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New Satellite Imagery Shows Russian Su-24 Jets at the Hmeimim Air Base

January 20, 2017

By Bellingcat Investigation Team

Translations: Русский

Earlier this week, the Russian Ministry of Defense declared that it has withdrawn a flight of Su-24 (Fencer) ground-attack aircrafts from Syria. This declaration came soon after the withdrawal of Russia’s lone aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov.

From the Hmeimim Air Base, the Russian base south of Latakia, Russia has conducted thousands sorties against its targets in Syria, which have mostly included anti-government rebels, along with some attacks against ISIS. As of October 26, 2016, there were eleven Su-24 jets present on the aprons of the Hmeimim Air Base.

Seven Su-24 jets on October 26, 2016.

Four Su-24 jets on October 26, 2016.

New satellite imagery on Digital Globe appeared on January 19, allowing a look at what planes are currently based at Hmeimim compared to the assets from January 10, 2017. All of the photographs below show the northern aprons of the air base, while the southern aprons do not have any visible jets.

Northeast corner of base. Left: Four Su-30SM jets. Right: Three Su-30SM jets

Left: Three Su-34 jets, three Su-35 jets, and four Su-25 jets. Right: Three Su-34 jets, four Su-35 jets, and four Su-25 jets.

Left: Seven Su-24 jets, Right: Seven Su-24 jets

In the western part of the base, additional jets are visible, including additional Su-24 jets (bottom-right).

Top: Four Su-24 jets. Bottom: Four Su-24 jets. The type of jet visible with the nose sticking out of the hanger on the January 19 image is unclear.

The identification of these planes is confirmed when compared to a previous Startfor comparison, from February 4, 2016 satellite imagery of the same location:

Eleven Su-24 jets are visible in the January 10 and 19 satellite imagery, just as there were eleven visible on October 26, 2016. Judging from this available satellite imagery, there are four likely possibilities to explain the presence of eleven Su-24 jets after the declared withdrawal:

  • The declared withdrawal of a flight of Su-24 jets from the Hmeimim Air Base will happen, but has not yet occurred, indicating that the Russian Ministry of Defense misled the public in its statement.
  • The declared withdrawal of a flight of Su-24 jets from the Hmeimim Air Base was an intentional lie from the Russian Ministry of Defense.
  • Jets that were not visible in satellite imagery were withdrawn.
  • A new rotation of Su-24 jets has arrived to replace the previously visible Su-24 jets.

 

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42 Comments

  1. Feanor

    It was probably a rotation. Which means technically they were telling the truth, i.e. those 4 jets were indeed being withdraw, but 4 others were flown in to replace them. The previous declared Russian “withdrawal” was also in truth a rotation of assets. I don’t think anyone should take claims of Russian withdrawal seriously. They’re in Syria for the long haul. The format of their presence may change or adjust (after the last rotation their fixed-wing element was smaller but they had more rotaries and more ground assets).

    Reply
    • Aric Toler

      Certainly could be! We weren’t sure about the exact measure they were taken with the “withdrawal” so left it open ended. Either way, the total number of jets at the base has been pretty constant.

      Reply
    • Black Star

      Well it is an occupation, which even Syrian leaders will realise sooner or later, but cannot do anything about it.

      Reply
      • Feanor

        Hardly. They were invited in. Which is more then most of the other players in Syria can say. Also a simple basing agreement is not an occupation even if it were coerced.

        Reply
        • Samirr

          That applies to NATO in the Baltics too.

          If Russia didn’t threaten the Baltics in the last few years, NATO would not be moving in to help.

          Putin playing checkers instead of chess.

          Reply
  2. stranger

    Elliot Higgins is very disappointed by Trump and poisonous on his twitter. That is a really good sign. That means everything is going right! Hopefully the time of warmongers and their servants is gone and we will start to recover from the dangerous delirium we all sunk in the last 3 years. Who knows? Will see. So far so good

    Reply
    • Samirr

      Congratulations DJT, the reigning leader who will oversee the fall of the Russian Federation?

