The Syrian military has fully re-opened the Kuweires air base 30 km east of Aleppo, making it possible for a Russian built IL-76 transport aircraft to land and take off from the base.
In a war where no lack of courage has been shown by the combatants on either side, the successful defence of Kuweiris air base by the Syrian military stands out as an especially heroic episode in the bitter Syrian war.
Kuweires air base was surrounded by Jihadi fighters in 2013, with ISIS taking over the conduct of the siege in late 2013. Repeated attempts by ISIS to storm the base however ended all ended in failure. The siege of the base was finally broken in November 2015, in the first major victory of the Syrian army following the intervention of the Russian air force in Syria. Kuweires air base is the primary base of Syria’s air force academy and most of the 1,100 soldiers who defended it were air force cadets. Allegedly none defected or surrendered, but only 300 survived the siege.
As might be expected of an air base built principally for training purposes, the runway of Kuweires air base at 2,500 metres is relatively short. By contrast the runways of the US base at Incirlik in Turkey, of the Russian air base at Khmeimim, and of Syria’s Tiyas air base in central Syria, are all roughly 3,000 metres long. The short length of the runway may explain why since the siege of Kuweires air base was lifted the Syrian air force has apparently only deployed Czech built L-39 Albatros jet trainers to the air base rather than more powerful aircraft.
However there are apparently now plans to use the Kuweires air base to support whatever offensive the Syrian military might be planning to launch against ISIS’s ‘capital’ of Raqqa. That may require work to extend the runway and strengthen the base.