Moscow Posts Spetsnaz to Syria in Bid for Zero Russian War Losses

On Wednesday, Jan. 20, the Russian Defense Ministry took a group of Moscow-based Western reporters on a tour of the Hmeineem air force base near Latakia in Syria. It was the second time Russia had opened the base to the Western press after the first tour last October.
Besides the addition of a second runway, the reporters were most impressed by the facility’s elaborate defense measures against surprise attack by Syrian rebels.
During the entire tour, Russian helicopters, including the newly-deployed Kamov Ka-52 helicopter gunship, hovered at a low altitude overhead, checking for any movements in the forested hills around the base.
The Ka-52 chopper, posted to protect the Russian Task Force at the air base, doubles as a search-and-rescue vehicle for missions like the hunt to recover the two pilots who ejected from the Russian Su-24 after it was shot down by the Turkish Air Force last November.
This posting will also be an opportunity to test the new Ka-52’s novel KRET Vitebsk electronic warfare system, which is designed to protect the chopper from anti-aircraft fire from a distance of hundreds of kilometers. Its functions are to identify the source of fire and activate an electronic field to deflect any missile aimed at the helicopter and other targets within a certain radius.
The reporters’ notice was also caught by the Spetsnaz special operations units standing guard over every giant Russian transport plane and group of bombers.
These units are normally reserved for special combat operations, rather than serving as guards. However, according to the debkafile military sources familiar with the Russian military buildup in Syria, it was President Vladimir Putin who personally confirmed their deployment as an extraordinary measure for averting Russian war casualties.
He acted on the recommendations of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and the late Col. Gen. Igor Sergun, then head of Russia’s GRU military intelligence service.
Sergun died of a sudden heart attack on Jan. 3. Some circles in Moscow suggest that the GRU chief was seeking to expand his agency’s control and oversight over Russian forces in Syria by the presence of Spetsnaz, which is a branch of GRU, as his instrument.
His motives may never now be known for sure, but the upshot of his advice is highly visible: Spetsnaz troops control the space around every Russian base, position, convoy, unit or squadron operating in Syria. With sophisticated helicopter support, they have transformed those spaces into sterile areas.

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