Russia this week officially confirmed it has based Tu-22M Backfire bombers at Hamedan airbase in Iran for strike missions over Syria. Pictures show several Backfires being prepared on the ground in surroundings resembling those of the Iranian desert.
Backfires have seen use over Syria a number of times already, supporting forces loyal to president Assad in their fight against rebel forces. A number of videos showed up of the Backfires apparently ‘carpet’ bombing rebel positions, which raises fear of even more civilian casualties in war torn Syria.
Previously, the bombers flew all the way from Russia for missions over the area. Basing the aircraft in Iran allows for much shorter missions.
The basing of the bombers also means Moscow is getting a stronger foothold in the area, which wil be reinforced when the sole Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov supposedly arrives in the Mediterranean this Fall. The ship should bring Ka-52 attack helicopters in theater,m according to sources in Moscow.
The movements are also concerning in light of the flickering conflict in South East Ukraine, where Russian and Ukranian weapons and personnel are facing each other. Russia’s latest movement could be seen as a way to shield off the entire Black Sea from any Western militaries taking an interest in the Ukrainian situation.
Royal Netherlands Air Forc (RNLAF) F-16s ended operations over Iraq and Syria on Tuesday 28 June. Since deploying to the area in October 2014, Dutch crews chalked up 2,100 mission, during 1,800 of which weapons were deployed. The Dutch jets will return home on 30 June while Belgian F-16s take their place.
The RNLAF operated from Jordan throughout the deployment, first with six jets plus two reserved and eventually with four jets plus two reserves.
The return marks a rare opportunity for RNLAF crews to catch some breath. Dutch F-16s have actively involved in many conflicts for decades. In the early Nineties, Dutch Vipers supported a no-fly zone over Bosnia. Several years later, they took part in the air war over Kosovo. Also, the RNLAF took part in operations over Afghanistan for many years. In 2011, the Dutch saw limited action during the allied campaign over Libya.
The next scheduled deployment is in 2017, when the Dutch take their turn in NATO’s Baltic Air Policing Mission in the Baltic states.
Polish Minister of Defence Antoni Macierewicz has confirmed plans to deploy four F-16 fighters for Middle East reconaissance missions, supporting coalition against so-called ISIS. The MoD decision still needs to be accepted by Polish prime minister and president, but according to MoD Chief, planning is already finished and crews are ready.
The contingent of four fighter aircraft and up to 150 personnel should be based in Kuwait. Further Polish support of coalition effort would be 60 special forces operators, deployed to Iraq. Their tasks would cover advising and training of iraqi special forces personnel.
Aircraft should be present in the operations area before Warsaw’s NATO Summit, beginning on 8th of July. Jastrzabs, as they are known in Polish AF, would be tasked with reconaissance missions only. Polish Air Force flies 48 F-16 block 52+, which are equipped with Goodrich DB-110 reconaissanse pods.
The same recce tasks are now fulfilled in the ISIS’ conflict area by Luftwaffe Tornados. Six German fighter-bombers and Airbus A310 MRTT tanker are now based in Incirlik in Turkey.
The US is sending AH-64 Apache attack helicopters to Iraq in support of the campaign against so-called Islamic State forces. US president Barrack Obama decided to send extra US troops also.
The decision to send Apache means the US will base aircraft in Iraq for the first time since officialy pulling out its military in the troubled country in December 2011. The move comes ahead of a Iraqi military push to recapture the city of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city.
US forces are already in Iraq to train Iraqi soldiers. The added Apaches also bring 200 additional troops, bringing the total of US troops in the country to 4,087.
If the Danish government has its way, Royal Danish Air Force F-16s will rejoin the fight against Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria. Plans were unfolded in Copenhagen on Friday 4 March to send F-16s to the area, along with a C-130 transport aircraft and 400 personnel. The Danish jets already operated over Iraq until October 2015.
The deployment plan comes after initial reports over a supposed lack of appropriate training of Danish F-16 pilots. Also, earlier operations were said to have taken their toll on equipment and people. The Danish operated from Kuwait earlier, using seven F-16s.
France and the US requested the support of the Danes again in fighting Islamic State or Daesh forces in Iraq and Syria. A parliamentary vote on the issue is expected in the first half of April.
Dutch and Belgian F-16s were also involved in combat missions before. Currently, only Dutch F-16s remain in theatre. Their mission will end in October, with Belgian F-16s returning to take their place.