Russian attack helicopters arrive in Syria...
...as fighters depart
After Russia’s surprise announcement that it was withdrawing most of its forces from Syria, most attention was focused on the departing fast jets.
In the meantime, evidence has emerged that appears to show the first examples of the Kamov Ka-52 and Mil Mi-28 attack helicopters in Syria.
Since Moscow announced its intention to scale back the presence in Syria of the so-called Special Purpose Aviation Brigade, it was expected that the remaining assets might comprise a rotary-wing element.
What wasn’t expected is that this helicopter force would include the Ka-52 and Mi-28 — two types not previously seen in Syria. Neither of the aircraft has previously seen combat in Russian hands.
Russian Defense Minister Gen Sergey Shoygu ordered the redeployment of the Special Purpose Aviation Brigade from Syria on March 15, and aircraft began to leave Hmeimin air base in Latakia province the same morning.
At the time of the main force withdrawal, President Vladimir Putin also confirmed that a Russian military presence would be maintained at the Mediterranean naval base at Tartus and at Hmeimin.
Russian combat aircraft had been operating from Syrian territory since September 2015, carrying out anti-terrorist missions in support of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Until now, the only Russian combat aircraft confirmed as operating in Syria were the Su-24M/M2 strike aircraft, Su-25SM/UB ground-attack aircraft, Su-30SM multi-role fighter, Su-34 strike aircraft, Su-35S multi-role fighter, Mi-8AMTSh combat helicopter, Mi-24P and Mi-35M attack helicopter and the Il-20M intelligence-gatherer. Between 50 and 60 aircraft were stationed in Syria at the peak of operations.
Ironically, the footage of both the Ka-52 and Mi-28 came to light in official video releases showing the departure from Latakia of the main (fixed-wing) force.
The apparent switch from operations by fixed-wing combat aircraft to attack helicopters suggests that Moscow may be adapting its presence in Syria to better suit a close air support (CAS) type campaign.
This would make sense in light of a recent study by IHS Jane’s indicating that the so-called Islamic State terror group had lost 22 per cent of its territory since January 2015.
Tellingly, the most significant gains were made in areas in which an effective ground force was available to counter the IS insurgents. It could be just such a scenario in which Russian Ka-52s and Mi-28s now make their combat debuts.
Here's a link to a video:
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