Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin surprised the world by declaring Russia would withdraw the bulk of its expeditionary force from Syria. Many believed the cost of the campaign had become too great in the face of a declining Russian economy, collapsing oil prices, Western sanctions, and the costly war in East Ukraine that continues to simmer.
This announcement seems to have been premature at best. Yes, many jet aircraft did leave. But what came back on transport planes ferrying supplies to the Middle East were gunships, a lot of them. Syria is not just seeing the well-known, formidable Hind helicopters, but many of Russia’s new hardware as well. The Russian arms showroom in Syria has simply entered a new phase.
“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.
While the air-superiority-focused Su-30 and Su-35S fighters remain – along with some of the Su-24 bomber aircraft – the fixed-wing contingent of Russia’s air campaign has seen its firepower substantially reduced since mid-March,” report Al-Jazeera.
The development most likely comes as jet fighters become less relevant now that anti-Assad forces have been effectively dealt with and the campaign turns to more surgical strikes against the terrorist Islamic State. In any event, the death of Russia’s involvement in Syria seems to have been greatly exaggerated.