Russia is sending the flagship of its navy, the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier, to join the battle against the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in Syria.
According to the TASS news agency, the ship will leave for the Mediterranean Sea in October and serve as a platform for carrying out airstrikes against the terrorists until at least February 2017.
Classified by Moscow as a heavy aircraft-carrying missile cruiser (TAVKR), she will carry 15 Sukhoi Su-33 fighter jets (seen in the video below) and Mikoyan MiG-29K/KUB fighters, and around 10 Kamov Ka-52K, Ka-27, and Ka-31 choppers.
“The Joint Staff has developed a program for carrier pilots to take part in delivering airstrikes on terrorist groups in Syria. It implies performing operational flights from the carrier against land targets,” said a source.
The source noted that the Admiral Kuznetsov will take the helm of Russia’s naval operations in Syria, where it will ensure sufficient operation range of its jet fighters.
After finishing its tour, it will return to the Sevmash shipyards in Severodvinsk in the north of Russia where it will receive extensive upgrading.
Earlier in the week, the head of the Russian State Duma’s Defense Committee and former commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, Admiral Vladimir Komoedov, stressed that the carrier should join the Russian fleet in the Mediterranean to protect Moscow’s interests in the region.
“The ship’s crew ought to be rotated, yet the vessel should not leave the Mediterranean,” Komoedov said.
Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura estimates that over 400,000 people have been killed in the conflict. The UN has stopped its official casualty count in Syria, citing its inability to verify the figures it receives from various sources.
On March 14, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial military pull-out from Syria; however, forces remain mainly at the Khmeimim airbase in Latakia and at the Tartus naval base to help maintain a Moscow-Washington brokered ceasefire.
Russia started its military campaign in Syria on September 30, 2015, based on a request from the Syrian government.
The airstrikes have greatly boosted the morale of the Syrian army as it has managed to retake key areas from militants across the country with Russia's support.
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