Security, Middle East
The fighter isn’t ready for combat.
Late in the evening on Feb. 21, 2018, a photograph appeared on social media purportedly showing two Russian Sukhoi T-50 prototype stealth fighters — also known as PAK-FAs or Su-57s — in the sky over Hmemmem air base in western Syria.
While the photograph was rather blurry and could not be precisely geo-located, by the morning of Feb. 22 two videos appeared on the same social media depicting almost the same scene. A pair of T-50s escorted by an Su-35 interceptor. The authenticity of the photo and videos is still in question.
But if T-50s are in Syria, it’ll be interesting to see how the Kremlin spins the deployment. Back in November 2017, Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered most of the Russian military contingent in Syria to withdraw, two years after Moscow intervened in the ongoing regional war.
Despite Putin’s order, two T-50s appeared in Syria along with a Russian air force A-50 radar plane, four Su-25 attack planes and four Su-35s fighters. The warplanes arrived in Syria following weeks of intensive air strikes by Russian planes targeting areas controlled by anti-regime rebels in Idlib and East Ghouta.
In other words, the T-50s’ deployment could be further proof that Putin’s withdrawal order was a lie.
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In any event, the stealth fighters’ presence in Syria raises other questions.