Russia has added a major weapon system to the already impressive arsenal it has deployed to Syria.
Moscow’s supermaneuverable Su-35S fighter jets started “to carry out military tasks last week” in the war-torn country, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov told reporters on Monday.
Russian media said the aircraft will provide another layer of protection to warplanes conducting raids in Syria. The four “Super Flanker” jets will support other elements of the Russian and Syrian air forces, which are also protected by an S-400 Triumf air defense system that’s been installed at Moscow’s airbase near the Syrian city of Latakia.
The deployment gives Russian President Vladimir Putin another opportunity to showcase Moscow’s war machine and boost the Su-35 program. The twin-engine jet, which many analysts compare to the F/A-18 Super Hornet made by Boeing, flew in exercises in the Pacific last year. Now the plane, which has unusual maneuvering capabilities thanks to its thrust vectoring engines (see the video above), can be tested in a real war environment.
Earlier this month the Kremlin placed an order for 50 of the jets on top of the 48 it ordered in 2009. Sukhoi, Russia’s major aircraft manufacturer, recently struck a $2 billion agreement with China for 24 Su-35S jets and a deal to produce another dozen for Indonesia.
Russia has flown roughly 6,000 missions since Moscow launched its air campaign inside Syria last September, including 468 combat missions last week alone, according to Konashenkov.
Moscow’s air support has helped the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad fight insurgent forces to a standstill and even gain ground in recent weeks, according to fresh estimates of the five-year-old civil war.