The Wall Street Journal reports: Russian forces appear to be expanding their military presence in Syria through the development of two additional bases, according to new satellite imagery viewed by The Wall Street Journal.
The expansion near Syria’s Mediterranean coast is the latest sign Russia is preparing to inject its military forces into the country’s chaotic civil war, creating new challenges for the U.S.-led coalition trying to force President Bashar al-Assad from power and defeat Islamic State militants.
Until recently, the Russian buildup in Syria was largely focused on an air base south of the port city of Latakia. Moscow has shipped more than two dozen combat aircraft to the airfield, where Russian surveillance drones have started flying, according to U.S. defense officials. Russia has also sent tanks, air-defense systems, armored-personnel carriers and enough housing for 2,000 people, officials have said.
Now, satellite images from IHS Jane’s, a defense-intelligence provider, show an additional, previously undisclosed, Russian military expansion.
The images from mid-September show development of a weapons depot and military facility north of Latakia, suggesting that Russia is preparing to place troops in both places, according to Robert Munks, editor of IHS Jane’s Intelligence Review. [Continue reading…]
The New York Times reports: Russia has sharply increased the number of combat aircraft at an air base near Latakia, Syria, giving its forces a new ability to strike targets on the ground in the war-stricken country.
Over the weekend, Russia deployed a dozen Su-24 Fencer and a dozen Su-25 Frogfoot ground-attack planes, bringing to 28 the number of warplanes at the base, a senior United States official said on Monday. Until the weekend, the only combat planes there had been four Flanker air-to-air fighters.
The deployment of some of Russia’s most advanced ground attack planes and fighter jets as well as multiple air defense systems at the base near the ancestral home of President Bashar al-Assad appears to leave little doubt about Moscow’s goal to establish a military outpost in the Middle East. The planes are protected by at least two or possibly three SA-22 surface-to-air, antiaircraft systems, and unarmed Predator-like surveillance drones are being used to fly reconnaissance missions.
“With competent pilots and with an effective command and control process, the addition of these aircraft could prove very effective depending on the desired objectives for their use,” said David A. Deptula, a retired three-star Air Force general who planned the American air campaigns in 2001 in Afghanistan and in the 1991 Persian Gulf war.
In addition, a total of 15 Russian Hip transport and Hind attack helicopters are also now stationed at the base, doubling the number of those aircraft from last week, the American official said. For use in possible ground attacks, the Russians now also have nine T-90 tanks and more than 500 marines, up from more than 200 last week. [Continue reading…]