Russia May Be Winning Syria, But Its Aircraft Have Paid The Price

May 5, 2020 Topic: Security Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: RussiaSyriaAir ForceMilitaryWar

Russia May Be Winning Syria, But Its Aircraft Have Paid The Price

The air campaign has cost the Russian military at least nineteen manned aircraft (eleven helicopters and eight airplanes) between 2015–2018, leading to the deaths of twenty-three crew and thirty-seven passengers.


VKS and Naval Aviation aircraft losses at times reflected inexperience in expeditionary operations and technical reliability problems. Some combat losses may have been avoided if the VKS possessed more precision-guided weapons and surveillance drones to allow targets to be rapidly identified and safely targeted from on high. 

However, these losses were too few to stop the VKS and naval aviation from flying well over 39,000 sorties in Syria by mid-2018, shifting the tide of the conflict in Assad’s favor. The tidal wave of nearly one million refugees fleeing a Syrian and VKS air strikes in Idlib is the latest evidence of the service’s handiwork.

Sébastien Roblin holds a master’s degree in conflict resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring. This article first appeared earlier this year and is being republished due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters.