Russia bolsters Syria air fleet with latest stealth fighter, as Eastern Ghouta carnage rages

Russia bolsters Syria air fleet with latest stealth fighter, as Eastern Ghouta carnage rages
New additions to Russia's air force in Syria include the fifth generation Su-57 aircraft, which will likely play a role in Moscow's future bombing of opposition areas.
3 min read
22 February, 2018
Russian aircraft fly low in Latakia [Syrian Military Capabilities-Facebook]

Russia has ramped up its presence at a military airbase in western Syria, including the deployment of one of the latest fighter jets in production.

Footage from Syria purports to show new Russian aircraft - including the fifth generation Sukhoi Su-57 - preparing to land at Hmeimim airbase in Latakia province.

The deployment coincides with a massive bombardment of Eastern Ghouta with over 370 civilians killed and hundreds injured since Sunday.

Moscow has denied any role in the assault, but photos have shown Russian jets flying overhead the opposition enclave close to Damascus this week.

New arsenal

Syria commentator Wael al-Hussaini shared the video Wednesday that purports to show two Su-57 landing at the Latakia airbase.

The Su-57 is the first Russian fighter jet to use stealth technology and is due to enter service in the air force this year.

Hussaini said on Twitter that Russia also bolstered its air fleet in Latakia with four Su-35 and four Su-25 fighter jets.

Also arriving at Hmeimim is the Soviet-era A-50U early warning and control aircraft (AEW).

They will join the unknown number of Su-34 and Mig-29s already stationed at the base, which have played a lead role in the Syria war. 

The Su-57s will likely be trialled in Syria rather than take part in actual combat.

The movement of aircraft comes weeks after Israeli raids targeted Syrian air defence systems, leading to one jet being downed.

Russia supplies Syria with nearly all its ground-to-air missiles, including the S-400. Some Russian servicemen are believed to be operating these systems in Syria.

The US has warned it could target Syrian regime positions if chemical attacks on opposition areas continue. 

As many as 200 Russian mercenary fighters were killed in a series of US air strikes in eastern Syria earlier this month after Washington-backed fighters stationed nearby came under attack by regime forces.


Analysts believe the latest deployment is likely to send a warning to countries such as the US against intervention in Syria.

"Russia ramps up presence in Syria. To make sure the message is heard it sends its newest 5th generation fighter jets as well," wrote Russia and Middle East consultant Yury Barmin on Twitter. 

"The deployment is largely symbolic but is indicative of Russia's intentions."

Hmeimim came under fire earlier this year leaving a number of Russian aircraft stationed at the base damaged.

Moscow claimed that rebels bombed the planes using weaponised drones, but analysts have cast doubts on these claims.

Russia entered the Syria war in September 2015, launching air strikes on opposition areas and providing support to regime troops.

NGOs have condemned Moscow's air campaign with groups such as Human Rights Watch saying joint Russian-Syrian strikes have destroyed hospitals and other civilian infrastructure.

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