US air combat general: The Russian Su-57 stealth jets in Syria raise “the level of complexity for USAF crews to deal with.”
Vladimir Gutenov, Chairman of the Military Industry Committee in the Russian parliament, commented Friday, Feb. 23, that the deployment of the Su-57 in Syria may send a political message, serving as a deterrent “for aircraft from neighboring states which periodically fly into Syria uninvited.” The Russian lawmaker added that the planes “need to be tested in combat conditions, in conditions of [enemy] resistance.”
DEBKAfile’s military sources note that the “political message” conveyed by the deployment of two fifth-generation, stealth SU-57 fighter jets at the Russian Khmeimim air base in Latakia is crystal clear. It is a warning to the US, Israel and Turkey against continuing their air force flights in Syrian air space. The reference to “the need to test the new plane in combat conditions” indicates that Moscow will not hesitate to send the high-tech jets into battle.
US responses to the Russian move were mixed. US Defense Department spokesman Eric Pahon told reporters, “We do not consider these [Su-57] jets to be a threat to our operations in Syria, and will continue to deconflict operations as necessary.” The DoD spokesman went on to complain that the deployment was an indication that Russia was not living up to its “announced force drawdown.”
More to the point, Gen. Mike Holmes, commander, Air Combat Command, Langley Air Base, Virginia, was quoted as saying, “The reported arrival of Russian stealth SU-57 fighter jets to Syria raises the level of complexity for the USAF crews to deal with.”
Our sources note that the “deconflict operations” cited by the Pentagon spokesman referred to the secret accords on military coordination in Syria that the US and Russia struck last year. The arrival of the Su-57 means that Moscow no longer feels bound by those accords. It may also indicate that President Vladimir Putin has equally relegated similar understandings with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to the past.