Russia decided to use the Hamadan airfield in Iran to prevent terrorists from spying on its strategic aircraft taking part in the Moscow-led counterterrorism operation in Syria, the Vzglyad newspaper asserted.
The business daily maintained that spying appears to have become a major issue since some radical groups fighting in Syria have lately succeeded in hiding from incoming Russian airstrikes. This, according to the media outlet, seems to indicate that someone has been tracking Russian strategic aircraft and sharing this information with the militants.
“We would rather not point fingers but jihadists and ‘moderate’ rebels who joined them have managed to hide from Russian warplanes suspiciously too often. This could only be done if they have access to satellite surveillance data,” the business daily suggested.
Vzglyad emphasized that radical groups lack equipment, particularly satellites and electronic warfare systems, needed to track long-range bombers as they take off from the Engels Air Force Base located east of the Russian city of Saratov.
“There are grounds to assume that someone interested and generous could provide this information to those who fight against Assad,” the media outlet noted.
This is one of the reasons behind Russia’s decision to use the Hamadan airfield in Iran as a launching ground for airstrikes against Daesh and al-Nusra Front in Syria. Russian aircraft deployed to Iran need less time to reach their goals in the war-torn country. In other words, the militants have less time to hide even if they know that an airstrike is imminent.There is another advantage to using Hamadan, Vzglyad noted. The airfield is located in an area that is protected against incoming cruise missile strikes due to its terrain.
On August 15, an undisclosed number of Tupolev Tu-22M3 supersonic long-range strategic bombers and Sukhoi Su-34 strike fighters left the airfield in the Russian town of Mozdok located in the Republic of North Ossetia–Alania and landed at the Hamadan airfield in Iran.
— Warfare Worldwide (@WarfareWW) August 15, 2016
The next day, these warplanes took part in what the Russian Defense Ministry described as a “concentrated airstrike.”Five large ammunition depots with weapons, munitions and fuel, as well as militant training camps near the cities of Serakab, Al-Ghab, Aleppo and Deir ez-Zor cities were destroyed in this attack. Russian bombers razed to the ground three command and control centers near the cities of Jafra and Deir ez-Zor and killed a “significant number of militants.”
These facilities, the ministry added, were used to support and assist radical groups fighting near Aleppo.
“Our bombers no longer need to take off from Mozdok, then cross the Caspian Sea, Iran and Iraq” to reach their targets, defense analyst Victor Litovkin told Izvestiya. In addition, Russia does not have to use Ilyushin Il-78 aerial refueling tankers in this case.
The geostrategic importance of this step is more important than military advantages, the expert added, since it shows that “Iran has openly become Russia’s ally in the anti-Daesh fight.”