      Why do Russians think he is their ally? He is a liar and con artist and Russians fell for the con.

      Russia is going to be China and the west’s petro station for the future.

      Why are Russians proud of their failures?

      Reply
  3. stranger

    I still hope that the change of elites in the States would help our countries to recover from the harshest tensions ever since the Cold War, to get rid of propagandistic delirium we all were sunk into recently. I believe that the financing of campaigns targeted to the confrontation will be cut. That those who still call for a war would be treated as anti-Americanists 🙂 Maybe so, maybe not, will see…

    Reply
    • Mad Dog

      He will not be a friend of Russia long as he continues to flip flop around. Maybe Putin should ride his horse over and flex his muscles for Donald.

      Reply
      • stranger

        More accurately – he will not be allowed to make friends with Russia. The Obama’s inheritance who tried to burn all bridges and make all troubles on his leaving, the current establishment interested in the war, the pentagon with its war machine requiring more findings, the neocons who has always tried to suppress Russia and give no chance for the former soviet republics to join and strengthen themselves together, just Wall Street banks which earn huge money from globalization. Trump pledged to give America ruling back to the American people, but the establishment will not give it back too easily. 🙂
        Right?
        Do you support the party of the war here?

        Reply
        • Samirr

          Blah blah

          I support an economic war against Russia.

          I support real democracy unlike you, who idolize Oligharchs.

          Americans support freedom and democracy, not authoritarian governments that put peaceful protesters in jail.

          You have no understanding of Trump or his supporters.

          Reply
      • Arya Stark

        I only really posted the congratulations because I know it makes Aric cry every time he hears it.

        By the way Aric predicted with 100% confidence Hillary would win Arizona.

        Reply
      • stranger

        Also Aric promised to emigrate to Canada if Trump wins.

        Btw if you think my last comment is too extreme. That what Americans themselves are saying now and even much worse. Read Paul Craig Roberts’ comment on Trump’s inauguration for example.

        Reply
          • stranger

            Orders? Ah, from Amazon dot com? No, still waiting, thanks for asking.

          • stranger

            What is wrong with Merkel? She was one of the initiators and signee of Minsk agreements, helped to stop the bloodshed in Ukraine.
            If German politics want to play the Russian card in Germany as Clinton did in US. Blame the provocateurs and venal journalists who spin off Russian hackers topic. But Clinton has lost, so I believe that was a wrong card to play.
            What do you have against Merkel?

          • stranger

            The article you gave was published in Opinions columns. Opinions means BS – the media doesn’t take responsibility of. Ask a better question – who the author of this bs is taking the orders and paychecks from?

          • Arya Stark

            Yes thanks, I received my Make Germany Great Again hat this morning.

          • Arya Stark

            Yes thanks, I received my Make Germany Great Again hat this morning.

  4. Mad Dog

    What does any of the above have to do with the ‘redeployment/withdrawal’ of the SU-24’s. Guess a bit of diversion is always the best response to a set of facts. Good works trolls and trollettes.

    Reply
    • stranger

      About one-two years ago this place was infested with (pro)Ukrainian trolls. You remember that of course. They called Russian troll from Savishkina st everybody who dared to object to them. That legend that there are only trolls around and people cannot honestly believe, unless they believe in only one their direction, was coming from them. I asked boggled if he was paid for comments several times, he answered, but never that direct question. I believe those guys influenced the perception of people a lot. Where are they btw? As if a switch was turned off. And how many of them were there here just recently.

      Reply
    • stranger

      And planes – just planes, what to discuss. It’s more interesting to see a bigger picture…

      Reply
      • Mad Dog

        Still diverting I see. You saw Ukrainian trolls, but not too many others did. A bit os hysteria perhaps? And yes, this is about another lie from the Russian mouthpiece. We withdrew those planes (but we really didn’t). Okay.

