Israeli satellites reveal new Russian stealth bombers at Syrian base

Images taken by an Israeli firm revealed that Russia has deployed advanced stealth jet fighters at a Syria airbase. What are they doing there?

By: JNS.org and World Israel News Staff

Russia has deployed advanced warplanes to Syria, satellite images taken by Israeli firm Image Sat International proved over the weekend.

The Sukhoi Su-57 fighter jets were spotted stationed at the Khmeimim Air Base, a Syrian base operated by Russia southeast of the city of Latakia.

The Su-57 is a stealth, single-seat, twin-engine fighter jet. The fifth-generation warplane is the first aircraft in the Russian Air Force to use stealth technology.

The fighter reportedly has supercruise, stealth, supermaneuverability and advanced avionics to overcome prior-generation fighter aircraft as well as ground and maritime defenses. The aircraft is expected to have a service life of up to 35 years.

This poses the first confirmation that the state-of-the-art Russian jets are not only operational but in play in the civil war waged in Syria.

So far, both the Kremlin and the Russian Ministry of Defense have remained mum on the subject.

Testing or combat?

What are the planes doing there? Is their deployment testing-related, or is it also meant to send a political message?

Vladimir Gutenov, Duma lawmaker in charge of a commission supporting the Russian defense industry, told Russia’s Sputnik news that while he could not independently confirm the Su-57s’ deployment to Syria, he “whole-heartedly welcomed” the reports.

According to the lawmaker, the planes “need to be tested in combat conditions, in conditions of [enemy] resistance.” Furthermore, he said, the presence of the Su-57s will doubtlessly send a political message, serving as a deterrent “for aircraft from neighboring states which periodically fly” into the Middle Eastern country uninvited, possibly meaning Israel and the US.

Andrei Frolov, editor-in-chief of Arms Export, a Russian military publication, told RBC that the deployment would help to advertise the planes, especially to the Indian market.

Nikolai Antoshkin, Col-Gen (ret.) a veteran Soviet and Russian military pilot, commander and combat training specialist, explained that “fighters, like any other weapon, are tested mainly in combat. Therefore, sending the Su-57 to Syria is a natural solution.”

Not a threat to US

US Department of Defense spokesman Eric Pahon told reporters on Thursday that the US does  “not consider these jets to be a threat to our operations in Syria, and will continue to deconflict operations as necessary.”

However, Pahon noted that the deployment of the advanced aircraft to Syria would not seem to be “in keeping with Russia’s announced force drawdown.”