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Russian SU-30SM in Syria, not SU-27

September 20, 2015

By Chris Biggers

AB (19SEPT15) al-Assad International

This post was originally written for after several comments questioning the imagery identification were posted on Twitter.

Recent satellite imagery acquired by Airbus of al-Assad International airport in Syria shows four SU-30SM aircraft, not four SU-27 Flanker as originally reported by the Institute for the Study of War.

The aircraft are easily mistaken for the SU-27 due to the modern variant’s use of the same airframe. The only predominant identifier on satellite imagery separating these aircraft from the earlier model is the canards positioned forward on the fuselage which assist with the aircraft’s thrust vectoring capability.

Located on the north side of the runway at Latakia, the SU-30SM multi-role fighters are one of Russia’s more advanced 4+ generation aircraft, often compared to the U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle. This variant is equipped with a passive electronically scanned array (PESA) BARS radar, fly-by-wire flight controls, modern ECM as well as thrust vectoring, making this a highly maneuverable and capable fighter.

The Flankers complement Russia’s growing presence in the Middle Eastern country which now include main battle tanks, APCs and attack helos (ISW, NYT, Reuters). Some sources have even hinted at a Russian S-300 presence, though that’s not yet confirmed.

Russia’s Irkut Corporation delivered the first batch of SU-30SM to the 6982nd Air Base at Domna in November 2013. As of June 2015, a total of 17 of the aircraft have been observed at the Siberian airbase on satellite imagery. Given orders confirmed at the end of last year, Russia should acquire at least 72 of the aircraft.

Since the post was created at Offiziere earlier today, the Institute for the Study of War updated their tweet:

ISW Tweet Update
Chris Biggers

Chris Biggers is a public and private sector consultant based in Washington, D.C.

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    • Thebird

      Check out the airport. In satellite view you’ll find two runways. It is not unusual to park military aircraft on one of the runways when limited parking area is available. Has been done since ages.

    • Bob

      Bassel Al-Assad International Airport where those aircraft have landed is principle a Civilian Airport. The only military presence there are 2 helicopter squadrons. No hardened hangars, the type used at Military Bases, exist. Seeing that such aircraft represent a prime target the Russians tie them down away from structures.

      No doubt the Russians will either construct hangars at the airport in the near future or build an entirely new facility near the Port in Tartus.

  1. pat

    And one still wonders why the presence of air to air missiles and their latest ground to air missile defence systems deployed on the ground , always the same with the Russians always trying to send a message of sorts , as Putin heads for the UN and his coming out from the cold speech , and yet he still doesn’t see that his BS and continual insulting ones intelligence will just portray him as a Woolf in sheep’s clothing in New York


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