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New Russian attack helicopters spotted in Syria

18 March 2016

By Bilal Khan

On 14 March Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, announced that Russia would withdraw the “main” part of its forces in Syria. The following day, a number of Russian combat aircraft had begun to exit the country.

Russian military analysts and experts told the news outlet, Russia Beyond The Headlines (RBTH), that more than half of the deployed fighters and fighter-bombers will be recalled, but the integrated air defence system (IADS) and naval unit will remain. The Russian troop presence will only see a ‘slight’ reduction.

It seems Russia is not “withdrawing” from Syria, but rather, it is reconfiguring its presence. One indicator of that idea is the fact that on the day that a number of fighter/fighter-bomber aircraft left Syria, a number of Mi-28NE “Night Hunter” and Ka-52 “Alligator” dedicated attack helicopters entered the country.

The Mi-28NE and Ka-52 are Russia’s latest attack helicopters (also known as ‘gunships’). These aircraft are designed to primarily engage in various forms of close air support (CAS) missions, such as providing anti-tank/armour firepower, suppressing enemy infantry, and providing field reconnaissance.

These helicopters are also designed to be durable and survivable, especially since they have to operate at low-altitude. In the counterinsurgency (COIN) environment of Syria, the low-altitude realm is fraught with threats in the form of man portable air defence systems (MANPADS) and anti-air guns. In fact, it was only a few days ago that a Syrian Arab Air Force (SyAAF) MiG-21 was downed under these conditions.

In order to mitigate these threats, helicopters such as the Mi-28NE and Ka-52 are equipped with advanced self-protection suites which incorporate systems such as missile launch warning, flare dispensers, and directional infrared countermeasures (DIRCM). These countermeasure suites can thwart infrared guided surface-to-air missiles (SAM), such as MANPADS. The Mi-28NE and Ka-52 are also durable to heavy gunfire, thanks in great part to the armour used to protect the cockpit/cabin areas.

While these attack helicopters will be key in terms of protecting Russia’s numerous military installations in Syria, they may also end up supporting the Syrian ground forces in their attempts to hold the territory they have wrestled away from the armed opposition. The nighttime capabilities of these helicopters may also be used to continue ongoing operations against groups such as ISIS and Jahbat an-Nusra. Moving forward, it is possible that the Russians will use the Mi-28NE and Ka-52 for low-altitude CAS operations, whilst reserving available fighters (such as the Su-35 and Su-30SM) for airstrikes.

It is also important to understand that Russia will still maintain its infrastructure in Syria, which will enable it to re-deploy fresh assets – such as new fighter-bombers – in short order. In fact, Putin himself was not shy of stating that fact in his recent statements, “if necessary, literally within a few hours, Russia can build up its contingent in the region to a size proportionate to the situation developing there and use the entire arsenal of capabilities at our disposal.”

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  • by SP
    Posted March 18, 2016 6:30 am 0Likes

    Russia has thwarted the latest Zionist plan of regime changes in the middle east to support Israel. This is a continuation of Iraq war but uses new means to achieve the end. ISIS is a creation of the West supported by Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Erdogan has re-established relations with Israel and his previous anti Israel rhetoric was just a drama.

  • by nob
    Posted March 18, 2016 12:04 pm 0Likes

    i think russia is helping israel. the dirty game in middle east is not that simple as it seem to be. by helping the assad regime russia is widening the civil war. means more and more killing and that is what the zionist want. this is how they are going to acheive their greater israel plan.
    note that BIBi had a meeting with putin last year. israel wants to see the muslims fighting each other and that is why they have lifted the ban on iran at this time.
    it is not a coincidence that one by one each muslim country is facing violence. the division of sudan is not a coincidence.

  • by SP
    Posted March 18, 2016 12:32 pm 0Likes

    War was not started by Assad but by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the US supporting ISIS and other terrorist organisations in their desire for regime change. If Assad was a puppet of Zionists like the King of Jordan, the dictator of Egypt or The king of Saudi Arabia then we would not be a problem and no regime change would be required.

  • by jigsaww
    Posted March 18, 2016 12:53 pm 0Likes

    that is actually true. and it’s a shame saudia is gathering troops in name of some muslim alliance to overrun syria. i hope pakistan will never be part of this saudi alliance.

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