Latest imagery shows 28 Russian aircraft (12 Su-24s, 12 Su-25s and 4 Su-30s) on the ground at airbase in Syria

Sep 22 2015 - 19 Comments

Imagery taken on Sept. 21 shows 28 aircraft on the ground at Latakia airbase.

A satellite image has finally unveiled the whole Russian Air Force contingent made of 28 combat planes deployed to Syria: taken on Sept. 21, the photograph shows 4 Su-30SMs, 12 Su-25SMs and 12 Su-24s lined up, in the open air, along runway 17L at al-Assad International Airport, near Latakia, in western Syria.

Whether the aircraft will remain at Latakia (where no hardened shelters have been built yet) or will move somewhere else is unclear. For the moment, they are expected to launch the first sorties from Latakia quite soon.

Based on the couple of videos emerged so far, it seems quite likely that the 28 aircraft deployed to Syria in four-ship formations led by Il-76s, Il-78s and (maybe) An-124 airlifters, in radio silence and shadowing the accompanying cargo/tanker planes to remain “stealth” to radars along the route.

Top Image: Alan Wilson/Wiki. Imagery: Copyright CNES 2015, Distribution Airbus DS


  • InvaderNat

    Why do they keep parking them on the runway? Is there no decent tarmac left over by the hangars or something? Seems weird.

    • AISCAero

      There’s not a lot of apron at that airfield. There’s an article in the UK Telegraph with some before and after shots as well as a nice ground level shot of the aircraft.

  • CharleyA

    Nicely lined up – on a runway. Perfect for a terrorist attack.

    • rob908

      US aircraft were parked wing-tip to wing-tip at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked in 1941. The decision to park aircraft that way was to make it easier for sentries to guard them against sabotage. That decision also made the aircraft easy targets for bombers though.

      I would assume that the Russians are not concerned about the non-existent ISIL air force and more concerned that guards can defend a smaller perimeter against a ISIL ground raid. That said, I would also assume that the ground within mortar range of the aircraft is under their or “friendly” control.

      • disqus_STXkrV9NGc

        ISIS isn’t a threat in Latakia. They don’t control any land nearby. The threat here would be the Free Syrian Army or Nusra Front.

  • Marco

    “in radio silence and shadowing the accompanying cargo/tanker planes to remain “stealth” to radars along the route”. This is quite a big assumption. Do you mean another country is giving the transit for a cargo type plane and the Russians are sneaking in with unauthorized jet fighters?? That would cause a big a noise in NATO countries. It would represent a huge security breach and mostly political shame. Please elaborate this theory.

    • cencio4

      The entire sentence is:
      “it seems quite likely that the 28 aircraft deployed to Syria in four-ship formations led by Il-76s, Il-78s and (maybe) An-124 airlifters, in radio silence and shadowing the accompanying cargo/tanker planes to remain “stealth” to radars along the route.”

      It’s not an assumption. It’s an hypothesis. And I’m not the only to believe they flew in that way.

      BTW, you just used the part of the text you needed for your usual unbiased, constructive, insightful comment.

      • Marco

        David I really like your blog but sometimes you push the things in a Tom Clancy novel away from 21th century reality. You are clearly suggesting a scenario that simply did not happen because not required. You mix this stealth with radio silence, shadowing… no! They simply flew across authorized air space or at least with tacit consent. This kind of things do not happen today.

        • cencio4
          • Marco

            David, those sources are wonderful… but let’s try to move beyond some journo’s story based on a 1986 stunt movie (Top Gun). Just think about the situation. 4 tactical fighter-bombers forming up with one of the big boys (possibly a tanker they needed to refuel) and flying across the authorized air space of Iran, Iraq finally in Syria or wherever, eventually even landing in Iran to refuel. Finally they perfectly line up in full satellite view for a nice photo album.

            In a police investigation, you need a motive. Now tell me, what was their motive in trying to be “stealth” moving through friendly and authorized airspace and finally nicely lining up on the tarmac?

            Do you realize that by any reasonable thinking they were simply… well… flying in formation? quite a common military tactic for the past 70 years when transiting to a different airfield, even more when flying over a long distance in a relatively small tactical jet.

            • cencio4

              Do you really believe that some armed combat planes (at least the four Su-30SMs were armed) would easily get a diplomatic clearance from Baghdad?
              Twice in the days preceding the deployment, Russian Il-76 were forced to turn back because they were denied the clearance. The fact that they were allied in the past does not mean the Iraqi are so happy of Russian planes freely crossing their airspace…
              The idea that allied countries let foreign planes enter their airspace is at least naive.
              Have you ever heard of British or US planes intercepted by Italian military aircraft because they hadn’t a prior approval or their diplo clearance had expired? It happens every now and then. Yes, aircraft fly in formation with tankers from decades, but unless there is a war, the FPL must specify the exact number of planes in the formation.

              There is also another thing to consider. Let’s assume the Iraqi knew in advance that Russian armed planes were about to cross their airspace. Staging a covert operation and hiding the planes would be important to pretend nobody knew the deployment in advance and keep a sort of neutral posture….

              • Marco

                Iraq is actually quite happy about the Russian deployment in the region and it’s shifting more and more into Iranian and Russian sphere of influence, check around it’s one of the latest news.
                Main reasons being the US inability to deliver F-16s and other military equipment in support of the government when they needed and the US missing a clear commitment in fighting any non-governmental Sunni group.

                Anyway coming back to this Russian deployment, the “hiding” “stealth” part was clearly over-reported and not stinking to reality at all. At the beginning it was looking like some Tom Clancy style secret deployment, now, with this reply you clearly scaled down the thing by saying it may have happened “over Iraq”, an air space that in its northern part is basically out of Iraqi control for the past several years. Turkish and Iranian air traffic controllers may have a clearer picture of the area than their Iraqi counterparts but without any official authority… and overall all the facts suggest quite a different situation about that deployment and this thing has been mounted up… btw no one in the region raised a word about “Russian illegal flights”, so I think all was authorized and planned in advance without any surprise.

                • Poor Latina Trans Gender

                  Considering Russia ‘gave’ Iraq a bunch of Sukhoi 24 to combat IS a year ago it would be really odd to not allow them the use of their air space.

    • TJ

      Nothing to do with a security breach. The flights would have been with permission of Iran and Iraq and NOT over NATO countries. It would appear that the Russians used the Iran Iraq route with some of the fighters trailing the cargo/tanker aircraft.

      • marco

        Exactly. Then elaborate the claim about close formation to keep a single radar contact, stealth and radio silence when flying across authorized air space. Do you see the point now? This is not Top Gun.

  • Jan Schmidt

    first i saw this photo i had “rockeye” and “durandal” in my mind, you just do not put the aircraft in line on the taxiway (or runway), instant shooting gallery … the islamists will target the airbase for sure now. no hardened aircraft hangars, no tarmac, btw the european spy sats are now way better than us sats (KH), they downgraded the photos to hide the 50 cm resolution:

    • Mark

      Ground photo

  • Steve Fortson

    They don’t shadow them to remain stealthy, they shadow them because there’s no point in NOT shadowing them since they require so many hookups to the tanker. Western fighters fly off the wingtips when they’re not hooked up, then rotate onto the boom/drogue. It just makes sense to stay close to the tanker.

  • TJ

    There is no suggestion that the Russians flew fighter aircraft masked on that route. They used the Iran Iraq route where the fighters trailed the cargo/tanker aircraft.