On September 1, two Tu-142MK maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft of the Russian Naval Aviation were deployed at the Hmeimim airbase in the western Syrian governorate of Lattakia, according to Syrian pro-government activists. The two aircraft were reportedly escorted by Su-35 warplanes.
The Tu-142MK has a combat radius of 6,500km and can fly as high as 12km. The maritime reconnaissance and ASW aircraft can be also armed with different types of torpedoes, bombs and anti-ship missiles, such as the advance Kh-35.
The two aircraft are expected to participate in the ongoing drills of the Russian Navy in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Syria, which will end on September 8. According to the Ministry of Defense of Russia, 25 warships led by the Marshal Ustinov missile cruiser and 30 aircraft, including the strategic Tu-160 missile-carrying bombers are participating in the drills.
Local observers believe that the drills are a response to the U.S. and its allies, which have threatened to carry out a new missile strikes on positions of the Damascus government. Russia has warned that the militants in northern Syria may stage a chemical attack to serve as a pretext for the new strike.