Russia plans to expand its Hmeymim Air Base in Syria to ensure that its operations run smoothly and to enhance its security by adding extra aprons, building barracks and a hospital, as well as assigning extra space for large transport aircraft, etc., an unnamed source in the Russian Defense Ministry told Izvestiya.
The plan first surfaced in late 2015, but its implementation was postponed until the “status of the object was determined,” the source added, providing specific details on Hmeymim’s future.
Russia wants to expand the aircraft apron or the area where planes are parked, loaded and unloaded or refueled, because the ramp at Hmeymim was too crowded on busy days. Extra artificial hills will also be added to secure the warplanes in case of shelling.
The source further said that it was possible that aviation squadrons will be stationed in different areas of the air base to enhance security because “at the moment there is a single ‘parking lot’ there.”
New radio equipment, including air traffic control systems will be deployed to the base. In addition, Russian experts will arrange sites for the Pantsir surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery weapon systems that are tasked with providing air cover for the base.According to the plan, a special area will be assigned for loading, unloading and servicing of the Antonov An-124 Ruslan transport jets so that they don’t get in the way of other aircraft stationed at Hmeymim.
Russia also plans to build barracks, a dining hall and a hospital at the base.
Earlier, First Deputy Chairman of the Defense and Security Committee in Russia’s Federation Council Franz Klintsevich told the newspaper that Russia plans to turn Hmeymim into a fully operational base.On Tuesday, Senator Viktor Ozerov said that “we will be able to develop the military base, outfit it with advanced navigation equipment, improve the airstrip, the living conditions and activities of Russia’s Armed Forces.”
Last year, Russia and Syria signed an agreement that allows Moscow to use the Hmeymim air base for an indefinite period of time free of charge. Analyst Alexander Khrolenko cautioned against calling the deal “a gift” for Russia, saying that it is rather a “necessity” and a “war-time imperative.”
Hmeymim’s future depends on conditions in Syria, he added. “Even if we have to step up the operation of the Russia Aerospace Forces, the agreement will make Russia’s activities absolutely legitimate.”
Russia’s “counterterrorism operation [in Syria] could last for months and years. Russian forces [deployed to the country] need to be on combat alert in the port city of Tartus and at the Hmeymim air base. All international legal conditions for that have been established,” he observed.
Professor Nourhan El Sheikh of Cairo University maintained that Russia’s increased military presence in Syria will have a positive effect on the region.
“Russia is the only international player that is genuinely fighting terrorism,” she told Izvestiya. “The US and other Western countries have put on a show and they have nothing to show for it.”