Russia’s Su-57 fifth-generation fighter jets have successfully passed a second stage of testing in Syria, the Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov revealed. During the second stage of testing in Syria, the Su-57s completed all the planned tasks. No further details were provided. In February 2018, two Su-57 fighter jets were temporarily deployed in Syria, where they passed combat tests. The second stage of the testing likely took place in 2019.
Meanwhile, the Russian Navy and the Syrian Armed Forces have held joint naval and coastal defense drills in the eastern Mediterranean. The drills involved the Russian Naval group deployed in the region, aircraft from the Hmeimim airbase and forces of the Syrian Navy and Coast Guard. The sides practiced fighting unmanned aerial vehicles, illegal armed groups, as well as working on localization and elimination of consequences of attacks on the port of Tartus.
Clashes between the Syrian Army and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham took place near the villages of Tamana, Zaitun, Umm Khalahil and Zarzur in Idlib province. A battle tank, an armoured vehicle and 3 vehicles equipped with weapons belonging to militants were destroyed, according to the Russian military.
Pro-militant sources claim that during the past two days the Syrian Air Force and the Russian Aerospace Forces carried out over 100 strikes on positions of militants along the M5 highway. Pro-government sources describe these strikes as preparations for the ground operation.
On December 19, reports appeared that representatives of the Turkish intelligence met with leaders of Hayat Tahrir al-Shan and the National Front for Liberation warning them that Turkey has not reached with Russia a final agreement on Idlib and they should prepare to repel the advance of the Syrian Army.
Late on December 19, the Syrian Army kicked off a ground advance in southern Idlib attacking militants’ positions in Umm Jalal. Clashes are ongoing.