On December 25, the Russian Aerospace Forces conducted an aerial exercise over northern Syria from al-Qamishli Airport.
According to Syrian and Russian news sources, at least 20 Russian warplanes took part in the aerial exercise. The warplanes included four Su-34 fighter bombers, six Su-35 fighter jets, six Mi-8 helicopters and four Ka-52 attack helicopters.
Qamishli Airport Su 34 again back pic.twitter.com/kdr0CZegQj
— ZOKA (@200_zoka) December 26, 2021
An A-50 AEW&C [early warning and control] aircraft also took part in the exercise. This was the first known deployment of a Russian AEW&C aircraft at al-Qamishli Airport.
Al-Qamishli Airport is held by Syrian government forces. However, much of the nearby al-Qamishli town is controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Russia forces have been expanding their presence in al-Qamishli Airport, which is located along the Syrian border with Turkey, for the last few months.
In October, Russia deployed several warplanes at al-Qamishli Airport in a message to Turkey that was at the time preparing to launch a new offensive against the SDF. Back then, Russian forces held a series of joint exercises with Syrian government forces at the airport and in other parts of the northern and northeastern regions.
More recently, an advanced Russian 48Ya6-K1 Podlet K1 low-altitude radar, which can be used to support air-defense systems, was spotted at al-Qamishli Airport.
The recent Russian military movements in northeastern Syria are likely meant to deter Turkey as well as to mount more pressure on the US-led coalition.
Its a warning. Thsts a compact aerial strike force against a peer adversary. the gloves are coming off.