By Tom O’Connor | News Week |
Russia is reportedly challenging the U.S. military presence in Syria by testing new weapons, bolstering defenses and increasing the presence of troops near facilities operated by the Pentagon.
Days after returning from his visit to war-torn Syria, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov detailed to local media Monday the various new weapons systems have been introduced to the conflict. These included the Pantsir S1 anti-aircraft and Iskander-M ballistic missile systems on the ground, Tupolev Tu-160 supersonic strategic bombers, Tu-22M3 supersonic bombers and Tu-95 propeller-driven bombers, as well as Mikoyan MiG-29K fighters and Ka-52K Katran helicopters in the air.
He also specifically praised the Sukhoi Su-35 and Su-30SM fighter jets for exceeding expectations in comments translated by The Moscow Times. Borisov hailed the deployment of upgraded S-300 surface-to-air missile systems in October as well, claiming that U.S.-led coalition airstrikes had been “significantly reduced” in northeastern Syria since then.
Russia sent S-300s to Syria after a deadly international incident involving an Israeli air raid on a suspected Iranian weapons depot in September. Though it was Syrian anti-aircraft fire that accidentally struck Russia’s Ilyushin Il-20 surveillance plane during the encounter, killing all 15 on board, both Moscow and Damascus agreed that Israel was to blame, and recent reports suggest that the two may be gearing up to challenge the U.S-led coalition as well.