Across the wide Euphrates …


"As the Syrian forces readies mass crossing of the Euphrates River, the Russian military has sent new self-propelled ferries to the oil-rich province of Deir Ezzor.

Footage filmed a couple of days ago shows PMM-2M ferries unloading at the coastal Khmeimim airbase in Syria and eventually transported to the country’s east.

PMM-2M is a self-propelled ferry vehicle used for transporting wheeled and tracked non-amphibious vehicles with a loaded weight up to 42.5 tons across wide water obstacles."  AMN



This is a motorized ferry as well as an Armored Vehicle Launched Bridge (AVLB).

The Russian and Syrian engineers earlier brought forward a pontoon bridge set.  You can make ferries out of the pontons by lashing pierced steel planking (PSP) between the pontons and using outboard motors to move it.

In any event the arrival of equipment like this combined with the pontoon bridging indicates to me a determination on the part of R+6 to deny further movement of the SDF into areas east of the Euphrates that the SAG wishes to re-occupy.

Mike says that the SDF are not going to contest any of the areas that the SAG wants.  I hope that is true but DJT has delegated a great deal of authority to CENTCOM.  Who knows what they want?  pl 42.5t


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61 Responses to Across the wide Euphrates …

  1. ancient archer says:

    What do you say to this Colonel?

    “The Russian Ministry of Defense has released aerial images which they say show US Army special forces equipment north of the town of Deir er-Zor, where ISIS militants are deployed.”
    “Facing no resistance of the ISIS militants, the SDF units are advancing along the left shore of the Euphrates towards Deir ez-Zor,” the statement reads.
    “Despite that the US strongholds being located in the ISIS areas, no screening patrol has been organized at them,” the Russian Ministry of Defense said.
    This could mean that the US military staff “feel absolutely safe” in the area which is held by the terrorists, the ministry of defense stated.
    “SDF militants work to the same objectives as IS terrorists. Russian drones and intelligence have not recorded any confrontations between IS and the ‘third force,’ the SDF,” Konashenkov said.

    Is it just Russian propaganda or the masks falling off the face of owners and operators of ISIS?

  2. voislav says:

    This is basically a motorized pontoon used without separating from the vehicle. It unfolds into a flat surface and uses the vehicle engine to drive a pair of built-in propellers. Image linked below shows it in operation, you can see the vehicle cab on the left.

  3. What a marvelous piece of engineering, air transportable, too. That AMN video shows a half dozen or so tank transporters ready to take them to the Euphrates. I found a video of one in action. Looks like it can handle swift currents.
    CENTCOM has always been the height of arrogance, much like the CIA’s Central Eurasia Division (old Russia House). I’d be leery of their intentions.

  4. turcopolier says:

    Thanks very much. That is very helpful to me. How heavy a vehicle will it carry? pl

  5. Bill H says:

    Interesting vehicle. I like the small glassed in crew cab, but it might feel a bit unnerving when a big tank is coming aboard. Note the direction it is traveling, which indicates that the ramps are on port and starboard sides with respect to travel. That would seem to complicate landing a bit. And based on the size of the bow wave, it doesn’t seem to be going very fast. Seems reasonable enough, I’m just noticing.

  6. turcopolier says:

    ancient archer
    IMO the Russians have gotten tired of US policy foolishness and are hitting back in the IO game. The air de-confliction regime by phone continues to function unimpeded. I am not sure what US SF vehicles would be. how would they be different from other US made vehicles? the tribal loyalty situation is fluid. To claim that using formerly IS connected tribes is somehow inappropriate is just naive. pl

  7. PeterAU says:

    With Saudi’s backing the Kurds and McGirk’s meeting with the ISIS aligned tribes, it looks like R+6 will have to fight US/Kurds/ISIS combined for control of the oilfields.
    Seems to be a big cleanup underway in Idlib – ensuring nothing hits them in the back when R+6 starts the battle for the oilfields?

  8. Peter in Toronto says:

    Some great footage of fighting south of Deir ez-Zor, presumably from Saqr Island where it is said IS is entrenched:
    Good to see some proper soldiering. It looks like they’re using air-burst munitions and vacuum bombs in tandem .

  9. aleksandar says:

    First was created by CDR Gillois in 1954.

