Russia’s Syria Force Increased

Russian state media announced that the bombers that participated in a cruise missile attack on targets in Syria on Nov. 17—as well as some additional fighters—are now part of the overall Syrian action force, presumably under command of the Syrian aviation group commander, though they will continue to operate from bases in Russia. The defense ministry said five Tu-160 Blackjack bombers, six Tu-95MS Bear bombers, 14 Tu-22M3 Backfire bombers, eight Su-34 Fullback strike jets, and four Su-27SMs have been added to the Aviation Brigade dedicated to Syrian operations. They join four Su-30SM Flankers, four Su-34 Fullbacks, 12 SU-25SM Frogfoots, 12 SU-24M Fencers, 12 Mi-24 Hinds, and four Mi-8 Hips, all deployed since late September at a Syrian air base in Latakia, from which they have been attacking anti-regime targets, chiefly in Western and Northern Syria. Coalition spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said Wednesday the Nov. 17 attack was the first time Russia contacted the US before a strike because of the size of the multi-ship formation. Warren also said Russia is launching cruise missiles through Iraqi airspace, adding another layer of complexity to the air space. Since the memorandum of understanding was signed last month, US and Russian officials have spoken daily to test the line of communication, but the Nov. 17 attack remains the only time the line has been used operationally.