Khmeimim Air Base
|Hmeymim Air Base|
(Latakia Air Base)
قاعدة حميميم الجوية
|Bassel Al-Assad International Airport|
Near Latakia in Syria
A Russian Su-24 bomber at hmeimim airbase, Syria
|Operator||Russian Air Force|
|Elevation||48 metres (157 ft) AMSL|
Khmeimim Air Base, also Hmeimim Air Base is a Syrian airbase currently operated by Russia, located south-east of the city of Latakia in Hmeimim, Latakia Governorate, Syria. The airbase shares some airfield facilities with Bassel Al-Assad International Airport. The legal status of the base is regulated by a treaty Russia and Syria signed in August 2015. At the end of 2017, Russia said it had decided to turn the Khmeimim base into a component of its permanent military contingent stationed in Syria.
History and current legal status
Khmeimim air base was built in mid-2015 adjacent to the Bassel Al-Assad International Airport to serve as "the strategic center of Russian military intervention in the Syrian Civil War". The existence of the Russian strategic base was revealed by the United States in early September and American officials expressed concern over the possibility of escalation of the conflict in Syria. The airbase became operational on 30 September 2015.
On 26 August 2015, in Damascus, Russia and Syria signed a treaty, effective forthwith, that stipulates terms and conditions of use by Russia of Syria's Hmeimim airport, free of charge and with no time limit. The treaty, ratified by Russia′s parliament and signed into law by president Vladimir Putin in October 2016, grants Russia′s personnel and their family members jurisdictional immunity and other privileges as envisaged by Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. The Syrian military is in charge of protecting the base perimeter, while the Russian side is responsible for air defense and internal policing of base personnel. The treaty was amended by signing a protocol to the treaty on 18 January 2017.
In late December 2017, Russia announced it had set about "forming a permanent grouping" at Khmeimim as well as at its naval facility in Tartus, after president Putin approved the structure and the personnel strength of the Tartus and Hmeymim bases.
Within several months in 2015 new infrastructure was built: air-conditioned accommodation for approximately 1,000 people, an air traffic control tower, runway extensions, storage facilities, field kitchens, and refuelling stations. Supplies were flown in from Russia or shipped via Tartus harbour 50 km (31 mi) away. The base is reported to be capable of handling Antonov An-124 Ruslan and Ilyushin Il-76M transport aircraft; the deployed aircraft included Sukhoi Su-24Ms, Sukhoi Su-25s, and Sukhoi Su-34s, reconnaissance aircraft Il-20M as well as T-90 tanks, BTR-82 vehicles, artillery, with Mil Mi-24, Mi-28, Ka-52 gunships and Mil Mi-8 support helicopters.
At the end of February 2016 and in response to developments at the Geneva peace talks, a truce coordination center had been established at the airbase to coordinate activities of warring parties and "render maximum assistance" to all parties participating in recent ceasefire agreements; the center will not support ISIL, Al-Nusra, and terrorist groups so designated by the UN Security Council.
In 2018 RT reported on a large-scale renovation at the airport. This included the construction of a second landing strip, hangars to shelters planes from drone attacks and the sun, and a centralized fuel system to speed up refueling. With the demise of opposing forces, Russian pilots were said to perform mainly training sessions having at hand 30 aircraft consisting of Su-35S, Su-34 and Su-24 planes and Mi-35 and Mi-8AMTSh helicopters.
In November 2016, after the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov lost a MiG-29K fighter due to arrestor cable problems, satellite images indicated that at least some of the carrier's air wing of MiG-29K and Sukhoi Su-33 aircraft had been deployed to Khmeimim.
On 3 January 2018, the Kommersant reported that rebel shelling on 31 December 2017 caused the deaths of 2 Russian military personnel and the loss of at least seven aircraft stationed on the base; the Russian MoD on 4 January 2018 acknowledged that the attack occurred and confirmed that two servicemen had been killed, but denied that any jets had been disabled. According to Roman Saponkov, a Russian military journalist who posted photographs of the aftermath of the attack on the same day that the Russian MoD published its statement, no aircraft were destroyed in the attack, but ten were damaged. An article on /Drive said that key questions about the attack were still unanswered despite the Russian MoD's communique.
On 12 January, the Russian MoD said the military had destroyed a group of militants that shelled the Khmeimim airbase, close to the western border of the Idlib province; a Krasnopol projectile was used.
On 6 March 2018, a Russian Antonov An-26 transport plane crash during an attempted landing at the airbase killed all 39 military personnel on board. The Russian MoD said that the plane was not fired upon and preliminary data suggested that a technical malfunction had caused the crash.
On September 19 2018, a Russian Ilyushin Il-20 plane that was coming in to land was hit by Syrian air defense in a friendly fire incident. The Syrians were trying to target Israeli aircraft. The Russian Defense Ministry said that four Israeli F-16 fighter jets had attacked targets in Syria’s Latakia after approaching from the Mediterranean. The Israeli warplanes had approached at a low altitude and “created a dangerous situation for other aircraft and vessels in the region.” “The Israeli pilots used the Russian plane as cover and set it up to be targeted by the Syrian air defense forces. As a consequence, the Il-20, which has radar cross-section much larger than the F-16, was shot down by an S-200 system missile,” the statement said, adding that 15 Russian military service members have died as a result.