  10. aleksandar says:

    Something doesn’t add up. After DeZ liberation SAA should have crossed Euphrate full gear, sending east bank half of Tiger Force and russians SOF to stop SDF. They instead decided to liberate South Raqqah.And half of TF has already move to Hama CS
    Two possible reasons :
    – not enough crossing equipment
    – a kind of agreement on high level with SDF.
    I have no clue.

  11. mike says:

    Russians are the masters of combat river crossing. They learned it the hard way – under fire at Volgograd and elsewhere. That PMM-2M self-propelled ferry vehicle design has been around since the cold war. But it has been improved on many times since then.
    Germany and some NATO countries have a similar system called the M3 Amphibious Bridging Vehicle. It is on a 4×4 wheeled vehicle instead of the Russian tracked version. It can carry 60 tons instead of the 42.5 of the PMM-2M. The Russians probably kept theirs smaller to make it air transportable. The M3 does appear a bit slower than the PMM-2M in deployment on the YouTube videos.
    The US Army’s newest Ribbon Bridge can carry over a 100 tons. And individual sections can be used as ferries. But it is also slow in deployment, slower than the German M3, and much slower than the Russian one.

  12. mike says:

    Aleksandar –
    Not enough crossing equipment IMO. Have you seen Ivan Sidorenko’s video of regime forces crossing to Sakr Island? They are ferrying three to four men at a time using muscle power pulling on ropes to get the ferry across.

  13. Jack says:

    why is the usa in syria?
    Because it can. Why were the Roman Legions in Britannia?

  14. turcopolier says:

    The paucity of river crossing gear is clearly being corrected. pl

  15. Jack says:

    Both very plausible reasons. The fact that pontoons are just being brought in may imply that R+6 did not expect to roll so fast. Looks like ISIS defenses were not as strong as expected.
    So while they wait for the river crossing equipment why not use their momentum to chew up more ISIS forces and areas. My civilian speculation is that all this SDF will steal the oilfields is pure hyperbole. R+6 is rolling at will wherever they choose. They’re even kicking butt in southern Idlib and just shredded the AQ offensive there. The Arab tribes are apparently some of the most shrewd traders. They know which side is winning.

  16. aleksandar says:

    Yes Mike, Ivan Sidorenko is one of my favorite but BMP are amphibious. Nothing can prevent them crossing Euphrat as soon as a “safe management area ” is created on the right bank.
    I have read somewhere that so far SAA consider that SDF has his ” moment of glory” but that they are not enemy of Damas and that anyways they are unable due to shortage manpower to hold ground so far from Kurdish aeras.
    In other words, no hurry, they will left anytime soon.
    It make sense to me, small SDF element left in these oilfields. The overhelming superiority of SAA will prevail and wiyhout fight.
    I have also read that Raqqaah will return to Damas.

  17. ISL says:

    Looks like one needs a functioning road to get the Ribbon bridge to the river
    Seems designed for occupation, setting up / shoring up logistics lines in the far rear.
    The Russian PMM-2M is ideally configured for advance. Tracks are a very smart design – many rivers have soft banks, agricultural areas around rivers tend to be very soft, and roads are easily bombed into being useless for wheeled vehicles. Moreover, if one is forced to choose where banks are hard and/or paved, one has made the enemies job easier.
    Much of Russia is wetlands, so this is also ideal for homeland defense.

  18. mike says:

    I believe the US Army’s Ribbon Bridge was used for the Iraqi Army to cross both the Tigris and the Euphrates in their offensive against Daesh. A similar system was used by US combat engineers to ferry SDF across Lake Assad back in March (or April?) during the Battle of Tabqa.
    The SDF may also need coalition combat engineer support in crossing the Khabour River after they liberate al-Suwar. They are reportedly attacking there now.
    PS – Russian MOD confirms General Asapov killed by mortar attack in DeZ. ‘m hoping they don’t play IO games with his death and blame it on US SOF.

  19. Anna says:

    Israel wants Russia to confront the US to see how much could be achieved and how much could be salvaged of the Syrian property. Bibi is a fanatic; his sense of Jewish righteousness and the mineral riches of Syria are seemingly bringing the Judgment Day closer with each passing day.

