Russia Using Syria As Testing Ground For New Weaponry
Russia’s deputy defense minister revealed that Moscow has tested over 600 new weapons and other military equipment in Syria since intervening in the conflict in 2015. Yury Borisov’s comments came on the same day that the head of the powerful defense committee in Russia’s Duma (lower house of parliament) claimed that 200 of the items were next-generation arms. According to analysts, these include advanced aircraft, land vehicles, cruise missiles and precision-guided munitions, in addition to armory, battlefield drones and electronic warfare systems. One prominent example is the previous introduction into Syria of the Sukhoi Su-34 fighter jet, twelve of which were thereafter, perhaps not coincidentally, reportedly sold to Algeria. Other countries such as Indonesia, India and Nigeria, among others, have likewise expressed interest in the plane since it became battle-tested, allowing for tangible evaluation of its performance. Similarly, purchase agreements for the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile defense system have been forged since 2015 with Iran and Turkey, for example. The matter has gained greater attention in the wake of last week’s deployment to Syria of two Russian Su-57 stealth fighters. Israeli satellite imagery showed the fifth-generation jets, Moscow’s answer to the U.S.’ F-22 Raptor and F-35, stationed at the Khmeimim air force base in the coastal province of Latakia. Although the Su-57s are not believed to be fully operational, their eventual use could alter the strategic balance in the conflict, a concern for Jerusalem in particular which to date has been granted by Russia relative freedom of action in Syria’s skies in order to prevent the transfer of weaponry to Iranian proxy Hizbullah and, increasingly, to target permanent military infrastructure built by Tehran in the war-torn nation.
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