Photo Credit: TASS
Two Sukhoi Su-25 warplanes seen from below the wing of an Ilyushin-76

A new group of Russian warplanes has left the Khmeimim air base in Syria for Russia, Russian Defense Ministry’s press service and information department reported. The group includes the “leader plane” – a giant Ilyushin-76 aircraft, as well as Sukhoi Su-25 attack planes.

The Russian long-range flights from Khmeimim are made in groups, according to the defense ministry. “Each group consists of the leader — a military transport jet (a Tupolev-154 or Ilyushin-76) carrying engineering personnel and material assets and equipment, followed by Russian combat planes of different types,” the Defense Ministry reported. The group flies in this formation until it crosses the border of the Russian Federation, and then the planes head for their individual bases, making stops for refueling and maintenance.


Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday ordered the pullout of the bulk of Russia’s air force contingency from Syria, asserting his own version of former president GW Bush’s “Mission accomplished.”

Russia joined the operation against terrorists in Syria on September 30, 2015 at the request of Syrian president Bashar Assad. A ceasefire took effect in Syria on February 27, agreed to by Russia and the US. The ceasefire does not include ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra.

President Putin’s target in his army’s relatively short stay in Syria was to reestablish President Bashar al-Assad as a viable alternative for ruling his war-torn country, Middle East observers say. That mission has been accomplished. From the start of its involvement, the Russian air force focused not so much on ISIS or Al Qaeda, but on the rebel groups who are supported by the US and Saudi Arabia. Those groups, for all intents and purposes, have been degraded to the point of irrelevance, with the only two alternatives remaining being Assad or ISIS. Backed by a remaining Russian military contingency, Assad’s path to reestablishing himself as the preferred ruler of Syria is now clearer than it was in the summer.


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