  20. mike says:

    ISL –
    I agree the Russian PMM-2M is a much better system for fast employment especially from soft river banks. Its limitations are its size. It can handle probably handle the older Syrian tanks. But not the new Russian T90 and T14 and heavy tracked self-propelled guns? As I said above the Russians are the masters of combat crossings.
    Thanks for the IRB link. But I see nothing on that link tying the IRB to roads. The IRB is transported on cross country capable HEMTT with 8X8 drive. Wiki says they are specified to be able to climb (or descend) 60 percent gradients, withstand 30 degree side slopes without tipping, and ford water up to 48 inches in depth. I don’t know whether they can automatically lower tire air pressure on soft ground, but that has been a standard on military trucks for many decades. It would certainly be accompanied by engineer troops and equipment so if there are vertical bluffs at a river crossing of choice they could be dealt with.
    It is a good system. But probably is over engineered to take the weight of the M1 Abrams tank and MLRS and other heavyweights.
    For myself I like the smaller, leaner faster Russian version.

  21. Serge says:

    Russian general asapov and two colonels with him were killed by ISIS shelling on a “command center” in Deir Ezzor today. What is such a top ranking figure in Russian military doing on the front lines? Was this a lucky hit or was IS tipped off?

  22. Walrus says:

    From experience, the reasons for the Russians bringing up bridging equipment is our old friend logistics. It is one thing to assault across a river, but once the SAA is on the other side of the Euphrates, it has to be kept resupplied. That requires sufficient bridges.
    Yes the BMP like the M113 is (just!) amphibious, provided they are kept in tip top condition, and I doubt they will be.But that amphibious capability is for assault not ferrying supplies, armoured vehicles aren’t very seaworthy.
    Off topic, but I guess the Colonel, TTG and others have practiced assault river crossings – sunny days spent swimming nude with your gear wrapped up and your rifle balanced on top. We wrapped a jeep and floated it across and did other fun stuff in our youth.

  23. Henshaw says:

    More Youtube of the wide range of Russian amphibious capability at

  24. b says:

    ISIS had besieged Deir Ezzor for three years and not once managed to hit the SAA headquarter there with precise mortar attacks.
    We are now to believe that a much diminished ISIS in Deir Ezzor was able to precisely hit a Syrian headquarter just as a “target of opportunity” in form a Russian three-star general visited it?
    No one will believe that. The incident replicates the precise hit on a just set up Russian military hospital near east-Aleppo. At that time Russia accused the U.S. of having coordinated with Jihadis by transferring the precise target coordinates (and more).
    Over the last week Russia has again and again accused the U.S. of coordinating al-Qaeda (in Idleb) and with ISIS in Deir Ezzor. The accusations are very plausible. Now a three-star General and two Colonels get killed.
    Russia says the attack was by ISIS. Doing so avoids the need to escalate immediately.
    U.S. persons in the Middle East should be very careful. One doesn’t tickle the bear with consequences.

  25. JJackson says:

    I wondered when reading the post about the 42.5T as wikipedia list T90s at 45T+ (depending on version). Seemed like a bit of a problem going forwad unless there are plans to upgrade/replace it in the near future.

  26. turcopolier says:

    There are other ways to get these heavier tanks across the river. You can build rafts with the the pontons of the pontoon bridge sets or you can build a pontoon bridge. pl

  27. Barish says:

    I recall this report filed by AMN recently about a near-miss on top SAA-general Khadour around Dair as-Saur:
    “High ranking Syrian general barely escapes death in Deir Ezzor
    By Leith Fadel – 13/09/2017
    BEIRUT, LEBANON (9:40 A.M.) – One of the highest ranking commanders in the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), General Mohammad Khaddour, barely escaped death on Tuesday after an Islamic State (ISIL) faction opened fire on his convoy in western Deir Ezzor.
    According to a Syrian Army source in the Deir Ezzor Governorate, General Khaddour was being transported through the recently liberated Thardeh Mountains, Tuesday, when a group of ISIL terrorists shot-up the vehicles traveling in this military convoy.
    The source added that the high ranking Syrian general was almost killed by the attack, as he was sitting in the front seat of the vehicle that was targeted by the Islamic State terrorists. […]”
    Granted, this happened at Mt Tharda to the south and west of the Euphrates, and can of course be explained away with ISIL having a spell of – in that case, not quite enough – luck. The plot thickens either way.

