Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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Russia Withdraws Half its Air Force from Syria as it Runs Short of Cash


(Photo : Russian Aerospace Forces) Russian Sukhoi Su-24 ground attack aircraft and personnel at Hmeymim Air Base.

Russia has just announced it had secretly withdrawn half of the strength of the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) operating at its largest air base in Syria ostensibly because it believes it's already beaten ISIS or Daesh.

The real reason, however, might be that Russia's economy continues to fail despite a spike in oil prices over the past year. Without sufficient oil revenues to fund its costly military intervention in Syria, a withdrawal of VKS units makes sound economic sense since Russia is running short of cash.

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The Russian General Staff on April 26 said it had withdrawn about half of its air units deployed to the Khmeimim Air Base (or Hmeymim Air Base), Russia's largest air base in Syria located southeast of the city of Latakia along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea in western Syria.

VKS squadrons in Khmeimim had a maximum strength of 35 aircraft (mostly ground attack aircraft) between Nov. 10, 2016 and Jan. 10, 2017. VKS currently operates some 80 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in Syria.

"The number of terrorist units has decreased, which allowed us to withdraw almost half of the aircraft based at the Hmeymim airbase," said Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi, Chief of the Main Operational Directorate.

He said analysis has shown that VKS has conducted four times more airstrikes than the U.S.-led coalition despite having fewer aircraft.

"Comparative analysis of the results of activities by Russian aircraft and the international coalition's aircraft in Syria shows that, while having far fewer aircraft, the Russian Aerospace Forces carried out three times more combat sorties and made four times more missile and bomb strikes," said Gen. Rudskoi.

He said that from Hmeymim, Russian aircraft are able to control all of Syria's airspace.

VKS combat aircraft have been carrying out airstrikes in Syria at the request of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since September 2016.

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