Video: Iranian Fighter Jets Escort Russian Long-Range Bombers to Syria

A Russian air force Tu-160 bomber as seen from another plane / AP via Russian Defense Ministry
November 20, 2015

The Russian Defense Ministry on Friday released multiple videos showing Moscow’s continued air and sea operations against targets in Syria.

In one of the videos, Iranian F-14 fighter jets appear to escort Russia’s long-range bombers as they fly toward Syria to strike areas held by the Islamic State, the terror group that claimed responsibility for downing a Russian passenger jet in Egypt and killing all 224 people aboard at the end of October.

The video purports to show "combat sorties of the long-range aviation of the Russian Air Force against terrorists in Syria," according to its the caption.

Boris Zilberman, an expert on Russia and the Middle East at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said that the video points to continued military cooperation between Russia and Iran and also suggests that Russia may be launching cruise missiles into Syria from Iranian airspace.

"That portion of the video was very likely taken over Iranian airspace," Zilberman told the Washington Free Beacon, pointing to the portion of the video showing Iranian fighter jets escorting the Russian bombers. "And it begs the question of whether Russia is firing cruise missiles into Syria from Iranian airspace. Either way, this shows again continued Russian-Iranian military cooperation."

A second video published Friday by the Russian Defense Ministry showcases the air operations of another long-range bomber.

"Strategic missile-carrying aircraft performed air-to-air refuelling in the course of the combat sorties with cruise missiles," the caption to the video reads.

According to Zilberman, the videos indicate that Russia is "showing off its military capabilities and enhancing its readiness to conduct such operations." Another video published Friday captures a "massive strike with cruise missiles" fired by Russian ships from the Caspian Sea. The missiles purportedly hit targets in Raqqa, Idlib, and Aleppo in Syria.

These are a few in a string of videos released by the Russian Foreign Ministry in recent days showing Moscow’s continued military action in Syria. Russia intervened militarily in the country in September, first constructing a military base there and later beginning airstrikes.

Russia has described its military action in Syria as an effort to combat the Islamic State and support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a longtime ally of Russia and Iran.

After a Russian airliner broke up over Egypt’s Sinai peninsula at the end of October, the Islamic State affiliate in Egypt quickly claimed responsibility for the crash. On Tuesday, the Russian Federal Security Service said that a bomb brought down the airplane, and Moscow is now offering a $50 million reward for more information about the individuals who planted the bomb.

Later this week, the Islamic State released a photo of the bomb that was allegedly used to bring down the aircraft, claiming that the device was constructed using a can of Schweppes Gold Pineapple soda and a small explosive.

On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin called for the "next level" of strikes against the Islamic State in Syria. Moscow also told Lebanon that it soon plans to conduct a three-day naval exercise in the Mediterranean Sea, which could interfere with flights in Lebanese airspace.