I’d like to point out to all the SCAR fanboys out there, there are no SCARs present. But what we do have are the traditional ARs, the Remington 2010 Enhanced Sniper Rifle, FN Herstal 240 Lima with collapsible stock, MK.48, and a smattering of Glocks in mostly Safariland holsters. The teams here aren’t employing their weapon systems, but are instead employing something much more deadly, their ability to call in air strikes on Daesh, with the help of A10s and other air assets. These SF forces are absolutely American, there is too much American specific weaponry and gear to avoid that. However, there might be some British guys mixed in as well, knowing the nature of the relationship between the two countries.

Bear in mind that these guys aren’t in a direct action capacity, they aren’t returning fire or receiving fire. Most of them are simply looking through their scopes for observation purposes. They are silhouetting themselves because the enemy threat is extremely low and they can afford to not keep as low a profile behind this berm.

 

Remington M2010 ESR, with a Glock 17 holstered in a Safariland set up. M240 Lima with Elcan scope is what the gunner on the left is using. The sniper has his helmet off so he can get a better cheekweld on the rifle.

Remington M2010 ESR, with a Glock 17 holstered in a Safariland set up. M240 Lima with Elcan scope is what the gunner on the left is using. The sniper has his helmet off so he can get a better cheekweld on the rifle.

A zoom in of a Daesh field position or VCP.

A zoom in of a Daesh field position or VCP.

Interesting AK century series in 7.62x39mm among the YPG.

Interesting AK century series in 7.62x39mm among the YPG.

Complete tough guy image right here. The arm blurrings are for his tattoos. His Safariland is set much lower than any of his teammates. I would honestly be afraid of it breaking off at this point. Notice the EOTech despite all the recent controversy.

Complete tough guy image right here. The arm blurrings are for his tattoos. His Safariland is set much lower than any of his teammates. I would honestly be afraid of it breaking off at this point. Notice the EOTech despite all the recent controversy.

I find it interesting that Mid Length ARs are being used instead of the Mk.18s. Usually these units want their weapons to be as short and as light as possible, but not in this case. I can only assume this is for accuracy capabilities.

I find it interesting that Mid Length ARs are being used instead of the Mk.18s. Usually these units want their weapons to be as short and as light as possible, but not in this case. I can only assume this is for accuracy capabilities.

FN 240 Lima being used on the truck that the team rode up in. Notice the brown Kydex holster  with the team member in the jeans.

FN 240 Lima being used on the truck that the team rode up in. Notice the brown Kydex holster with the team member in the jeans.



Miles V

Former Infantry Marine, and currently studying at Indiana University. I’ve written for Small Arms Review and Small Arms Defense Journal, and have had a teenie tiny photo that appeared in GQ. Specifically, I’m very interested in small arms history, development, and Military/LE usage within the Middle East, and Central Asia.

If you want to reach out, let me know about an error I’ve made, something I can add to the post, or just talk guns and how much Grunts love naps, hit me up at miles@tfb.tv


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  • Anonymoose

    No SCARs, but no M14s either. They probably want to engage with the 240 or the .300 WinMag if they can’t hit it with an M4. Also. the only mid-length AR variant fielded by any military is the SEAL Recce Rifle, and those are just M4A1 SOPMOD Block 2s.

    • randomswede

      I get the feeling they are keeping it cheap since they don’t anticipate direct combat or door kicking.
      It’s not like they are unarmed with an M4A1.

    • CommonSense23

      The 14s are almost all gone from SOCOM inventories thank gone.

      • Anonymoose

        More for the regular guys! 😀

        • CommonSense23

          Thats not a good thing.

  • Harrison Jones

    There’s something Bad@ss about special operations wearing jeans, and regular shirts with plate carriers and helmets!

    • Greg Kelemen

      It’s to do with the implication that the rule books are mere guidelines to them.
      Maybe a practical example of the thin tactical grey line between clandestine and covert ops.
      So,so cool.

    • Bill

      American jeans can also serve as currency in some countries where they aren’t normally available and are kind of a status symbol. I’ve been offered stupid amounts of money for a pair of Levis.

      • Harrison Jones

        The funny thing is all but their most expensive line is made overseas!

    • iksnilol

      Well, jeans are the best legwear I’ve ever encountered.

