WASHINGTON – Russian warplanes sent to Syria to back the regime of Bashar Assad are breaking down at a rapid rate that appears to be affecting their ability to strike targets, according to a senior Defense official.
Nearly one-third of Russian attack planes and half of its transport aircraft are grounded at any time as the harsh, desert conditions take a toll on equipment and crews, said the official who was not authorized to speak publicly about sensitive intelligence matters.
The Russians appear to be having difficulty adapting to the dusty conditions, and the number of airstrikes they have conducted seems to have dipped slightly."For deployed forces, that's a hideous rate," said Richard Aboulafia, an aviation analyst at the Teal Group, an aerospace consulting firm.
Russian President Vladimir Putin deployed warplanes, including Russia's advanced Fullback ground-attack jet, helicopters and troops to a base near Latakia, Syria, in September. In addition, at least a dozen transport planes have been stationed there.
"They could have bad operating procedures, inadequate supplies of spare parts and support crews," Aboulafia said.
Russia's inexperience deploying forces at some distance, unlike their military actions in bordering countries such as Ukraine and Georgia, could also account for problems keeping planes in the air, he said.
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