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More about Syria's airbases under control of Russia, Iran, US

Special Reports | 2017-12-03 12:49:54
More about Syria's airbases under control of Russia, Iran, US

(Zaman Al Wasl)-  Zaman al-Wasl has obtained a study made by experts and former military pilots detailing the mounting presence of the regional and international powers in Syria where most of airbases are under control of Iran, Russia, U.S., France and Turkey.


Syria's long-running war may be winding down slowly, but the country is awash in weapons and a confounding array of local militias and thousands of foreign troops, some of which may never leave, according to AP. With crucial aid from allies Iran and Russia, President Bashar Assad has regained control over large areas of Syria in advances that appear to have put to rest the possibility of a military overthrow, at least for now. But his rule is extremely reliant on continued assistance from Iranian-sponsored militias, which have spread across the war-ravaged country.


More information and data about Syria’s airfields and bases throughout the war-torn country and which states is controlling it:



-The Russians-



Russia has never said how many of its military personnel, warplanes and other weapons are in Syria. Turnout figures in voting from abroad in the September 2016 parliamentary election indicated the number of Russian military personnel in Syria at the time was about 4,300. The Russian presence has likely increased, as Moscow this year deployed its military police to patrol so-called "de-escalation zones" in Syria, according to AP. Open-source materials — including video from the Hemeimeem air base, the main hub for the Russian military in Syria since its campaign began in September 2015 — indicate that Russia has several dozen jets and helicopter gunships there. Russia also has deployed special forces to conduct intelligence and coordinate airstrikes. Senior Russian military officers also have helped train and direct Syrian government troops. In recent months, Russian military police have become increasingly visible in Syria. The chief of the Russian military general staff, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, said last week that Russia will "significantly" reduce its military foothold in Syria as the campaign nears its end. At the same time, he indicated Russia will maintain a presence at both the Hemeimeem air base and the navy supply facility in Tartus. Gerasimov added that the military's Reconciliation Center, a group of officers who have helped negotiate and maintain truces in Syria and coordinated the delivery of humanitarian aid, also will stay. The Syrian regime has allowed Russia to use Hemeimeem air base indefinitely without cost.


Moscow also has signed a deal with Syria to use the Tartus base for 49 years, which could be extended if both parties agree. The Russian military plans to modernize the air base to allow it to host more warplanes. It also intends to expand the Tartus facility significantly to make it a full-scale naval base capable of hosting warships, including cruiser-sized vessels.




Russia established its own military bases as in Hmeimeem airport which it appears will remain a permanent Russian base. The Chairman of the Defense and Security Committee of the Russian Federal Council Viktor Bondarev, told Sputnik on November 25, that Russia intends to retain its military bases in Hmeimim and Tartus after the end of what he called the “counterterrorism operations”.

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According to the paper, the regime forces established alternatives to Hmeimeem airport after the regime forces were prevented from entering it. The Hamidiya agricultural airport south of Tartus was rehabilitated to receive civil aviation, and it can be used for military aircrafts as well if necessary.

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A helicopter pad was established at Stamo village in Latakia countryside for the 618th Squadron (Kamov helicopters and anti- submarine helicopter Mil 14). The helicopter pad currently houses a squadron of helicopters from the 59th helicopter brigade and a group of drone aircrafts (WZ-10) which the regime obtained from Russian.


The study also discussed the Russian presence in Menagh airport which is also a permanent presence. The Kurdish forces handed Menagh airport over to the Russian forces recently. The Russian flag was raised above the airport as a preemptive move to prevent the entry of the Turkish and oppositional forces.


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 -Russia Smuggles Antiquities of Palmyra-


The Russian forces took the Palmyra military airport as its military and aerial headquarters in the Syrian desert after the Islamic State forces withdrew from the area. The Russian forces use the base for helicopters and unmanned drone aircrafts. The base also houses an advanced spying and jamming center.


There is information indicating that the Russian forces' rely on this base in smuggling much of the antiquities and artefacts they looted from the historical town of Palmyra and elsewhere.


The study mentioned that the regime forces are still present in the airport in the form of the 39th brigade’s aircraft squadron and the 64th brigade’s squadron of Mi 25 helicopters that offer artillery support.


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Various news agencies reported that Russia has begun building a new military base in Khirbet Ras al-Waar, near Bi’r Qassab, east of Damascus.



-The Iranians-


Of all the foreign troops in Syria, perhaps none have been as widespread and potentially lasting as the Iranians. The Islamic Republic of Iran has made an enormous effort to keep Assad in power, providing extensive military and financial support throughout the six-year civil war.

It has deployed Islamic Revolutionary Guards in Syria as well as Iranian officers who provide military and political support. Iranian officials say more than 1,000 Iranian fighters have been killed in Syria and Iraq after they were deployed to defend Shiite holy shrines.

Tens of thousands of Iranian-sponsored pro-government local militias known as the National Defense Forces are deployed across Syria, in addition to Iraqi Shiite militias and thousands of Iranian-backed Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon who have been key factors in turning the war in the government's favor. Hezbollah is deployed in wide areas along Syria's border with Lebanon, where the Shiite group has built military facilities and long-term bases it is unlikely to leave anytime soon.

Iran's strategy aims to ensure it can continue to pursue its vital interests after the war, using parts of Syria as a base and making certain that a land corridor from Tehran to Beirut remains open.




