After more than 30 years, the Syrian Air Force has returned to counting new MiG-29 fighters. The Russian embassy in the country confirmed this week that Syria received an undisclosed amount of the combat aircraft on May 30.
“The Syrian army has received the second batch of MiG-29 from Russia within the framework of defense cooperation between our nations. The Syrians have already started using those planes for missions,” the embassy said on Twitter.
The ceremony took place at Hmeymim air base, where Russian fighter planes were photographed a few days ago, including two MiG-29s and two other Su-24 attack planes. None of these aircraft sported insignia yet. According to a source from the Syrian agency SANA, pilots would start using the new fighters from June 1.
Syria received its first batch of MiG-29 in 1989 and had as many as 40 fighter jets, but it is estimated that there are currently only 19 operational units and which are in poor condition.
The second batch involves modernized fighters, with more advanced radar and the ability to transport R-77 air-to-air missiles. The reinforcement obtained from Russia would be a way to contain alleged Israeli attacks, say Russian websites.
Libya as final destination
The delivery of the new planes, however, was the target of US accusations that the final destination would be Libya and not just Syria. According to the US Africa Command, 14 fighter planes were monitored in Syria and Iran before arriving in Libya. In response to the American insinuation, Russia called the statement “stupidity“.
Since the fall of dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, Libya has been divided, with part of the country supported by the United Nations and part by Russia.