      • randomswede

        I’ve found jeens to be the best device for cutting of circulation to my favorite bits so I don’t own a single pair. Your milage may vary.

        • iksnilol

          Well, don’t wear the tight ones that the metrosexuals wear.

          • gusto

            our Swedish bits are bigger then your norweigan ones 😛

          • Bill

            I thought “serge” was a guy I met at a conference, not something to do with $300 blue jeans.

          • randomswede

            I’m way too fond of my knockoff M90 pants in black to consider going back to jeans.
            But I will say this, if my job was to do dirt where I’m not supposed to be, jeans would be on the list of pants I’d consider, the M90s would not.

            (Just google black m90 pants if you are curious I post a picture but that puts me in the moderation stack).

          • iksnilol

            I know, I like milsurp too. Though I don’t like wearing military clothes (small items such as gloves and boots are okay). And I never wear anything with any patch (I don’t like wearing an uniform I didn’t earn).

            Should probably get some M90 pants, they don’t look too military in the black colour. Currently am looking at milsurp backpacks. I’ve found two, one with and one without an external frame (that old fashioned metal contraption), I am leaning towards the non-contraption backpack.

          • randomswede

            I’ve had good luck with the black M90’s but it’s worth keeping in mind they only exist as knockoffs as “Försvaret” only has forest and desert patterns.

            I agree on the uniform thinking, I avoid using camouflage clothes unless I’m actually in the woods as I don’t want people to put me in a “box”.
            On the subject of unearned uniforms, seeing IV8888 in the swedish M90 jacket means he likes it, and I like it so that’s a plus, but he still has the branch patches on and he wears it in a “sloppy” way, according to regulations that he isn’t obliged to follow.
            I guess it’s remnants of having had the regulations drilled into me and seeing to point of them as well.

            My 2 ören on backpack frame vs no frame is that if the backpack detaches from the frame the frame can be used to carry irregular things like firewood or boxes with some straps or rope. And that’s without unpacking the actual pack.
            On the flip side frameless packs won’t bash the ever living crap out of you.

          • n0truscotsman

            I bought a crap ton of the LA police gear cargo pants that I’ve grown fond of. Quality tactical pants without paying ridiculous prices. Anything else is a mix of them, wranglers, and carhartts.

            Jeans are easier for us thin, tall folks.

          • randomswede

            The wool uniforms were replaced with an olive green cotton system in 1959 so the wool “system” is essentially WWII era (although the older uniforms where wool as well) so I’m surprised there’s any left.

            Sweden is quite tiny after all, I used to say it’s the populace of New York City over California’s area with weather like Vermont.
            It seems we’ve passed NYC in populace as we are closer to 10 than 9 these days.

    • politicsbyothermeans

      The doods in jeans are almost certainly not military. Christians In Action? As much as it’s fun to push military regulations, even SOF has to wear uniforms of some sort. Laws of Land Warfare and all that. Check out their brain buckets too. The relative lack of kit on them is pretty telling.

      • CommonSense23

        Actually requirements for uniforms can vary widely. Uniformity in weapons and equipment has been stated to be enough uniformity for legal reasons by JAGs.

        • politicsbyothermeans

          I’m not saying you’re wrong. Just that this is a named operation in a media saturated environment. They’re going to be playing by the rules. That’s just my $.02 and worth no more than what you paid for it.

          • CommonSense23

            The number one thing that is going to be dictacting these guys dress code is their own leadership. You can get leadership which mandates everyone wears the same uniform stateside or don’t care if you are rocking tank tops and shorts in a combat zone.

    • John

      Hmm.

      Special Forces probably do wear camo-everything normally (why stick out and get shot?) but when they were told that reporters would be doing a “surprise” visit two weeks prior to their arrival, probably switched to t-shirts and jeans so the White House could hand-wave and say “those are just advisors, we have no real ‘boots on the ground'” and change the subject forthwith.

  • iksnilol

    Operating with Century AKs?

    G’luck guys.

    • Matt

      They mean 100 series AKs not AKs made by century, you noob.

      • KestrelBike

        Hassan got his ass demoted when he used the unit’s weapon funds to order a mix of Century and IO AKs. Too bad he ordered from Buds Gunshop.. They arrived all beat up and with crooked sights.

