The distance as the crow flies between Russia’s Syrian air base Al-Hmeineem near Latakia and its Iraqi host facility at Al Taqaddum Air base is 824 km (445 nautical miles). From the Latakia base to Israel, the distance is just 288 km or 155 nautical miles, a hop and a skip in aerial terms. Syria’s ruler Bashar Assad first let Moscow in with the use of a base where 30 fighter and bombing jets are now parked. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi followed suit Saturday, Oct. 24 by granting the Russian Air force the use of a facility 74 km from Baghdad.
Their presence in the two bases draws a strong arc of Russian aerial control at the heart of Middle East. By boosting its two extremities with state-of-the-art electronic warfare systems, Moscow has imposed a new reality whereby it will soon be almost impossible for any air or ground force, American or Israeli, to go into military action above or inside Syria or Iraq without prior coordination with the Russians.
The bricks of Russian domination are now almost all in place.
In the last week of September, two Ilyushin-20 (IL-20 Coot) super-surveillance planes stole into Syrian airspace, to provide a major upgrade for the Russian air fleet of Sukhoi-30 fighter jets, cargo planes and attack helicopters gathering for combat in Syria.
This was first revealed by DEBKA Weekly’s military and intelligence sources on Oct. 2.
The IL-20s, the Russian Air Force’s top-line intelligence-gathering aircraft, brought over from the Baltic Sea, have exceptional features as an intelligence platform. Their four turboprop engines enable it to stay airborne for over 12 hours, using its thermal and infrared sensors, antennas, still and video cameras, and side-looking airborne (SLAR) radar to collect a wide range of data from long distances, day or night, in almost any kind of weather.
The Coot-20 collates the data gathered and transmits it to intelligence or operational command centers in Moscow or its Latakia air base by powerful jam-resistant communications systems, satellites and other methods.
Aloft over Syria, the IL-20 can supply Russian forces and commanders with a complete, detailed picture of the situation on the ground. Its close proximity to Israel, moreover, enables this wonder plane to scoop up a wealth of data from across the border – not just on IDF military movements on the Golan, but also to eavesdrop on electronic activity and conversations in Jerusalem, Military Staff Headquarters in Tel Aviv, Air Force bases in southern Israel and even the nuclear complex in Dimona in the Negev.
DEBKAfile’s military sources add that an Il-20 Coot has been sighted in the last few days at the Iraqi Al Taqaddum Air base near Baghdad.
Then, on Oct. 4, our sources reveal, another Russian super-weapon was brought to Syria by Russian cargo ships: Nine MT-LB armored personnel carriers fitted with the Borisoglebsk 2 electronic warfare systems, which are among the most sophisticated of their kind in the world.
These APCs were secretly driven aboard tank carriers to Nabi Yunis, which is the highest peak of the Alawite Mountains along the coastal plain of northwest Syria, and stands 1,562 meters (5,125 feet) above sea level. To render the highly complicated Borisoglebsk 2 device system impermeable to attack, our electronic warfare experts describe it as fitted into the interior and walls of the nine APCS, along with receivers that can pick up transmissions on a wide range of frequencies on the electromagnetic spectrum.
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