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.
The Russian Army has turned up the volume to put some pressure on the Baltic countries Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Since this week a new attack / assault helicopter brigade is buzzing NATO’s eastern flank from Ostrov Airbase, about 20 miles (32 km) east of the border with Latvia.
The formerly run-down, reserve base has been gearing up ever since December 2013, when the 15th Army Aviation Brigade was officially formed at Ostrov. Since this week three helicopter squadrons operating tens of attack and assault/transport helicopters apparently make daily training flights, according to several reports we received.
One squadron operates the Mil Mi-28N Night Hunter, a second the Kamov Ka-52 Alligator. Both are splendid attack helicopters that you don’t want to face if your on the other side of the battlefield.
The third squadron operates the Mil Mi-26T heavy-lift choppers as well as Mil Mi-8MTV-5s, bringing a great supply line to any forward operating units. The Russian Western Military District earlier said it will bring Ostrov’s 15th AAB up to a total of five squadrons – not disclosing yet what the additional two units will fly for type of aircraft.
The proximity of Ostrov to the rest of Europe brings the capitals of the Baltic states plus Finland – and there military facilities, within striking distance of large and in theory formidable attack helicopter force. Centrally and strategically located Riga – the capital of Latvia – can be reached in about an hour. No wonder the Baltic states have become a bit more nervous lately about the Russian pressure on their doorstep.
NATO’s secretary general pleaded as late as last week again for alliance’s member states to put more dough into their military, while non-NATO members Sweden and Finland are getting closer to tighter military cooperation between the two of them.
The Iraqi Army Aviation received its first four Mi-35M Hind-Es on November 7th, 2013, with at least six more to follow as a part of the build-up a sizeable attack helicopter fleet that will include Havocs and possibly even Alligators.
Apart from the Mi-35s Iraq is getting 36 Mil Mi-28NE Night Hunters (NATO-name Havoc). Most of the aircraft are due to be delivered by the end of 2013. The status of the contract for at least 10 Kamov Ka-52 Alligators is uncertain. There are conflicting reports on the deal. Some say the Alligators have been cancelled, some say it will be a single-seat version of the side-by-side attack helicopter.
The Ka-52 is designed as an all-weather day-and-night attack helicopter for destroying enemy hard and soft ground targets, low-speed aerial targets and to eliminate enemy troops on a tactical level. It is good for surveillance missions and control of an attack combat helicopter team. Originally designed as the single-seat Ka-50 (NATO-name Hokum), the side-by-side two-seat version has given the type an unique advantage.
The Mi-28NE Night Hunter attack helicopter is designed to carry out search-and-destroy operations against tanks, armored vehicles and personnel; to destroy protected sites and defense installations; to fly search-and-destroy operations against boats and other small naval vessels; and to combat low-speed and low-altitude enemy aircraft. The Mi-28NE is fitted with an integrated avionics suite that allows NOE flight on auto-pilot at night and in adverse conditions.
The Mi-35 is the most multipurpose helicopter of the three, being a combat asset with a small cargo haul enough to house 6 fully-equipped combat troops or a payload of 2,400 kg in addition to the crew of 2. All three helicopters have a top speed of about 161 knots (300 kmh) and can operate up to an altitude of about 16,500 feet (5,5 km).
Source: Rosobornexport / Russian Helicopters with additional reporting by AIRheads’ Marcel Burger