        • n0truscotsman

          hahahaha! Too true, too true…

          You just described my last bud’s gunshop AK buy to a T.

      • Greg Kelemen

        haha yeah right they’re not THAT hard up, they still have to wear out all those G36’s dumped on them first, whatta waste!

      • iksnilol

        Who calls them Century AKs? That’s an insult.

        They are called 10x or 100 series AKs.

  • BillC

    Yeah, they just happened to not see the reporters. Suuuure.

    • CommonSense23

      Look how many guys are wearing helmets, that’s how you know they know they are being watched.

  • Joshua

    Those are M4A1s with the RIS II, just FYI.

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    Green Berets, teaching Syrians how to fight Syrians who will probably end up blowing up Europeans. We need to be careful about who we teach war fighting.
    Its bitten us in the a-s before.

    • ostiariusalpha

      More like, teaching Syrian Kurds that might just want to separate from Syria in the future and try to take bits of our frenemy, Turkey, with them. Which would still bite us in the a**, just not in the same way as you were thinking.

      • TheNotoriousIUD

        Thats one of many possible outcomes.
        My point is that its not possible to see that far down the road.

      • Anonymoose

        I wouldn’t mind Turkey being broken apart. I am not a big fan of them, and I don’t understand why the West always supports them even when they betray us at every corner.

        • gusto

          because US/Nato have had/has bases in Turkey. even nuclear missiles if i am not mistaken, aimed at USSR which is closeby. it was the reason USSR wanted missiles on Cuba

          Turkey was not an islamic state and not under soviet influence so the US designated them good guys,

          turkish people have been a big group in Sweden for a long while, they are okey it is just their militant leaders who are douches

          • They are moving towards becoming an Islamic state though. Erdogan is getting medieval on their a**es.

    • John Wisch

      And will continue to do so as well…

  • Colin

    I think the sas report may in fact be sbs. “God frogs ” still brits special forces.

    • Mr Mxyzptlk

      I can’t view the video in my country for copyright reasons, but assuming that it is the one where they are hip firing GPMGs then this is SBS. It is during the prison revolt at Qala-i-Janghi. It was an 8 man team of SBS who arrived in WMIK Land rovers, and they got the GPMGs by dismounting them from their WMIKs. If I remember correctly the SBS team leader was put up for a Medal of Honor, but the British Secretary Of Defence squashed it.

  • Ευστάθιος Παλαιολόγος

    Also of notice is what seems to be a tomahawk at the belt of the kneeling right-most soldier, and a Minimi 7,62 in front of the tripod. There’s also another gun there, it could be a SCAR-H with a 1,5-8 scope
    Also a commando mortar and rounds are visible

  • USMC03Vet

    What is this wizardly? I see boots on the ground, but the government keeps saying there are no boots on the ground.

    #MoonLandingWasFake

    • n0truscotsman

      Relax, they’re “not combat oriented troops”, alright? 😉

    • Ryan

      Government has been saying since Dec that we have SF on the ground in Syria. We’ve even told Russia that our troops are “in this general-round-aboutish area”

  • Lance

    One pic dose have a operator armed with a M-4A1. How do you know its a M-240 L? Could be a M-240 B as far as any one knows.

    • Phil Hsueh

      How does he know? It’s classified, he could tell you but then he’d have to kill you.

  • Bill

    After the Apocalypse the only things moving will be cockroaches and Toyota HiLuxes, the greater battle implement ever devised.

  • Rick5555

    The SOF are NOT Americans….they’re Canadian SOF. The still pics were subsequently taken from a program called “The Fifth Estate.” A TV show that’s sort of like 60 minutes in the States. The show conducts a lot of investigative reporting. The author should do some actual research, rather than just assume something is. Canadians use Elcan’s and pretty much the same stuff our (USA) SOF guys use. It’s probably why you don’t see any SCAR’s in the pics. Though not sure if Canadian SOF use them or not. It’s been a huge issue in Canada. regarding SOF being in Syria. Since, the government has been denying any troops are on the ground in Syria. And then this TV show did a report and televised the aforementioned results. In which the Canadian govt. fessed up to some forces being on the ground. But in a advisory role. The tv show, even interviewed many Kurd fighter. In which, the Kurd fighters. emphasized how it was Canadian forces helping them strategize, provide tactical assistance with bombing campaigns, etc. The kurds stated, that the Canadian SOF forces are the ONLY ones they’ve had contact with. And usually twice a week, SOF (from Canada) would show up at their (kurds) headquarters or FOB.
    …………………………………………….As for any American SOF in theater…I have no clue…probably they’re some in an advisory role too. However, the video and still pics are NOT Americans….They are Canadian SOF. Even the video was used on the tv show The Fifth Estate, in which a retraction was at the end of the show, Stating that when mentioning the Western Forces on the Ground, they narrator simply assumed. I truly think the author of this piece should do a retraction and not simply assume it’s America’s SOF on the ground. Just my 2 cents.

