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Russians training Syrian MiG-29 pilots in air-to-air combat

A still from the Zvezda TV footage shows a Syrian MiG-29 taking off from Tiyas Air Base. (Zvezda TV )

The Russian Air Force is training Syrian MiG-29 pilots in air-to-air training, the Russian Ministry of Defence's Zvezda TV channel reported on 15 November.

“An important stage in the training of any pilot is the launch of guided air-to-air missiles,” Zvezda quoted Maxim Aleksanin, a Russian squadron commander, as saying. “For the first time, Syrian pilots used R-73 guided missiles from MiG-29 aircraft. In the future, we plan to improve the tactics of conducting close and long-range air combat in order to prevent provocations in the skies of Syria, as well as near its borders.”

The video that accompanied the report showed two Syrian MiG-29s (3431 and 3436) being prepared and taking off with R-73 missiles, although not launching them, and at least one was shown carrying a missile as it landed.

Footage of the cockpit of one of the MiG-29s showed that it had been fitted with a control panel similar to those seen in upgraded Slovakian and Serbian MiG-29s, indicating that it was one of the Syrian aircraft that was upgraded to the MiG-29SM standard.

The Zvezda report indicated that the training was carried out over the Palmyra area, although the air base they used could be identified as Tiyas (T-4), approximately 60 km west of the ruined city.

The report noted that the Syrian Arab Air Force (SAAF) has suffered significant losses in recent years and its operational aircraft can now be “counted on one hand”.

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