Following last week’s Turkish military shoot-down of a Su-24 Russian bomber over Syrian airspace, Russia announced its intention to begin providing fighter escorts to their future bombing runs in the area to avoid future incidents.
Today, advanced Russian Su-34 fighter jets, armed with air-to-air missiles, arrived in Syria to take part in the escort missions, which Russian Air Force officials described as “self-defense” operations.
With the Russian air war exclusively targeting Islamist militant factions with no planes of their own, the planes are clearly meant more or less exclusively as a response to Turkey’s shootdown, and to dissuade Turkish F-16s from taking any more shots at their planes, reflecting how serious tensions remain along that frontier.
Russia has also deployed air defense systems in northwestern Syria since the incident. Turkish officials have insisted they will not apologize for shooting down the Russian plane, and angrily condemned Russia for imposing economic sanctions on them over the attack.