Military advisors from the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) have been training Syrian Arab Air Force (SyAAF) pilots on air-to-air combat, according to recent reports.
On November 15, the Russian Ministry of Defense’s Zvezda TV channel revealed that Syrian Mig-29 pilots have received training on air-to-air missiles, namely the R-73 infrared-guided short-range missile.
“An important stage in the training of any pilot is the launch of guided air-to-air missiles,” Zvezda quoted Maxim Aleksanin, a Russian squadron commander, as saying. “For the first time, Syrian pilots used R-73 guided missiles from MiG-29 aircraft. In the future, we plan to improve the tactics of conducting close and long-range air combat in order to prevent provocations in the skies of Syria, as well as near its borders.”
The channel released footage from a recent exercise that saw two Syrian Mig-29s firing R-73 missiles. The exercise was reportedly held at T-4 Air Base in the central Syrian province of Homs.
The SyAAF operates some 20 Mig-29s. Prior to the war, the Russian Aircraft Corporation “MiG” upgraded the Syrian fighter jets to the specially developed SM standard, which allowed them to fire beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles (BVRAAMs), namely the R-77, as well as precision-guided air-to-surface munitions. Furthermore, the fighter jets were equipped with active electronic warfare systems.
Last year, Russia handed over an unknown number of Mig-29 fighter jets to the SyAAF. Back then, Syrian military sources said that the newly delivered Mig-29s are more advanced than the ones which were in service with the SyAAF, meaning they could be Mig-29SMTs or Mig-29Ms.
Russia has been working to boost the capabilities of the SyAAF for a few years now in order to help Syria defend its airspace and territory more effectively.