Tomislav Mesarić examines the capabilities of the Su-25SM3, which represents the most advanced Frogfoot in Russian service.
IN EARLY JANUARY 2017 a poor quality photograph of an Ilyushin Il-76 transport leading four Su-25s appeared on social media, accompanied by speculation that they were on their way to Hmeymim air base in Syria. A few days later, Russian Ministry of Defence spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov confirmed the rumour, emphasising that the aircraft were part of a planned rotation in the war zone, not reinforcements. Indeed, a similar number of Su-24M bombers subsequently withdrew from Hmeymim.
The small number of aircraft involved suggests that the deployment might be a combat evaluation of a new system, in which case the jets could represent the latest Su-25SM3 standard – of which five examples were apparently delivered to the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) in 2016. Other sources claim the Su-25SM3 will deploy to theatre no earlier than August or September. Whatever the case, the Su-25SM3 will be used in Moscow’s campaign in Syria.