  28. turcopolier says:

    I am concerned that DJT has given CENTCOM too much “rope.” pl

  29. mike says:

    JJackson –
    Still possible to get T90s across as the Colonel suggests.
    Also at 45 tons, the T90 is only a very small percentage over the 42.5 limit. The Wiki specifications could be wrong, or old and understated? That PMM-2M has been ubpgraded many times since it first appearance several decades ago. It seems counter-intuitive that the Russian MoD would build tanks incapable of using available bridging equipment.
    On the other hand, why bother sending T90s across? Omar oilfield is in open country and can be taken without heavy tanks. The more severe fighting will be done against Daesh diehards in Mayadin and al-Bukamal, both west of the Euphrates. Anyway the Tiger Forces and their T90s are reported to have been moving west towards the fight in Idlib province. The other SAA unit with T90s is the 4th Division, where they are I don’t know but they are usually kept close to Damascus. Have more T90s been sent by Moscow to other Syrian units?

  30. mike says:

    Asapov was leading from the front. A grand old principle of leadership. He has my respect. Repose en paix soldat.

  31. mike says:

    b says once again that the US is aiding Daesh.
    Meanwhile on yesterday and the day before there were 65 Coalition airstrikes on Daesh in Syria and another 20 against Daesh in Iraq:
    Doesn’t sound like aid to me.

  32. b says:

    Yes, way too much rope. He is following Obama in that. When CentCom bombarded the SAA in Deir Ezzor to sabotage Kerry’s agreement with Russia Obama did … nothing.
    He should have beheaded CentCom for that. Then again – he probably disliked Kerry’s agreement as much as the Generals.

  33. b says:

    A bunch of well updated T-62s has recently arrived in Syria.

  34. turcopolier says:

    “When CentCom bombarded the SAA in Deir Ezzor to thwart Kerry” You are guessing and it was outside the town. I am not sure why this sad thing happened. Misadventure in war is commonplace. When I am sure what happened I will say so. pl

  35. turcopolier says:

    Asapov has my respect as well. I have seen many US general officers on battlefields way up in front. pl

  36. turcopolier says:

    james “There are no accidents.” Are you really that ignorant of what war is like? pl

  37. turcopolier says:

    It looks that way to you because you (like b) want to believe anything and everything bad about the US. p

  38. mike says:

    b –
    M models or something newer? says the SAA already has 1000 T62M and K versions. Do you know which SAA units are they going to?

  39. FkDahl says:

    My experience of river crossing in birthday suit -being first resulted in no leeches… seemed like they were attracted by our splashing. Half the guys had visitors…

  40. turcopolier says:

    Here is how that works. IS can have FOs in buildings within observation distance of this target. The FO phones the gun back a ways with the GPS coordinates after observing activity. The gun crew lay the gun for elevation, charge and deflection and drop three rounds down the tube in quick succession. They would then land inside whatever the CEP of the gun is. pl

  41. JJackson says:

    pl and mike Thanks for the clarification.
    I guessed, having no military experiance, that the nominal load carrying ability of this kind of kit would be conservative and in practice would vary considerably depending on the ease of access and egress from the water and the how rough it was. Would that be right?

  42. mike says:

    Richard Stephen Hack-
    Three rounds is more than any mortar or artillery crew should fire before they move – and move quickly. ‘Shoot and scoot’ is mandatory today unless you want to commit suicide. Russian counter-mortar tech is as good or better than what the US and NATO have.

  43. turcopolier says:

    Let us hope that the counter-mortar nailed them. Perhaps they had more than one gun? In the old Iraqi Army they would have had a section of three, and we seem to think that IS learned soldiering from the Iraqi soldiers they recruited. I watched the old guys shoot mortars in the IR/IZ war. They had one FDC and laid the guns as a section to fire a closed sheaf. They built a “measle sheet” with pre-registered targets and either fired those or adjusted from them. pl

  44. turcopolier says:

    You should know by now that I agree with you. pl

  45. b says:

    Here is video of an Euphrates crossing east of Deir Ezzor
    According to the Russians the Bridge is 210m long and can serve 8000 vehicles per day. It is not a pontoon bridge but some construct on pillars.
    The tracked ferry vehicles are also in that video.
    It seems that a smoke screen is put up (badly) to prevent too early detection.