    • Uniform223

      Here is the video Rick5555 mentioned if anyone is interested.

      though it does corroborate that Canadian Special Forces are active in assisting Kurdish Peshmerga forces in Iraq and in parts in Syria it does not confirm that these pictures are indeed Canadian SOF units.

      Here is an article from Washington Post showing the exact same pictures used here (TFB)

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2016/04/25/this-video-gives-a-glimpse-of-what-u-s-special-operations-forces-are-doing-in-syria/

      Also some of the weapons and gear seen the pictures doesn’t seem to uphold your position that these are Canadian SOF units. For one the MSR is a recent addition to US Special Forces Snipers. Canadian Snipers (if I remember correctly) use the C14 Timberwolf MRSWS. Also the picture of the M240L or maybe a Mk.48. Canada still uses the FNMag. Than there is the use of MARPAT tops… (perhaps these guys are MARSOC). This all purely conjecture however.

      • Joshua

        I’ve also never seen any Canadian using Block II items

    • Joshua

      When did Canada adopt the RIS II and practically every Block II ancillary item we use?

      Also Green Berets are SF, not SoF…there is a difference.

      • John

        >When did Canada adopt the RIS II and practically every Block II ancillary item we use?

        The same time as everyone else. Everyone wants to look like American special forces, even if they don’t train, act or fight exactly like them.

    • CommonSense23

      Block 2 M4A1s and M2010s. Probably not Canadians.

  • Patrick M.

    I think the guy with the lower holster actually has a S&S holster extender

  • Jim

    Those helmets and smack plates are being worn for protection from counter-fire by ISIS snipers.

  • Tassiebush

    On the first link of the French documentary there is some interesting footage of a captured armoured truck bomb followed by other footage of one being blown up by a missile as it attempts an attack on YPG lines.(23min in). It’s interesting to see those truck bombs which have played such a succesful role for ISIS being rendered impot3nt by earthworks and ordnance.

  • A Fascist Corgi

    Just because they’re using certain gear doesn’t mean that it’s the best. They use what’s given to them. Simple as that. If cost was ruled out of the equation, then I don’t see why U.S. special operations units would choose the AR-15 over the SCAR. The SCAR is simply a better rifle.

    • CommonSense23

      Guess you have never been issued a SCAR then. The AR is the better rifle.

      • A Fascist Corgi

        I own both a FN SCAR 17S and a Colt LE6920. The SCAR has superior engineering.

        • CommonSense23

          If the SCAR was a superior rifle, it would have replaced the M4, but it wasn’t. The MK17 only had to replace the MK14.

          • A Fascist Corgi

            Using that logic, any weapon that the U.S. military is using is the best available option.

          • CommonSense23

            No, but when a gun is adopted then dropped for the previous rifle for performance reasons. Thats a sign the gun isn’t all that its made up to be.

          • A Fascist Corgi

            I never saw anyone complaining about the performance of the SCAR. All they said was that the improvements over the AR-15 weren’t large enough to justify the cost. Cite me a single military report stating that the SCAR failed to perform.

          • Uniform223

            I don’t know if the SCAR is a failed or not but one thing I kept hearing was that the commonality between the SCAR-H and SCAR-L was very little (from my understanding the original intent was supposed to be close to 75% commonality between them or something). Another thing I always hear/read about is the stocks on the SCAR. For one they’re ugly and to top it off they have reliability issues (they’ve been known to break easily).

            There is one outstanding fact (officially documented or not). The SCAR was supposed to be the main rifle/carbine for all types of US Special Forces… it didn’t. The SCAR was supposed to replace the M4A1… it didn’t.

