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March 30, 2016 No.
6368

Russian State-Owned Media Outlet Reveals Which Russian Military Hardware Will Remain In Syria After Withdrawal

On March 20, 2016, the Russian state-owned media outlet Sputnik published an article entitled "Not Coming Home: What Russian Hardware Stays in Syria After Pullout and Why." The article lists the military hardware slated to remain in the Hmeymim Air Base in Syria, after the withdrawal started on March 15, 2016. In a MEMRI report published on March 15, additional hardware is mentioned. On March 14, the day of the announcement of the Russian withdrawal, Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed that Russia's naval base at Tartus and its strategic Hmeymim airbase will continue to operate as before. On March 17, while honoring Russian officers who participated in the Syrian campaign, Putin said that Russia can build up its military campaign in Syria in a "few hours."[1] .

The following are excerpts from the English version of the Sputnik article:[2] published on the sputniknews.com website on March 20, 2016 (the text has been lightly edited for clarity):


Russian Su-30 jets landing at the Hmeymim Air Base.(Source: Sputniknews.com, March 20 2016)

Putin: Russia Can Build Up Its Military Presence In Syria In Just A Few Hours

"Nearly 20 Russian combat aircraft, an air defense system and some 2,000 personnel will stay at Hmeymim airbase in Syria. According to experts, the task force has several goals - fighting terrorism, supporting President Bashar Assad, and controlling the region... A squadron of Su-24 tactical bombers, including 9-12 aircraft, will be kept on duty in Syria. During the main stage of the campaign, these aircraft were responsible for the bulk of the airstrikes.

"The newest Su-30 and Su-35 jet fighters will also stay at the Hmeymim airbase for aerial protection, a Defense Ministry source told the Russian daily business newspaper Vedomosti. A source close to the military command confirmed to RBK that Su-35 4++ generation jets will stay at the base. Russia deployed four Su-35s to Syria on January 31, 2016. The Defense Ministry has not reported their withdrawal.

"Moscow will also keep its air defense system in Syria. 'Russian air defenses will be on combat duty in Syria and will be used against all targets posing threats to the Russian forces,' Putin said [at a March 17, 2016 ,ceremony honoring  Russian military and defense personnel who participated in the Russian air campaign in Syria].[3] He added that, an S-400 medium- and long-range complex and a Pantsir-S1 air-defense system will stay on duty in Syria. In addition, Ka-52 and Mi-28N attack helicopters have been spotted at the airbase, but their exact number is unknown.

"According to military expert Viktor Litovkin, the rest of the Russian task force will accomplish its goals. He outlined several main objectives: conducting airstrikes on terrorist targets, supporting the Syrian Army and its allies, and controlling the airspace in the region. 'All three aircraft [Su-24, Su-30 and Su-35] are capable of carrying out airstrikes against terrorists. But the Su-24 is not designed for aerial combat, and needs the support of jet fighters,' he told RBK..

"In addition to the jets, Syrian airspace and Hmeymim air base will also be protected by an S-400 air defense system,' Ruslan Pukhov, the director of the Analytic Center for Strategies and Technologies, said. [.. ]He added that with an S-400 deployed to the base, the Russian Aerospace Forces could not only establish a no-fly zone over the Hmeymim airbase, but also over the entire province of Latakia where the bulk of the Syrian Army is concentrated. The system has a maximum acquisition range of 600 km and a maximum strike range of 400 km. 'Within this radius, any aircraft can be tracked and then escorted by jets, 'Pukhov explained.


Russian Su-24 tactical bombers at the Hmeymim airbase in the Latakia Governorate of Syria. (Sputniknews.com, March 20, 2016)

"According to Litovkin, attack helicopters may be used against small groups of enemies and armored targets which cannot be hit by bombers.' The Ka-52 and the Mi-28N are armed with the Vikhr and Ataka anti-tank missiles as well as a 30-mm gun,' the expert said...

"What is more, some 200-300 civil specialists will remain at Hmeymim base. Military personnel will not be able to maintain aircraft and helicopters on their own. 'As many as 2,000 [Russian] personnel are required to operate the base. However, not all of them will be involved in combat missions,' Pukhov concluded. Both experts agreed that the rest of the Russian forces in Syria will be sufficient for the current objectives. 'Amid the peace talks the intensity of combat has decreased. This is why the current configuration of the Russian forces in Syria is rational,' Litovkin said. At the same time, at his meeting with the troops [Russian military and defense personnel who had participated in the Russian air campaign in Syria], Putin stressed that Russian can build up its military presence in just a few hours

"It is evident that this is not about a complete withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria. Russia will keep a small force at the Hmeymim base. It will also continue its technical and military assistance to Damascus"

 Endnotes:

[1] Sputniknews.com, March 17, 2016.

[2] Sputniknews.com, March 20, 2016.

[3] Sputniknews.com, March 17, 2016.