Not Lida, as earlier reported, but Baranavichy will be home to a Russian Air Force fighter unit as from this month according to the Belarusian Private News Agency (BelaPAN). Initially four Sukhoi Su-27SM3 (Flanker) will be based at what is officially the 61st Fighter Air Base and 61st Assault Air Base of the Belarus Air Force.
The Russian permanent forward deployment is somewhat concerning to NATO, which just saw the Belarus defence forces weaken in December 2012. The former Soviet state withdrew its aging 17 single-seat Su-27Ps and 4 dual-seat Su-27UBM1 from active military service in that month, leaving its air defence to 12 modernized MiG-29BMs and 8 dual-seat MiG-29UBs.
Baranavichy Air Base is located on the southern edge of the town with the same name. It has only one runway (southwest-northeast vv). The main shelter and parking areas are north of the runway, but a smaller alert area is just south of the runway in the northeast. Moreover the base has some airplane facilities located in the forest just south of the main base.
With the growing economic and military might of Russia, Moscow is keen to protect its interests and strengthening its ties with its neighbouring ex-Soviet states. The fighter unit deployment can be seen as part of a bigger move to upgrade its defences and military readiness.
© 2013 AIRheads’ Marcel Burger