Russia Begins Surveillance Flights Over Syria

Russia has been flying intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance flights over Syria since the country began deploying troops and equipment in territory friendly to Syrian President Bashar al Assad, US Central Command officials said Friday. The command has tracked Russian ISR flights, in addition to the cargo sorties into the country, but has not seen any evidence of airstrikes or other combat activity, CENTCOM spokesman Col. Patrick Ryder said in a briefing with reporters. In the past few weeks, Russia has deployed fighter/attack aircraft, helicopters, modular housing, anti-aircraft missiles, tanks, and other support equipment to an airbase near Latakia. The US has repeatedly said it is unclear what Russia’s intentions are, but any actions to support the Assad regime would be “a real concern,” Ryder said. CENTCOM has not made any military contact with Russia, and the coalition will continue flying airstrikes in the country despite these deployments. (See also The Russia Calculus in Syria.)