          • A Fascist Corgi

            People are exaggerating about how supposedly terrible the SCAR stock is. I actually like it. It’s better than the M16 and M4 stock.

            Here’s what Wikipedia says about why SOCOM abandoned the SCAR-L:

            “On 25 June 2010 SOCOM announced that it was canceling the acquisition of the Mk 16 citing limited funds and a lack of enough of a performance difference in another 5.56 mm rifle to justify the purchase.”

            So, nowhere has anyone criticized the performance of the SCAR. Nobody has said that it’s a piece of junk that doesn’t work or that it’s inferior to the AR-15. All they’ve said is that it’s not a big enough of an improvement in order to justify the increased cost of the rifle.

            I don’t agree with that assessment. I think that the increased durability of the parts makes up for the initial higher cost. Battlefield Vegas reported that their SCARs go over 100,000 rounds before experiencing major part failure. In comparison, their AR-15s only last about 20,000 rounds before the bolts and bolt carriers need to be swapped out. And they’re using some of the best AR-15 bolts and bolt carriers in the world (Daniel Defense and LMT) which cost about $200 each. So, that adds up to about $1,000 in added cost when you’re just comparing the bolt carrier groups between the SCAR and the AR-15.

            And since the SCAR is more SBR and suppressor friendly, then it makes the rifle even more desirable than the AR-15.

            Here’s some other things that I really like about the SCAR:

            It’s much, much easier to lubricate and clean. Since it’s using a gas piston system, the lubricant that I put on the bolt carrier group and the rails stays in place for a really long time. It doesn’t quickly burn off and get covered in carbon like my AR-15 bolt carrier group does. I can clean 10 SCARs in the same amount of time that it takes me to clean 1 AR-15.

            It also has a nicer recoil impulse.

            The increased weight of the bolt carrier group would be cited by Nathaniel as a negative because he’s overly obsessed with weight. However, in my opinion, the increased weight of the bolt carrier group is a positive since it aids in reliability. Just like the AK, that huge slab of metal rocking back and forth helps to ensure that the next round in the magazine is forced into the barrel with authority. This is a good thing if the internals of your rifle become dirty.

            And overall, the internals of the SCAR are just beefier than the internals of the AR-15. They were designed to last for a really long time.

            The way that the bolt rides within the bolt carrier in the SCAR is also an improvement over the AR-15 in my opinion. The bolt travels farther in the bolt carrier and it twists at a more gradual rate. This allows the bolt carrier group on the SCAR to operate in a gentler and more efficient manner, which is why it lasts so much longer than the AR-15 bolt carrier group.

            There’s lots of little engineering improvements like the ones I listed above which make the SCAR>AR-15.

          • H.C.

            A good friend of mine was a Gunners Mate for the teams in Astan. He constantly complained about the SCAR failures.

          • CommonSense23

            No, when a rifle is fielded, and enough complaints pop up to stop fielding it, and go back to the previous rifle, thats a sign its not superior. The money was there for the MK16. It just didn’t perform.

          • A Fascist Corgi

            You have no proof of that. Show me the complaints.

          • CommonSense23

            I read the proof. I have seen the reports at NSWC Crane. I have been sent to do evaluations on the potential upgrades to the MK17. The gun isn’t anything special.

  • politicsbyothermeans

    I realize that this may be borderline pedantry but SF and SOF are not the same thing. These guys are definitely SOF, but whether they are all SF is highly debatable. FWIW, SF is one of the US Army’s SOF units. Rangers, SF, 1st SFOC/Delta/CAG/whatever, CA, MISO (the artist formerly known as PSYOP) and the aviators and crew in ARSOAC. All of them are SOF, but only one of those groups is SF. I’m not going to going to slap the tar baby of whether CIA officers, or other alphabet soup agency bubbas, count as SOF.

  • Mikial

    No surprise. Any red blooded American wants a chance to smoke terrorists.

  • Stomper

    Dude, you blurred the tats in the “tough guy” pose photo, but didn’t in the last photo? It’s the same guy in the bottom right in that last photo as the one in the “tough guy” photo . You should fix that ASAP. That right here is the main reason I never got any tattoos while I served in the Army, I waited over 10 years after I ETS’d.