IRAN-HELD BASES



Deir Ezzor Airport



After the regime forces broke the siege on the airport earlier this year, the Iranian, Hezbollah and Shiite militia forces were stationed inside the airport. A plane detachment for the 39th Air College were moved to the airport after all the training airplanes of the 24th brigade went out of service. A squadron of transport Mi 8 and Mi 17 are also in the airport.


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-Safira Heliport-


The Iranian forces located in al-Safira factory in Aleppo established a heliport there to transport equipment, explosives, ammunition, and explosive barrels manufactured at the factor.   The helipad contains a detachment of Mi-8 transport, a detachment of Gazelle helicopters to transport commanders, and a group of unmanned drones managed by the Iranians.



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-Southern Raqqa Heliport-


During the battles in the southern countryside of al-Raqqah, the regime established a helipad for helicopters south of al-Raqqah east of the southern al-Raqqah road. The helicopters can land to provide the forces and militias with different kinds of support. The helipad also houses two Iranian manufactured unmanned drones.


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-Dhaba' Military Airbase




Before the revolutionary movement, Dhaba' Airport did not have any regime airplanes. After Hezbollah and the Shiite forces took control of the Qusayr region, Hezbollah took this airport as a military location. It increased the presence of its forces in the airport hangers and the areas west of the airport. Hezbollah uses the airport to launch directed aircrafts and Iranian aircrafts landed in the airbase at different periods of time.

 

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-Kharbet al-Ward Airbase-



After the Shiite militias took over Sayyidah Zaynab and the surrounding areas, the militias took Kharbet al-Ward as their headquarters. The militias rehabilitated part of the base to make it suitable for guided aircrafts to land and launch from it. The militias continue to use the base until this time.

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-The Americans-


The presence of U.S. troops in northern Syria was initially meant to help train and support Kurdish-dominated local forces fighting the Islamic State group. The number of troops has grown gradually. Although the official limit on U.S. troops has remained at 503 since shortly before President Barack Obama left office, the actual number is now believed to be more than 1,500, including special forces, a Marine artillery unit, forward air controllers and others. They are spread across more than a dozen bases in northern Syria. The end of the fight against IS takes away any legal justification for the presence of U.S. troops in Syria, but U.S. officials are now suggesting they plan to maintain a U.S. troop presence in the north until an overall settlement for the war is found. That has raised concern about a more permanent project that risks drawing the U.S. into a conflict with Syria and Assad's ally, Iran. "We're not just going to walk away right now before the Geneva process has cracked," U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said earlier this month, referring to the U.N.-backed political talks. Kurdish officials have asked the U.S. to stay on, fearing that a quick withdrawal would facilitate Assad's forces swooping in on Kurdish-held territory in the north. Earlier this month, the Syrian government called on the United States to withdraw its forces now that the fight against the Islamic State group is nearly over. The Foreign Ministry statement said the presence of U.S. troops will not force a political solution to the conflict.


The American military presence is no longer a secret after the American forces openly based the Kurdish forces in the north and east of the country under the heading of fighting terrorism. The American military presence is also no longer limited to elite and special forces and has extended to military bases which some predict will remain under American control.



-US-held Bases-

 


It is an old agricultural runway that the American forces equipped, rehabilitated and fenced off for it to become a helicopter, guided aircraft and transport aircraft runway. The runway is 1400 meters long, and it is considered the American forces’ most important runway because of its proximity to the oil fields in the YPG-held area. Some transport aircrafts which transport support for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are landing and taking off from the runway currently.

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-Malikiya Runway-


The runway is located south-west of the town of al-Malkiyet. The runway resembles the al-Rmelan runway as the American forces equipped the runway for the same purposes. They rehabilitated it entirely and extended it from 750 meters to 1250 meters. The runway is now suitable for different types of aircrafts to land and take off.


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-U.S. Largest Base-



Since the start of 2017, the American forces started equipping a massive military base north of al-Tabaqa, around 90 kilometers north of the town of Sarin close to the villages of Sabet al-Foqani, Sabet al-Tahtani and Sabet al-Hinko. The base is considered the most dangerous among all the American military bases in northern Syria as the plan to establish it indicates that it will become a permanent base. The American forces are establishing an aircraft runway close by on a vacant agricultural piece of land.


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-Tel Tamer-

This base is also considered one of the largest American bases in northern Syria. A large runway for aircrafts was established inside the base, and it is most likely functional at present. Several large shipment aircrafts were observed landing inside the base.

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-Tel Beydar Base-


A short runway was established for airplanes and helicopters (360 meters) close to the granary in Tel Beydar. This runway serves the large American base in Tel Beydar. This runway includes military equipment in addition to other military necessities.


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-French Base in Lafarge Cement Factory-


A runway was established inside the Lafarge cement factory in al-Raqqah’s northern countryside where the French and American forces have used the base to supply the Syrian Democratic Forces with equipment and weapons.


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-British Base in al-Tanf-


The British forces have their share in Syria as well. They established a British military and aerial base in the al-Tanf area at the meeting point of the Syrian, Iraqi and Jordanian border. The base includes a command system, control and reconnaissance. Several unmanned drones are housed at the base to execute missions inside Syrian territory.


The study stops at the Turkish forces inside Syria although we have not observed the Turkish forces owning any air bases at this time. Turkey’s lack of need for airbases may be due to the proximity of the Turkish border to the sites of fighting in Syria.


The study concludes by mentioning that the military and aerial bases subordinate to the regime have been bases for different forces allied with the regime whether in its military or aerial campaigns. The bases were also used by these various forces to provide logistical, technical and operational support. (AP contributed in this report)

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