Kurdish forces and anti-Assad Syrian Defense Forces battling in Syria got a major boost in March when America allowed it to be public that Rangers, and most likely other special operators, were embedded within their ranks. That signaled to all fighters in the area that an attack against them could trigger a war with the U.S.
Since then, images of the Rangers and their vehicles — mostly Strykers with upgraded armor — have trickled out. And new video from Kurdistan24 and Rojava News gives an idea of what kind of firepower they're packing. Hint: It's a lot.
The first few weapons in the video are pretty standard .50-cals which can absolutely ruin someone's day. But another Stryker has its minigun on full display. It's almost certainly the M134 Minigun capable of firing 4,000 to 6,000 rounds per minute.
The Army usually deploys the minigun on helicopters for self-defense and landing zone suppression, but they've also appeared on everything from small boats to Humvees. The Navy Special Warfare Combatant Craft crews deploy it on boats to support Navy SEALs and quickly destroy enemy craft. So, mounting them on a Stryker probably wasn't too tough.
At least three vehicles in the video are carrying Javelin missiles strapped to the outside. While the Rangers would likely call for air strikes if they were threatened by hostile armor, the Javelins guarantee that they have a way to annihilate tanks if no jets are available in time. The operators can also call on Marine and Army artillery in the country.
The Americans in the tape are flying large flags while driving through cities, which squares with reporting from March that the special operators are most likely there to deter forces by other nations against American partners.
The Marines and special operators are both involved in the fight to retake Raqqa, though it isn't clear how much frontline fighting either is expected to do. The Marines are artillery troops equipped with 155mm howitzers, so they can fight 20 miles from the front lines but are still susceptible to attack if ISIS or other forces maneuver quickly.
An Army HIMARS unit was present in the country in March and is believed to still be on the ground. If so, they can also provide lots of firepower from long range and will likely work to avoid direct fires with the enemy.