Russia has moved its most capable operational fighter aircraft, the Su-35S derivative of the Flanker family of combat aircraft, to its airfield outpost in Syria. Now, video has been released showing these aircraft operating from the base while loaded with air-to-air missiles.
This move comes as Russia has already dramatically fortified its Syrian base with the best air defense systems it has, including the S-400 surface-to-air missile system. Additionally, its advanced Su-34 Fullback fighter-bombers have been seen carrying air-to-air missiles—something that was not the case before the shoot-down.
Foxtrot Alpha predicted that Russia would escalate its aerial defenses in Syria dramatically following the deadly engagement, and Russia later said they would fly their attack missions with fighter escorts. This, combined with the fact that Russia has used any and every excuse to show off its best military hardware during the now four month old bombing campaign, makes the Su-35's arrival no real surprise. Really, the Su-35s involvement in Russia’s air campaign in Syria is as much about fighter export sales and reminding the world that it is indeed a major military player than it is about injecting new and relevant military capabilities into the operation.
The Su-35S is a capable and deadly machine, especially within close range where it can put its thrust vectoring to use, but how it changes the equation when compared with the Su-30SMs that preceded it at Russia’s airbase in Syria remains unclear.
Still, Turkey—a country that Russia is now firmly at odds with since the shoot-down—will now know that should their F-16s be ordered to launch a missile at a Russian jet once again (which is a possibility), another missile could very well be coming right back their way. And that missile could be guided by Russia’s most deadly fighter.
Top photo via YouTube screen capture
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