The decision to deploy additional assets in combat against the Islamic State and other anti-government organizations in Syria has been motivated with the will of retaliation for the terrorist act against the Russian A321 airliner and the Paris terror acts. Vladimir Putin also announced that he is going to closely cooperate with Paris, when it comes to the crisis in the Middle East, however this may be interpreted, above all, as Russian propaganda. The main emphasis has been placed on increasing the operational capabilities of the Russian Air Force.
On 17th November, Russian Tu-22M3, Tu-160 and Tu-95 strategic bombers conducted strikes against the Syrian targets, both using several dumb bombs, as well as with the use of the latest cruise missiles. Russian Ministry of Defence declared that the operational component in that area is going to be permanently supported by 25 strategic bombers operating from Engels (Saratov Oblast) and Mozdok (Northern Ossetia) airbases. However, involvement of these bombers is, most probably, not going to be significant. This refers mainly to use of the costly Kh-101 modern cruise missiles, the application of which is tactically unjustified. Using this type of advanced armament in Syria is primarily an element of the Kremlin’s propaganda.
However, deployment of additional 12 attack aircraft to Syria is going to be far more significant. Here, we are referring to eight Su-34Fullback bombers and four Su-27SM Flankers. The jets listed above came to Syria on 17th November.
Within the framework of supporting the Syrian operation, Russian satellite and reconnaissance systems are also involved in the activities. According to the Russian Ministry of Defence, besides the satellites used in the area, the operational activities are going to involve 10 more “space objects”, both civilian, as well as military ones. In case of some of the above satellites, the change is limited to rotation of the optronic and radar systems, towards Syria. Some of the aforesaid objects though, need to change their orbits, so that they would remain operational for longer period of time, over the area of interest. The Russians are also willing to use the operational reserve satellites. Moreover, there are plans to put new satellites into the orbit.
For VVS, Syria is a proving ground, making it possible to test a wide variety of armament and combat systems. Periodic use of the latest precision guided munitions, including cruise missiles and guided bombs, gives Russian forces an opportunity to verify the operational usability and effectiveness of the said weapons. For the first time it is possible to employ satellite navigation and observation systems in conjunction with strategic aviation realizing the combat sorties.