UPDATE 21 September | Russia is beefing up its military presence in Syria in such a way that it will be able to operate from an airhead independently with proper defences both in the air and on the ground.
UPDATE | Recent satellite images seem to confirm the presence of at least twelve Su-25 Frogfoots and four Su-30 Flanker in Syria. See image below. US sources say 12 Sukhoi Su-24 Fencers are in Syria as well.
— Air Force Freak (@AlRFORCEFREAK) 21 September 2015
Basid al-Assad Airbase is since Friday home to four Russian Air Force Sukhoi Su-30 Flanker multi-role fighters, strengthening the eight helicopters (Mi-24 “Hind” attack and Mi-17 “Hip” assault choppers) that were delivered by cargo planes earlier, according to US military sources. The field is located 12 miles (20 km) south from the strategic important port of Latakia, a city that is controlled by the Syrian government army.
Syrian, Russian and American sources report that Russian engineers have started to lengthen the runways, pave parking areas for aircraft and ground equipment and improve other infrastructure on the base, which recently have seen the flow of small numbers of up to one or two dozen main battle tanks, mobile artillery and at least 30 to 40 infantry BTR-type fighting vehicles / armoured personnel carriers. Amongst the Russian aircraft seen landing at Basid al-Assad were Antonov AN-124 Ruslan (“Condor”) and Ilyushin IL-76 (“Candid”) strategic airlifters.
According to the Pentagon 500 Russian marines are inside Syria, while Russia is said to have moved pre-fab housing to the airbase to serve as the living quarters of 2,000 personnel. Officially all Russian forces are there to “advise” Syria, but several military sources think an increased Russian presence will fight side-by-side with the Syrian government army against the many rebel factions opposing the current regime.
Meanwhile the US-led coalition continues to bomb so-called Islamic State forces positions further east in Syria, and in Iraq, with the Royal Australian Air Force and the French Air Force recently expanding their operations also into Syrian air space.
© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: Archive photo of a Russian Air Force Su-27SM3 performing at the Zhukovsky airshow in August 2012 (Image (CC) Alan Wilson)