Islamist Militants Attack Major Russian Airbase in Syria - Casualties Reported
The Russian Air Force’s Khmeimim (Hmeymim) airbase in the Syrian province of Latakia was reportedly attacked by artillery units deployed by Islamist militants ion August 5th, casing an unknown number of casualties. Hmeymim has served as the centre for the Russian Military’s air campaign in support of the Syrian government, which began in September 2015 and is widely credited with turning the tide of the war against groups such as the Islamic State, Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups. Syrian state media reported that the attack had begun at 15:30 Moscow time, and that both casualties and “significant material damage” had been inflicted. The attack had begun at 15:30 Moscow time, and that both casualties and “significant material damage” had been inflicted Su-24 Strike Fighters at Khmeimim Airbase
This was hardly the first time the Russian airbase had been targeted, with drone ‘swarm’ attacks by jihadist groups on several occasions being repelled by air defence units - earning the Pantsir-S1 systems deployed a reputation as formidable drone killers. Artillery, however, appears to be the most effective means of targeting the airbase even if its range is more restricted. Unlike done attacks it is extremely difficult to intercept and cannot be jammed, and if deployed from fast mobile systems it can strike with little warning. A strike using mobile artillery in the first week of January 2018 reportedly damaged several Sukhoi air superiority and strike fighters and an Antonov An-72 transport and killed two Russian servicemen. Russia has deployed a number of its most capable combat jets to the Syrian theatre, including the Su-34 strike fighters and Su-35 air superiority fighters among others. Four combat capable prototypes of the Su-57 air superiority fighter were also reportedly deployed to the base in February 2018 for combat tests, reportedly participating in combat operations against jihadist forces using standoff munitions. The new attack on the Russian airbase has come as hostilities escalate in Idlib province, currently the world’s largest Al Qaeda stronghold, which a Syrian led coalition has moved to recapture. The assault has relied heavily on support from Russian airstrikes, and if successful is expected to bring the eight year conflict to a final resolution as jihadist forces lose their final major stronghold.