On February 15, Tu-22M3 strategic bombers and MiG-31K fighter jets were deployed at Russia’s Hmeimim Air Base on the Syrian coast.
In a statement, Russia’s Ministry of Defense said that the bombers and the fighter jets will be taking part in the Russian Navy’s Mediterranean drills.
“The long-range aircraft involving Tu-22M3 bombers and MiG-31K fighters with Kinzhal airborne systems have deployed to the Hmeimim airfield for participation in the naval drills of the Russian Navy’s inter-fleet task force in the eastern Mediterranean. The crews of Russia’s Aerospace Force have performed flights from their home airfields, covering over 1,500 km. During the exercise, the pilots of long-range aviation will accomplish assigned missions,” the statement reads.
The deployment of the bombers and the fighter jets in Hmeimim Air Base coincided with a surprise visit by Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu to the Syria.
During the visits, Shoigu discussed military-technical cooperation and counterterrorism with Syrian President Bashar Assad. The minister also informed Assad on the drills in the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea.
“Sergey Shoigu and Bashar Assad held a meeting to discuss various issues of military-technical cooperation between the countries as part of the joint fight against the remnants of international terrorists and certain aspects of Russian humanitarian assistance to the Syrian population suffering from the restrictive sanctions imposed by the US and Western countries,” The Russian Defense Ministry told reporters, according to the TASS news agency.
After meeting with Assad, Shoigu headed to Hmeimim Air Base where he inspected Russian forces, heard a report by commander of Russian troops in Syria Roman Berdnikov and laid a wreath to the bust monument to the Heroes of Russia who died in Syria.
The deployment of strategic military assets at Hmeimim Air Base and Shoigu’s visit to Syria came amid high tensions between Russia and the NATO over the crisis in Ukraine.
Currently, the NATO maintains a total of three carrier strike groups are situation in the Mediterranean Sea; the US Harry Truman carrier strike group integrated with the French carrier Charles de Gaulle’s task force and Italian carrier Cavour strike groups.
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