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It’s clear that major world powers closely monitor the Russian Aerospace Defence Forces’ (VKO) activity in Syria. One of these major powers is China. Follwoing Chinese diplomatic actions and media coverage over the topic we could concluse that China noted that the US-led anti-ISIS ccoalition hadn’t achieved any substantial result, most of the anti-Assad forces had been already merged mainly by ISIS and al Nusra. Thus, China provides deliberate diplomatic support and deeply analyzes the Russian military actions in the region. There are crucial conclusions made by Chinese experts and media:
First is the Russian air grouping in the Hmeymim airbase includes both old and new types of the aircrafts and helicopters. Their actual number and capabilities won’t allow successfully exercise operations against terrorists in Iraq.
Second is upgrated Soviet weapons and military equipment could be very effective in the contemporary military conflicts. Moreover, the Russian space-based satellite navigation system GLONASS has shown its effectivity in directing warplanes to the targets.
Third is Russia maintains advance in some types of aviation. For instance, the Sukhoi SU-30SM multi-role fighter aircraft is a specialised version of the thrust-vectoring Su-30MKI and MKM variants for the Russian military, produced by the Irkut Corporation. Indeed, the SU-30M fighters ensure Russia’s air supremacy in Syria.
Fourth is ISIS, al Nusra and other terrorist groups have collected a high number of Soviet, US, Chinese man-portable air defense systems. This poses a threat for Russian warplanes if they ignore rules of security.
Fifth is Russia is reportedly sending about 36 Yakovlev Yak-130 light fighters in the nearest future. It will provide additional expirience to Russian aviators and allow to improve tactics of the warplanes’ usage against ground targets.
Beijing is considering a possibility to participate in the Russia-led coalition against ISIS. China can send carier strike group including aircraft carrier Liaoning, two “Type 052D” destroyers, about four “Type 054” escort vessels, two “type 39” sumbarines and some service ships. Also, China has all chances to make an agreement with Lebanon to use its air space or event get access to Iranian air bases.
The problem is Liaoning has only one embarked squadron of Shenyang J-15 and two helicopter carrier squadrons of Z-18. It isn’t enough for the full readiness condition. Liaoning need one more embarked squadron of fighters, a long-range radar detection aircraft squadron and a unit of helicopters for search and rescue of pilots.
In any case, the full-scale ground offensive of the Syrian forces supported by the Russian Air Force and Iranian military advicers will push ISIS militants in direction of Iraq. This conducts a real threat to oil upstream operations in Iraq which actively involve Chinese companies.
Thus, China actively prepares for the participating in the Russian anti-ISIS operation at least in the territories of Iraq. The particular decision will depends on the real successes of the ground operation in Syria, the Iraq’s decision to request Chinese military assistance or to not do it.