        Reply
        • stranger

          It was already said it might have been a rotation. Why should we confine our view to the topic specially cooked for us to chew? Why not to take off shores and look at the context? No small pieces of news make sense w/o context. Because the cats intentionally choose topics and reinterpret them so that to impose on their own political agenda. Why should we follow the narrow path they want us to go and close the eyes on the bigger picture? I believe nobody limits you in saying whatever you want and you do divert from the narrow topic frequently. For Ukrainian trolls I disagree, they dominated at this forum for several years and spread the rumor that everybody who disagree with them is a paid Russian troll. Lying as always. So that even you now repeat that after them.

          Reply
    • stranger

      According to the topic. The Russian fleet together with avia-carrier Kuznetsov was withdrawn from Syria. Kuznetsov carried away 40 jets. In addition 6 Su24 were withdrawn from the Hmeimim base due to planned rotation, four Su25 were sent to Syria. That is a rotation and a reduction by at least the fleet and 40 deck jets. What’s wrong? The cats again suck out a sensation from a finger.

      Reply
      • Samirr

        Stranger,

        You mean that pathetic aircraft carrier black smoke climate changing excuse of a ship went home?

        Maybe it will need a tug boat to get home?

        If that ship is a symbol of Russian national pride, what is the symbol of Russian national disgrace?

        Reply
        • stranger

          You don’t know why Kuznetsov was smoking with a black smoke? How can you be so ignorant! Sorry for a lot of words, but I’m not sure you know this tradition.
          You see when Cardinals are electing a new Papa in Vatican, they close themselves in a single room and nobody is allowed to leave until Papa is agreed on. A huge crowd of worshippers is waiting outside ready to greet the new Papa. So they set a wire in the castle and produce a lot of smoke to indicate to the people. The black smoke means Papa is not yet elected, the white one means Papa is already chosen.
          So do you see the analogies? US special services claimed Russia elected the president for US! The black smoke above Kuznetsov meant that Russia has not elected US president yet! So obvious, really

          Reply
  5. Mad Dog

    “Because the cats intentionally choose topics and reinterpret them so that to impose on their own political agenda. ” That is pretty funny. Where do you see their political agenda at work here. The Russian MoD said they withdrew a flight of Fencers….fact. BC checked the photo evidence….fact. BC found that the number of aircraft had not changed….fact. And then in the end they posited 4 theories of why that was the situation….fact. There was no ‘political’ comment, no agenda, no pontificating. They mentioned that it could be just a rotation as well as the idea that they were just lying, but it is up to you to figure that out. So, stranger dear, where is the political agenda at work here. The article has nothing to do with the Ukraine, nothing to do with the presidential election (when is that gonna happen in Russia?), nothing about Aric crying, but even Aric admits it could be a rotation. However, a rotation is not a withdrawal as normally used. So that is a bit of dishonesty on the part of the MoD. That serves THEIR political agenda.

    Reply
    • stranger

      Rotation-withdrawal a problem of translation? They were saying in Russia btw. The main question was if they really reduced the forces there, you can see the feet has left, so that is the truth.
      Mad Dog, if that were the only cat’s post I saw I might agree with you, but unfotunaterly for you I have been watching at what the belling-cats were doing for the last year or two, listened to their interview and read something on the web. You have also been here even longer. So your so innocent argument – look there is nothing criminal here, leave it to newbies maybe.
      The cats definitely pursue an agenda. Particularly they defend the common stream position of their governments which paints Russia and China as a threat, and they definitly pursue some higher mission other than just objective technical Open Source Research, then they definitely enjoy self-affirmation at the expense of Russia, they preselect the materials to pick up always a smallest piece taken out of context in order to always blame Russia. They are really fixated on Russia – see the percentage of material dedicated to Russia and EVERYTHING is only negative. So I seriously see them as an element of informational propagandistic war against Russia. The problem is that blaming Russia is getting out of modern fashion. Some signs of warming are coming. So they may be left w/o a job soon. Does this make sense?