On 6 January 2018, Russian forces thwarted a drone (UAV) swarm attack on the base, the first of this kind in the history of warfare. Statements from Russia's MoD on 8 and 10 January confirmed earlier reports about the incident, saying that the attempted attack that involved 13 armed, fixed-wing drones which were used to attack both the Hmeimim base and the Tartus naval facility on 5—6 January was repulsed by the Russian forces' radio-electronic warfare technologies; it also refuted earlier reports that a greater number of UAVs were involved in the attack and alleged that the drones could have been obtained only from a country that possessed "high-tech capabilities for providing satellite navigation and remote control."
Referring to the 6 January swarm attack on 25 October, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Colonel General Alexander Fomin stated that "Thirteen drones moved according to common combat battle deployment, operated by a single crew. During all this time the American Poseidon-8 reconnaissance plane patrolled the Mediterranean Sea area for eight hours," according to the TASS article which provided details on the operation and how the Poseidon managed the attack and the drones were switched from autonomus to manual control. Further analysis was provided by Editor-in-Chief of National Defense journal Igor Korotchenko stating "There were three such goals: uncovering the Russian air defense system in Syria, carrying out radio-electronic reconnaissance and inflicting actual harm to our servicemen in Syria," in a 2nd TASS article providing further information on the Russian analysis of the attack and the Russian official belief that it was a Pentagon operation. The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed the Deputy Defence Minister's claim. In a statement to Military Times the Pentagon said “Any suggestion that U.S. or coalition forces played a role in an attack on a Russian base is without any basis in fact and is utterly irresponsible,” in an article covering the likelihood of the Russian claims.
On 24 April, the airbase was targeted by another wave of drones in a swarm attack. Russian forces reported they had intercepted and destroyed several "small-size unidentified airborne targets" while they approached the base.
On 30 June, Russian air defences repelled another drone attack on the base, shooting down multiple unidentified unmanned aerial vehicles. During July and August 2018, the airbase was targeted by multiple drone attacks, all were repelled. In August 2018, a total of 47 drones had been shot down by Russian air defenses. 50 drones were shot down in September-October 2018.
Three more attacks occurred in August 2019.
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At the end of September 2015, NATO's supreme allied commander for Europe, General Philip Breedlove, said that the kind of military infrastructure that Russia had installed in Syria, which included anti-aircraft defence systems, was a de facto no-fly zone: "As we see the very capable air defense [systems] beginning to show up in Syria, we're a little worried about another A2/AD [anti-access/area denial] bubble being created in the eastern Mediterranean." (Russia's third denial zone around Europe)
An article on /Drive in early 2018 said that the regularity of attacks on the air base could be "troublesome for Moscow's narrative and are likely an indication of how the conflict in Syria will morph in the coming months."
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- Россия начала формировать постоянную группировку в Тартусе и Хмеймиме TASS, 26 December 2017.
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Eleven Su-24 jets are visible in the January 10 and 19 satellite imagery, just as there were eleven visible on October 26, 2016.
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- Russia has just deployed its most advanced spyplane to Syria
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The electronic intelligence was gathered, according to the report, by a Russian listening station at Hmemim Airport near Latakia, Syria, operated by the Sixth Directorate of GRU military intelligence.
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At least four Su-24 bombers, two Su-35S fighters and an An-72 transport plane, as well as an ammunition depot, were destroyed by the shelling, Kommersant said on its website, citing two "military-diplomatic" sources.
- "Syria war: Russia thwarts drone attack on Khmeimim airbase". BBC. 7 January 2018.
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According to Saponkov, no aircraft were destroyed but 10 aircraft were damaged, including six Su-24s, one Su-35S, one An-72, one An-30 turboprop observation plane and an Mi-8 transport helicopter. He also claimed that two Su-24s and one Su-35S have returned to operational status.
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- Russian military eliminates militants who shelled Hmeymim airbase 31 December TASS, 12 January 2018.
- Минобороны объявило об уничтожении террористов, обстрелявших российскую базу Хмеймим в Сирии (ВИДЕО)
- The Express 7 March 2018 Russian cargo plane crashes, killing 39
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- Russia Says 13 Drones Used In Attack On Its Air Base, Naval Facility In Syria Radio Liberty, 8 January 2018.
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- Reports of 31 drones attacking Russian facilities in Syria untrue, says defense official TASS, 10 January 2018.
- Минобороны опубликовало новое фото беспилотников, атаковавших Хмеймим RIA Novosti, 10 January 2018.
- Thirteen drones moved according to common combat battle deployment, operated by a single crew TASS, 25 October 2018.
- U.S. Attacked Russia's Syria Base With Drones, Defense Ministry Claims Haaretz, 25 October 2018.
- Kremlin accuses U.S. of drone attack on Russian air base in Syria The Jerusalem Post, 25 October 2018.
- "U.S. Orchestrated Drone Attack on Russian Base in Syria, Defense Ministry Says". The Moscow Times. 25 October 2018.
- Drone attack on Russia’s Syrian airbase was elaborate Pentagon operation, says expert TASS, 25 October 2018.
- Russia claims US aircraft took control of drones in attempted attack on its Syrian base Military Times, 25 October 2018
- Russia: Zakharova deems report about US drone attack on Russian Syria base 'absolutely reliable' Ruptly, 25 October 2018
- Did US drones swarm a Russian base? Probably not, but that capability isn’t far off. Military Times, 29 October 2018
- Russia says US spy plane directed attack against its Syrian air base News.com.au, 26 October 2018
- Russian air defenses intercept attacks on its Hmeimim base in Syria: reports Xinhua, 25 April 2018.
-  Sputnik, 1 July 2018.
- Russia says drone attacks on its Syria base have increased
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