- - Monday, February 1, 2016

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Monday that Su-35 fighters have been deployed to Hemeimeem air base in Syria. The Su-35 is Russia’s most advanced fighter that is fielded in significant numbers. NATO designates the aircraft as the SU-35S Flanker-E.

“Starting from last week, super-maneuverable Su-35S fighter jets started performing combat missions at Khmeimim airbase,” Maj. Gen. Konashenkov told the Russian state news agency, TASS.

Overall, U.S. defense officials are quite impressed with this latest Flanker variant. “It’s a great airplane and very dangerous, especially if they make a lot of them,” one senior U.S. military official with extensive experience on fifth-generation fighters told me some time ago. “I think even an AESA [active electronically scanned array-radar equipped F-15C] Eagle and [Boeing F/A-18E/F] Super Hornet would both have their hands full,” reported National Interest.

In addition to providing hi-tech protection for its ground attack aircraft in theater, the Syrian conflict will allow Moscow to test the new weapon system in combat conditions. Currently at least four of the new aircraft are in theater and will also allow Moscow to market the system to China and other militaries as a combat proven weapon system.

The deployment also sends a message to Turkey that, in combination with the S-400 anti-aircraft missile system, Russia can defend its aircraft anywhere in theater with weapon systems equal to or even more capable than NATO can field.

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