Russia is to base up to a squadron of Sukhoi Su-27s at the doorstep of NATO in Belarus. Before the end of 2013 the Flankers, as they are being designated by NATO., will likely find a new home near the city of Lida.
Belarusian Defense Minister Yury Zhadobi confirmed on Wednesday that Russia will have a fighter unit in his country before the new year starts. Earlier Russian military experts said that Lida was the preferred location, situated near the Belarus borders with Poland and Lithuania.
The move is extra interesting since Belarus just withdrew its aging 17 single-seat Su-27Ps and 4 dual-seat Su-27UBM1 in December 2012 from active military service, leaving its air defence to 12 modernized MiG-29BMs and 8 dual-seat MiG-29UBs. Officially Belarus has an additional 18 MiG-29Bs, but the airworthiness status of those older aircraft is unknown.
Russia and Belarus both seem keen to keep their air assets at level. On paper NATO has 84 fighter jets on its borders with Belarus. The Polish Air Force flies 48 Lockheed Martin F-16 Jastrząb and 32 Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-29s.
The Baltic Air Policing mission of NATO based in Lithuania has an additional four fighter jets. This mission is rotated between NATO countries and it will be Belgian F-16s flying from the Baltic States the coming months.
© 2013 AIRheads’ Marcel Burger