Al Jazeera reports: Russian President Vladimir Putin surprised the world by abruptly declaring on March 15 that Russia was withdrawing its forces from Syria in the wake of a partial ceasefire deal between regime forces and certain moderate opposition groups.
For the next few days the global media was treated to impressive footage of Su-25 attack jets, Su-24 bombers and powerful Su-34 fighter bombers steaming out of their Syrian base of operations at Latakia and returning to Russia to a rapturous reception from families of the crews and the public.
Lumbering Antonov transport aircraft flew repeated sorties back and forth between Russia and Latakia at the same time, extracting material and personnel associated with the fighter bomber squadrons.
However, as has become abundantly clear, far from being a true withdrawal or drawdown, more equipment and personnel were brought back to Syria from Russia on the return leg of these transport flights than were taken out.
What has changed is the force mix and capabilities Russia is now deploying to support President Bashar al-Assad’s war effort. The combat-proven Mi-35 Hind helicopter gunship detachment has seen its numbers increased, while the more modern Mi-28 Havoc and state-of-the-art Ka-52 Alligator have joined the fight for the first time. [Continue reading…]