External dynamics hinder efforts to bring Syrian war to an end
19 May 2021
by Jonathan Spyer
Ten years after the Syrian civil war began in March 2011, President Bashar Assad has failed to unite Syria under his rule, or to return the situation in the country to its pre-war position of powerful and repressive authoritarian rule. Syria remains divided into three principal areas of control – the Damascus government, Kurdish territories, and Turkish-backed, opposition-controlled areas in the north-west and north-east – and is undermined by a variety of external powers and non-state actors that are themselves engaged in often overlapping conflicts on Syrian soil.
Despite several ongoing political and diplomatic processes to end the conflict, little progress is evident. Most significant in this regard is the Astana process, launched in January 2017, which brings together Iran and Turkey under Russian auspices. This process appears intended to sideline the United States, and to bring all fronts of the war under a single diplomatic process managed by Russia. For Moscow, this has the advantage of institutionalising its closer relations with Turkey.
A CH-53K King Stallion (foreground) and a CH-53E Super Stallion (background) are staged during a redesignation ceremony at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina, on 24 January. The squadron received its first CH-53K King Stallion, and the ceremony signified the beginning of the US Marine Corps' modernisation from the legacy CH-53E to the CH-53K in support of the expeditionary warfare vision for future-force employment. (US Marines)
The US Marine Corps (USMC) has stood up its first operational unit for the Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicopter, the service announced on 15 January.
Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 461 at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River, North Carolina, has been formally redesignated as the first fleet CH-53K unit, trading in its CH-53E Super Stallions.
“The CH-53K will allow the quick massing of combat power, agile manoeuvre, resilient logistics, and predictive maintenance, and be used in the Marine Corps' execution of expeditionary advanced base operations, a key component of the commandant of the [US] Marine Corps' force design,” the USMC said.
Two of the F-16s that Denmark is contributing to NATO's enhanced air policing mission. (NATO Allied Air Command)
NATO has bolstered its enhanced air policing (eAP) mission, with nations providing additional aircraft as concerns over Russian military action in Ukraine grow.
The alliance announced on 26 January that US Air Force (USAF) Boeing F-15E Strike Eagles and Royal Danish Air Force (RDAF) Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcons were being dispatched to Estonia and Lithuania respectively to supplement the current Baltic Air Policing mission.
“[USAF] F-15s have landed at Amari Air Base, Estonia, [on 26 Janaury] and [RDAF] F-16s will arrive at Siauliai Air Base, Lithuania, [on 27 January] to bolster the forces already deployed under the long-established NATO Air Policing mission,” NATO Allied Air Command said. “Danish F-16s will arrive in Siauliai to work alongside the Polish F-16s that deployed there on 1 December 2021 to conduct Baltic Air Policing. The US F-15s landed at Amari to integrate with the current detachment of Belgian F-16s; both detachments will execute the enhanced Air Policing mission.”
Bulgaria is set to receive eight F-16 Block 70 aircraft, analogous to the US Air Force M7 standard pictured, with a request for a further eight. The country has been told to expect a delay in its deliveries due to supplier and Covid problems. (US Air Force)
Delivery of the eight Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 70 Fighting Falcon combat aircraft for the Bulgarian Air Force is to be delayed by ‘several months' due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Bulgarian Defence Minister Stefan Yanev announced the news during a hearing in front of the Defence Committee of the Bulgarian Parliament on 25 January.
Yanev said he had received information from the manufacturer citing delays in the supply chain that would affect all customers of the newly-produced F-16s. He said he expected the delay to be measured in months, but then added that the exact length would be known in the second half of February, when a US delegation is set to arrive in Sofia to discuss the Bulgarian programme.
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