RUSSIA’S DEFENCE Ministry has confirmed that Russian Air Force Tu-22M3 Backfire-C long-range bombers and Su-34 Fullback strike/bomber aircraft carried out air strikes against terrorist targets in Syria on August 16, operating for the first time from a forward-deployed base at Hamedan in Iran.
Targets struck were ISIL and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist facilities in Aleppo, Deir ez-Zor and Idlib provinces.
Five large warehouses containing weapons, ammunition, fuel and lubricants were struck, along with training camps for the militants in the areas of the towns of Al-Bab, Aleppo, Deir ez-Zor and Serakab, plus three militant control points near the towns of Deir ez-Zor and Jafr. Air cover for the mission was provided by some of the Russian Air Force Su-30CMs and Su-35s already based at Latakia in Syria. All aircraft returned to base safely, said the MOD.
The number of aircraft deployed to Iran has not been disclosed, but photographs of Tu-22M3s at Hamedan show at least four different aircraft, with serials ‘16 Red’, ‘42 Red’, ‘43 Red’ and ‘57 Red’. Unconfirmed reports suggest that a total six Backfires may have arrived at the base. All are from the 6950th Air Base at Engels and arrived from there via a refuelling stop at Mozdok Air Base.
Their arrival is a major benefit to Russian operations, as it drastically reduces the flying time to targets in Syria. Previously, the Tu-22M3s had been operating these air strikes flying direct from their base in Russia. Although Russia has also been heavily utilising the Syrian base at Latakia for air strike operations, the runway is currently unable to accommodate the heavy Backfires. However, Russia has recently been given approval to make Latakia a permanent Russian Air Force base and it will shortly be completely refurbished and upgraded. This will make it suitable for all types of military aircraft in the future.