      Reply
      • stranger

        If you remember I used to be more careful in the statements and tried to be polite in the beginning. The turning point was maybe when Russian sports people with disabilities unfairly were not admitted to paralympics, and when the flows of lies and bull-sh1t started to be poured on Russia especially during the presidential campaign and their rediculous accusations of Russia in Clinton’s own frauds on primaries and her all other failures.

        Reply
  6. Mad Dog

    No problem, I just think you are blinded by a bit of nationalism. Does Russia deserve the attention. Probably so. Does Russia continually post false info. Probably so. Does anyone inside Russia have much of a chance of calling the government out on this. Probably not and if they do, they generally are disappeared in one way or another. You want to find dirt on the US. Pretty easy to do and the assassination teams don’t come knocking on your door. See the difference??
    BTW, your black smoke comments were pretty funny!

    Reply
    • stranger

      Nationalism is a bad word, let’s replace with patriotism. And tell me that patriotism is not written on each corner in the United States and flags are not waiving at wherever they are appropriate or not. America is sure of own oneness ever more than Russia. And that is an illusion not the less.
      I’m just concerned that there are people who blame Russia who are absolutely blind to the problems of other countries, outside Russia and inside. There are own problems everywhere on the globe, and more you are aware of how other countries live, more you want to see Russia strong, consistent and safe place to live. Right now the standards Russia is considered are ten times higher then the other countries are, which inevitably means a certain degree of hypocracy. In a simpler Russian words “all dogs are let off on Russia” starting from political pressure, economical blockade and up to the absolutely unfair and unjustified attack on the Russian sport. I believe Russia should not give in to the pressure, that in this fighting the “teenager” society will get stronger and no illusions will be left. So from some prospective sanctions were the good. Many illusions are gone we get a clue what a real world is. We have learned really a lot recently.
      What concerns “assassination team” you highly exaggerate of course. Even Navalny in under the court, on the deals which might have something indeed. Tell me there are no mysterious deaths around Clinton’s, that Clinton’s use their fund only for the charity, that unwilling political figures are not arrested suddenly by a suspicious sexual accusations and immediately released , but their carriers are ruined at ones and they are no longer dangerous. Watch the City of Cards after all.
      I’m concerned that instead of a dialog, a brute force is applied, and everybody forgets that Russia is quite able to defend herself. I believe your black president didn’t study the European history well at school and started a mess which finally probably costed his party a presidency. When the first in the history black (!) president just came 8 years ago there were so much hopes the peace would finally be set, he even received the Nobel Prize in advance. The time has shown that was the worst idea ever. Fortunately and no sarcasm America can clear itself each 4 years and start over. I’m not saying Trump will be better, hopefully, will see.

      Reply
    • stranger

      “Does Russia deserve the attention. Probably so. ”
      What does it mean??

      “You want to find dirt on the US. ”
      No, you have not got it. I’m saying Russia is unfairly accused, before blaming Russia you need to take a look at your country and see that many things you blame Russia for are quite present and tolerated in your own country. I’m just saying about hypocracy.

      You can have your opinion of course, but from what I see, the belling-cats started so disgusting blatant propaganda recently, especially in the Russian branch, so I have lost the last doubts about their nature….

      Everything will be good sooner or later….

      Reply
  7. Mad Dog

    Really? Really Russia is unfairly accused. There is just so much of it even if you believe just half of the stuff out there you should be appalled. And so we have another dissenter suddenly going into massive internal organ failure. Great way to shut him up, though they failed the first time. The vestiges of the NKVD are still alive in your wonderful country and honest Russians still have to live with that. The whole Aleppo bombardment shows how different the Russian approach is, someone said the US tries to use a scalpel while Russia uses a machete. Sure was apparent there. Those SU-24’s were used to good effect and supposedly are not needed anymore, but there they are. BTW, most Americans do take a look at their own country and do try to make changes without the need to look over their shoulders. And, as you noticed, we do have an effective election system to clean things out, though I am not at all happy with the present outcome. And, in comparison to Russia, most government, federal, state, county, local elections are held and no one is appointed by the Big Chief. I really think you need a bit more of that in Russia, for the sake of Russians.

