Russia plans to expand Khmeimim air base

World Aviation Defense & Security News - Russia
Russia plans to expand Khmeimim air base
The infrastructure of Russian air base Khmeimim in the Syrian province of Latakia will be expanded - a proper military compound and ramps for military transport aircraft will be built there, in particular, according to the Izvestia daily.
Russia plans to expand Khmeimim air base 640 001A RuAF Su-34 Fullback taking off from Khmeimim air base
(Credit: Russian Defense Ministry)
Russia plans to set up a full-fledged military base in Syria and station a standing Russian Aerospace Force (RusAF) contingent there, Franz Klintsevich, first deputy chairman of the Defense Committee of the Federation Council (the upper house of Russia’s parliament), has said. A well-informed source in the Defense Ministry has explained that the military is intent on expanding Khmeimim air base by far to enable it to accommodate large aircraft and on building a full-fledged post for military personnel. According to expert estimates, the continued Russian military presence will benefit the situation in the region irrespective of the unavoidable displeasure of the Gulf monarchies.

According to Klintsevich, a legal framework for the future status of Khmeimim AB is still under way, but Khmeimim may well turn into a full-fledged Russian military base soon. Once its legal status is agreed and Khmeimim becomes a Russian military base, proper infrastructure will be built there, and the troops will have normal accommodations. The RusAF task force may grow under the bilateral agreements, but the current assets in place are enough as far as the missions at hand are concerned. Nuclear weapons and heavy bombers will not be deployed there on a permanent basis, because this would run counter to the international commitments and cause very serious irritation.

A source close to the problem says an expansion of Khmeimim AB was planned as far back as late 2015, but the status of the base was not resolved then.

The parking areas and ramps are slated for expansion and protection by berms against artillery or aerial bombardment, because there were used to be problems with accommodating airplanes on peak days. Possibly, the air squadrons will be based separately to enhance security. The air base will be furnished with advanced radars and radio technical equipment, including air traffic control systems.

According to the source, Khmeimim AB’s improvement project also makes provision for a ramp for Antonov An-124 Ruslan (NATO reporting name: Condor) heavy airlifters to handle their load without haste and for ground crews to maintain them without hindering the operation of the whole airfield.

There will be permanent facilities built on post too - barracks, mess halls and a hospital - and the positions for the Pantsir-S1 anti-air missile/gun systems covering the airfield will be developed.

Turning Khmeimim AB into a full-fledged RusAF base is designed to both support an ally and facilitate Russia’s security. When the Russian air task force was committed to Syria, the Syrian forces were seriously demoralized, and the RusAF’s air support enabled them to pull themselves together, Klintsevich stressed. The RusAF’s intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and fire support enables the Syrian military to accomplish its missions. Russia realizes that unless it takes measures, the large-scale terrorist threat will get it as well. Something has to be done, and the talks on concerted action with the West have been futile, hence the strengthening of the relations with regional players - Syria, Iran and Iraq.

Professor Nourhan el-Sheikh, with Cairo University, a member of the Egyptian Council of Foreign Affairs (ECFA) and an expert with the Valdai Club, believes the increased Russian military presence in the Middle East will remedy the situation in the region.

In her opinion, Russia is the only international player fighting terrorists in earnest. The United States and other Western states are putting on a dog and pony show, but have got no actual results in the field to their name. Thus, Russia’s long-term military presence in the Middle East will be in the interests of not only Syria alone, but all Arab counties as well. The political scientist emphasized that the Russian military presence has already altered many things in Syria compared to the situation a year before.

Ms. el-Sheikh added that Saudi Arabia and several other Persian Gulf nations would be displeased with Vladimir Putin’s decision to keep Russian troops in Syria, because they have their own views of the country’s future, according to the Izvestia daily.
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