On May 18, a reconnaissance aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces was targeted with a missile while flying on a mission over the northwestern Syrian region of Greater Idlib.
The missile failed to hit the reconnaissance aircraft, exploding way beneath it. The aircraft went on to complete its mission over the region.
Aviation observers in Greater Idlib, who track Russian and Syrian warplanes to provide the region’s militants with early warning, identified the aircraft as a “Swan”. This term is usually used to refer to the Beriev A-50 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft.
At least one A-50 is currently deployed in Hmeimim Air Base on the Syrian coast. The aircraft conducts reconnaissance sorties over Greater Idlib on a regular basis.
While some Syrian opposition activists claimed that the missile that targeted the Russian aircraft was launched from a position of the Turkish Armed Forces, others said that it was fired by militants from the al-Fateh al-Mubeen Operations Room, which is led by al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). The terrorist group is the de-facto ruler of Greater Idlib.
This was not the first attempt to target Russian aircraft over Greater Idlib this year. On April 10, a reconnaissance aircraft was targeted with a missile while flying over the region. However, the missile failed to reach the aircraft, that went on to complete its mission.
These attempts highlight the instable situation in Greater Idlib, where HTS and its allies continue to challenge a ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey more than two years ago.