    Reply
    • stranger

      Really, if you take a look at your own country unbiasedly you would see that the United States used to do much worse things and their wars for the sake of justice and order are usually just what establishment wants due to their own interests or money. Yes, you can protest in the States, that is safe unless they make pogroms, but that is absolutely useless, nobody would listen to you, you would not make a single official to change their mind. The only way to express the disagreement is elections once per 4 years, which Trump has fully used.

      Reply
    • stranger

      “he whole Aleppo bombardment shows how different the Russian approach is, someone said the US tries to use a scalpel while Russia uses a machete.”
      That is just how your lying mass media pervert everything. Yes, US loves to act via the local thugs, arming them, teaching them, and inciting on the government or vice verse the government on the rebels, where ever their own interests in the country is. By the time Russia joined, Syria was under 5 years of brutal civil war where mostly foreigners, mostly Islamic in secular Syria where there are even christians, not Syrians had been fighting. US, turkey and the gulf countries heated up and sustained this civil war where more than half a million died. US applied the economical sanctions of Syria. US made an impression they fought with ISIS, but actually didn’t do much, waiting until ISIS break Assad first, one time US bombed Asads positions allowing ISIS to advance. Everything of that is covered up by the lie in mass media, so that they recreate a virtual picture of Syria there All people are fighting the dictator Assad substituting the reality for a regular western citizen. While Syrians want just to stop the war, to push away the Islamic foreign thugs, to live their live peacefully. Russia has come to settle the peace there, to support the secular government to remove the extreme islamists came from the gulf countries. Aleppo is freed now, so the girl Bana may not worry for her life. On the other hand you in your venal media turn everything up side down and blame Russia in this war and cover up the gulf monarchies and US itself. Exactly the same was when the invation to Yugoslavia needed to be justified. How cannot you see that?

      Reply
    • stranger

      And moreover finally Russia has managed to gather all the sides for the peace negotiations finally, which were held in Astana first, where Russia invited US delegation, but US didn’t come, and the next round is planned in Geneva.

      Reply
    • stranger

      You just demonize Russia in the spirit of the Cold War, don’t you see? Usually US used to demonize countries before invading them, but they used to fight only against small and weak countries so far so they can break their teeth trying to bite Russia. But that concerns the former administration of Obama and history. Trumps administration has not decided yet on their policy.

      Reply
  8. Mad Dog

    Sorry to see you are so misled and so so supportive of that thug Assad. You fall for the RT line that this is a battle of ISIS and Jihadis against a wonderful secularist regime when we all know both the present Doctor Assad and his father were and are tyrannical brutes. Guess that doesn’t matter really matter to someone who lives in a similar country by a pissant thug intent on robbing the people and suppressing dissent wherever possible and with whatever means possible up to and including poisoning with restricted materials and bombing their own people.
    Sorry, but your facts as garnered from your wonderfully honest in-country media are a bit jumbled and biased. I would take info from scores of sources available in the ‘free-world’ before I would stoop low enough to believe 95% of Russian media. Yet that is what you are doing in the mistaken belief that you are defending your country against liars and scoundrels…..hahahahahaha, Bomb the shit out of everyone, just like in Grozny, then bring them to the table. Familiar antics as performed by the juvenile Poster Boy (see me ride half naked and wrestle tigers) Czar. Divert all you want, but this is about the lies the MoD put out trying to show how gracious they are when they have done absolutely nothing of the sort.

    Reply

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