  46. says:

    Perhaps? According to sources in Crimea the shells landed at the same time…3 tubes involved…all with pin-point accuracy on first strike.

  47. Tigermoth says:

    ThE Russians have built a bridge across the Euphrates in 2 days that can handle 8000 vehicles / day. Let the games begin!
    “According to Russian reports, the bridge is 210 meters long, having been built several kilometers from Deir Ezzor city, and can handle the crossing of 8,000 vehicles per day…
    The new bridge is strong enough to facilitate the movement of main battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and self-propelled artillery assets to the eastern bank of the Euphrates to maintain Syrian Army operations against ISIS.”

  48. turcopolier says:

    tigermoth et al
    Does this kind of bridging have a name/designator? pl

  49. This looks like a TMM-6 heavy mechanized bridge or some variation of that bridge. It’s a scissors bridge constructed in sections. Here’s a short video of a TMM-6 being emplaced and used.

  50. turcopolier says:

    Thanks. This yet another great bridge system. I did not realize that the Euphrates is that shallow and with such a slow current that far upstream. pl

  51. mike says:

    Colonel –
    PMP-2005M? A derivative of the old PMP from 70+years ago. Some say 60 ton capacity which would match it with the German M3 system.

  52. turcopolier says:

    This is not a floating bridge. pl

  53. mike says:

    Colonel –
    I see that now. Although Syrian regime forces had called it a pontoon bridge, it is clearly not from the pics and video.
    Scroll down and on this twitter feed and it shows location. And it looks like they used fog or smoke to protect bridge builders from Daesh snipers and mini-drones.

  54. pl,
    I was also surprised by the apparent river depth and current. Just looking at Google Maps it does appear to a very shallow river valley and a meandering river course at DeZ. With the upriver dams, I doubt there’s much seasonal variation in river flow. It’s clearly nothing like the Potomac a few miles from my house or yours for that matter.

  55. mike says:

    Reports are that the SDF has crossed the Khabour river at al-Suwar also. No mention of bridging efforts so far. Fighting still going on in al-Suwar, but mostly mop-up of the hardcore.
    So the question is will they now head north and clear the river towns between al-Suwar and Shaddadi? Or head south to al-Busayrah?

  56. turcopolier says:

    Assassination attempt? there is a war on. I guessed you missed that. pl

  57. Tigermoth says:

    I found some information on the type of bridge, its nothing fancy:
    from the book:Combat Engineering Equipment of the Warsaw Pact:
    The MARM light sectional bridge was used to cross dry gaps or rivers…
    Each span was 6 meters long and included a set of adjustable height folding trestles. The spans were put in place with a lorry mounted crane, and the trestles braced. … It had a load capacity of 50 tonnes. 118 meter span could be assembled in 8 hours.”
    I read somewhere that it could go to a 4 meter depth.
    This info explains the crane truck on the barge next to the bridge.
    Also, in this article are some photos of General Asapov at the site helping with it’s construction.
    With regards to General Asapov and what is expected of Russian Generals, here is article about their attitude towards leadership.
    “The death of Lieutenant General Valery Asapov and two Russian colonels who were with him in Syria highlights the fundamentally different military command philosophies of the US and Russian militaries.
    Putting aside the question of whether or not General Asapov was deliberately targeted, the key point about his death is that he was a high ranking general (commander at the time of his death of Russia’s 5th Red Banner Army) who was killed whilst carrying out personal reconnaissance on the front line in Deir Ezzor in Syria, where he exposed himself to shelling.
    Though his death was big news in Russia, it has been received there calmly, with none of the displays of dismay or panic, or the feverish post-mortems, or the angry cries for vengeance, which would assuredly have happened if a US officer of similar rank had been killed in the same way.
    Nor is there the slightest sign of General Asapov’s death having caused any change in the battlefield strategy followed by the Russians in Syria.
    Thus offensive military operations by the Syrian army as advised and directed by the Russians in the area where General Asapov was killed continue with undiminished vigour, with – as reported by The Duran – Russian engineers just completing a road bridge across the Euphrates to enable the Syrian army to get across.
    All this highlights a key point about the Russian army’s system of command: Russian commanders – including the most senior commanders – are expected to lead from the front, making themselves visible to their men, whilst at the same through direct observation gaining a ‘feel’ for the battle…”

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