As tensions rise with Turkey after the shooting down of a Russian SU-24 late last year by Turkish (NATO) F-16s, the Russian Air Force has moved its frontline fighter into the theater to provide protection and an air superiority capability for Russian ground attack aircraft.
“Starting from last week, super-maneuverable Su-35S fighter jets started performing combat missions at Khmeimim airbase,” Maj. Gen. Konashenkov told the Russian state news agency, TASS.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Monday that Su-35 fighters have been deployed to Hemeimeem air base in Syria. There are at least 4 SU-35s in theater at the moment according to reports.
Overall, U.S. defense officials are quite impressed with this latest Flanker variant. “It’s a great airplane and very dangerous, especially if they make a lot of them,” one senior U.S. military official with extensive experience on fifth-generation fighters told me some time ago. “I think even an AESA [active electronically scanned array-radar equipped F-15C] Eagle and [Boeing F/A-18E/F] Super Hornet would both have their hands full,” reported National Interest.
The aircraft deployment is not just for firepower but is providing an opportunity to test the combat systems of the new plane. It also will allow Russia to assert the aircraft is combat proven to potential buyers like the Chinese. In combination with the S-400 anti-aircraft missile system, Russia can now fully protect its aircraft while prosecuting the air war against ISIS and the Syrian opposition.