Monday, 21 September 2015

Russian Air Force joins Syrian War, advanced fighter-bombers spotted over Syria



Amid a range of reports of sightings of Russian military personnel and equipment used in combat in Syria, Russia's role in the conflict escalated sharply with the confirmation of Russian aircraft and armoured vehicles being flown in by the dozens. Coinciding with the renovation of Hmeemeem/Bassel al-Assad IAP for use as a Russian military base, Il-76 strategic airlifters or (more likely) Il-78 aerial refuelling planes have been sighted escorting military aircraft such as the Su-30SM and Su-24M(2) over Syria, together with An-124 strategic airlifters reportedly carrying at least two Mi-17 and two Mi-24/35 helicopters amongst a range of other weaponry.

The airfield, formerly housing around a dozen Syrian Arab Air Force (SyAAF) Mi-14 and Ka-28 naval helicopters until their departure in recent weeks, is swiftly being expanded both in size by the construction of new helicopter pads and a taxiway as well as in its defensive structure to cope with the influx of Russian aircraft and equipment and help secure the base from any future rebel offensive. Although this expansion was previously noted by various media, it was not until the 19th of September that satellite imagery confirmed the presence of Russian fighter aircraft sitting unprotected on the runway, their shelters not having been built yet.

Aside from the four Su-30SM advanced jet fighters photographed at the time, video footage shows what appear to be another four Su-24 fighter-bombers closely escorting an Il-78 and possibly four more Su-27/30 aircraft flying in similar fashion above Northern Homs on the 20th and 19th of September respectively, highly likely heading for Hmeemeem/Bassel al-Assad IAP in closeby Lattakia as well. Another possibility is that the aircraft flew over the Caspian sea, through Iran and Iraq, a theory which would explain the approach taken by the planes over Homs but which would seem like a risky strategy considering the large amount of foreign aircraft currently active over Iraq and Syria. It is known the first batch of four Su-30SMs crossed Greek airspace however, so it is likely both routes are used.

An unconfirmed image from the 18th of September as well as comments made by a U.S. official on the deployment of four Russian Air Force Sukhoi jets to Syria suggest at least three batches of aircraft have so far been flown in: Together comprising four Su-30SMs, four Su-24M(2)s and another four as of yet unidentified aircraft, possibly also of the Su-30SM type. 







The Su-30SM brings with it capabilities previously unavailable to the SyAAF, and will allow the Russian Air Force (RuAF) to closely follow any offensives or defensive actions. Information acquired can be relayed back to ground-forces, the Su-30SM thus acting as a flying command platform. The wide array of both guided and unguided weaponry available to the Su-30SM makes it an extremely versatile aircraft well suited to the Syrian battlefield. However, the fact that these aircraft represent some of the most modern fighters in use by the RuAF, capable of both ground-attack sorties as well as air-to-air engagements, might allude to another reason for their choice. Having just concluded the first talks with U.S. counterparts on the Syrian conflict right before the first sighting of these fighters, their presence in Syria delivers a strong message to the world.

Although less capable than the Su-30SM, the stationing of Su-24M(2)s is little surprising given the SyAAF is also operating this aircraft, which were all recently upgraded from MK standard to M2 standard in Rzhev, Russia. 819 Squadron, responsible for operating the Su-24M2 in Syrian service, continues to fly with eleven operational airframes based at T4, Central Syria. The possible housing of RuAF Su-24M(2)s at this airbase would help ease logistics, and making use of the extensive infrastructure already available there would be a sensible choice.

This combined force has the capability of quickly changing the situation on the ground by mass bombardments, depending on the ultimate amount of aircraft stationed in Syria. Any rebel offensive could be stopped dead in its tracks, or their defences could be blown away during one of Russia's or the regime's offensives.

Other heavy equipment is reportedly being flown in at the same time, with previous satellite imagery dating back to September 15th reportedly showing some 26 APC/IFVs, 6 MBTs, four new helicopters and large amounts of trucks and other equipment scattered across the airfield. Photographs taken on the 17th of September at Novosibirsk show two Mi-24/35 helicopter gunships and at least one Mi-17 transport helicopter being loaded into an An-124 transport aircraft (serial RA-82035), which was subsequently tracked over Syria on the 18th before landing at Mozdok again in the evening, suggesting an intensive air bridge is currently active. The presence of Il-76 and An-124 transport planes on the satellite imagery of September 15th and reports of the dozens of flights to Syria such aircraft have been making the past month supports this theory, meaning the current inflow of weaponry might just be the start of a massive deployment of Russian forces to Syria.


The news of increased military involvement by the Russian Federation in the Syrian conflict certainly does not come out of the blue: A flurry of reports ranging from the downing of Russian drones in late July to the delivery of (likely Russian-operated) Pantsir-S1 air defence systems earlier this month all testify of what is shaping up to be a major surge in backing for the Syrian regime. Interestingly, videos first showing a recently delivered Russian BTR-82A IFV, later of an R-116-0.5 signals vehicle and now of two T-55s (one with a North Korean laser-range finder) in the Lattakia governorate all seem to show equipment being operated by (or in the last case, simply ridden by) Russian military personnel, indicating the Russian Army will be directly involved in combat situations. From these developments it is clear that Russia will not allow the regime to succumb from rebel offensives, and despite the fact that the war is far from being fought, it would appear the reality is that Assad will remain in power for the foreseeable future.

