The first photos have appeared of the Russian deployment at Shahid Nojeh air base in Hamadan in Iran.
The photos show 3 TU22M3s, 4 SU34s and 1 IL76 transport aircraft.
This may not be the total size of the deployment to Hamadan. It is possible that some aircraft were away on missions from the base when the photos were taken. However the photos do give an approximate sense of the size of the deployment.
This is a completely different sort of deployment to the Russian deployment to Khmeimim air base in Syria. Khmeimim is a Russian base in Syria which the Syrian government has agreed to provide Russia. Shahid Nojeh base is an Iranian air base in Iran which the Iranians are temporarily permitting Russian aircraft to use.
There are no plans for the moment to make the Russian presence permanent there and the Russian deployment to Shahid Nojeh is specifically limited to the duration of the conflict in Syria.
Iran’s Defence Minister Brigade General Hossein Dehghan explained the Russian deployment during a news conference on Saturday 20th August 2016
“It is a military decision made in the framework of cooperation in fighting IS and other terrorist, which is organized at request from the Syrian government.”
The deployment has not been uncontroversial in Iran. Iran has a reputation for fierce independence and defence of its sovereignty.
The stationing of foreign troops even on a temporary basis and even for use in a campaign which also involves Iran has come in for some criticism in the Iranian parliament the Mejlis, where some deputies are complaining that they were not consulted about the decision to lend the Russians the use of the base. Brigade General Hossein Dehghan has nonetheless said that the Russians will be permitted to use the base for as long as they need.
One further difference between the deployments at Khmeimim and Shahid Nojeh is that since the latter is an Iranian base some of the ground support technicians providing support for the Russian aircraft will almost certainly be Iranians rather than Russians.
Iran is a country with significant in-depth engineering and technical skills and there is no reason to think that Iranian ground support technicians are incapable of providing this support.
Unlike Khmeimim, which is physically a small hurriedly set up front line base located in a war zone, Shah Nojeh is also a large well- established fully operating base located in a stable political environment in a powerful country.
Not only is it fully capable of hosting large heavy bombers like the TU22M3 (which Khmeimim for the moment is not) but there is no need for the presence of a large ground force of Russian troops to protect the base, as is the case at Khmeimim.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.