19 comments:

  1. Thank you , great article as usual
    There is rumors about Russia is fixing and expanding hmemim airport to house mi-28
    Days ago there was a news on Syrian news about high Syrian military personnel asked to buy mi-28 and Russia responded with we will see if your airports are ready to house them first . If true ... This is EXACTLY what syaaf needs to counter terror not mig 31 and pantsr

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    1. No problem , thank you
      Also Syrian state TV : kommersant : 12 mig29m2 and 12 yak 130 to be delivered in 2016-2017

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  2. les russe contre les américain ,et c'est les arabe musulman chrétien , qui meurt ,elle et belle la démocratie ,une guerre de supprimassie .

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  3. Great articles.russia needs to first build up its millitary in syria,and also taking ample protection from forgeign threats+terrorists lurking around northern latakia and homs.then try go on to the offensive.already these new developments boasted the moral of syaf and syrian army as we seeing new offensive around damascus,dara,deir ez zoir and Palmyra.But why there is no new offensive near idlib or salma in latakia is puzzling.

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    1. In Latakia syaaf use helicopter with barreled bombs and Saa uses artillery there is no advancing there just holding grounds because high command never issued attack order
      You must know the syaaf also recently is bombing al raqqa ( al baghdadi capital ) with highly accurate new bombers you should also note that the us coliation is operating there too

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    2. Yaa but why there is no new offensive to recapture al ghab area?bombing just holding them back

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    3. The Russians will want to build up their forces, supplies, intelligence and command and control before attacking. A ground offensive is probably being planned for Latakia, with Russian air power as a new factor. The Russians will want one of their first uses of air power in Syria to be an impressive demonstration of their power. This might have a strong psychological effect on IS, FSA, etc.

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  4. Clarification: Russian SU-30SM in Syria, not SU-27 (as indicated on the pic with the 4 jets)

    Source: http://www.offiziere.ch/?p=23166

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    1. I clearly stated the aircraft are Su-30SMs, not Su-27s.

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  5. The base now contains 28 aircraft including 4 SU-30SM, 12 SU-24M2 and 12 SU-25 in the airbase.

    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2015/09/21/official-russian-flying-unmanned-drones-over-syria-sending-more-fighter-jets/

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  6. Here's hoping that the Russians, Coalition and Israel are very good at avoiding accidental air-to-air combat.
    Very informative as usual.

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    1. It's Turkey that had better sharpen up their spotting and not get to close to the Russians - Turkey attacks Syrian Air Force aircraft that come up to their border. Which, of course, is the massing and supply zone for all the opposition groups supplies and recruits (all of them, ISIS too) - the opposition's base camps and intelligence and command control positions have long been in southern Turkey out of the Syrian SAA's reach protected by Erodan's Turkish forces. Whether Russia feels inclined to use aircraft to disrupt the source of the opposition's supply and operations cenres will be very interesting to watch.

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  7. I would advise against doing what the international media is doing in the way of sensationalising this Russian intervention.

    Russia has been involved in the Civil War with boots on the ground for quite some time. While it is true that it has increased it's involvement, the scope of operations will remain limited through the small amout of safe and adequate facilites from which Russian forces can operate.

    Also, Russia is a military force whose actual force can be somewhat doubted. Much of it's advanced equipment is actually not the most reliable of sorts:

    Versions of this Su-30 sold to India being a good example, SA-22 Greyhound (Pantsir-S1) in Syria and otherwise being another. A good historic example that comes to mind is the MiG-25, and several models of the MiG-29.

    I doubt Russia is endeavoring to help Bashar expand his rule out of Latakia. Their interests circulate around the port of Latakia, so they would probably suffice in defending it.

    Even this sort of reinforcement might not hold off a long-term uprising against Bashar, and Latakia could still fall to it's enemies.

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    1. I disagree strongly - Russia is calling NATO's bluff - US/EU have demanded Assad's removal for five years. By putting his military on show to the media and the satellites, Putin is calling their bluff, so how far will they go for their regime change? Erdogan/Kerry and Merkel all of them are already back pedalling on regime change demands. The Russian's indicated in Ukraine they will take ground casualties - something NATO doesn't look like it is prepared to do to get US/EU's preferred Syrian regime change plan completed.

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    2. I agree with you, anonymous. Putin has correctly identified the indecision and half-heartedness of the Coalition response. He's acted and has changed the international political situation even before the Russian forces in Syria have carried out any serious military actions.
      There was a video on Youtube yesterday (usual caveats re. accuracy of content apply) of former opponents of Assad handing over their weapons and surrendering. Things are not all bad for Assad (they are not great either but he's there).
      Putin's strength is in identifying when others are weak or indecisive.

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  8. Where I can learn more about the SU-30's in Greek airspace? Would you enlighten us about it?

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  9. Greece has offered Russia a bit of assistance in last few years - including an offer of naval docking points and now it seems airspace. Greece is at total loggerheads with EU dominating behemoth Germany and its Central Bank's demands for renegotiated finances. So no surprise Greece are playing their cards with traditionally linked Orthodox Russia, for both more independence and to wilfully irritate Germany (EU/NATO) and increase their political leverage and keep their options open. Greece also happy to kick Turkey in the eye over Syria issue - as Turkey is flooding Greece with immigrants in last ditch attempt to force EU to act on Syria.The USA meanwhile - lagging way behind - is starting to get very antsy over the airspace issue and is making demands to Greek government to cease aiding Russia. Politics.

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  10. What a fantastic blog I have ever seen. I didn’t find this kind of information till now. Thank you so much for sharing this information.

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