As fears about a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine loom large, Moscow has raised the stakes by deciding to launch massive drills with its sole ally in the region, Belarus.
Troops had already been shifted from Russia’s Far East to the Belarusian border with Ukraine amid escalating tensions. Russian fighter jets have also flown off to Belarus.
The Russian Ministry of Defense said that the Air Force was relocating Su-35 multirole fighters to Belarus as part of an inspection of the Union State’s reaction forces. Russia and Belarus had in 1999 inked a Union State treaty for the potential integration of the two neighbors.
Last year, the two countries signed an agreement providing for a total of 28 integration “programs”, including a joint military doctrine.
“The crews of the Su-35S multi-role fighters of the Eastern Military District, involved in checking the response forces of the Union State, continue to relocate to Belarusian airfields,” the Russian MOD said.
The crews perform intermediate landings at the airfields of the Central and Western military districts to prepare for the next mission and relax, according to the ministry.
Flight paths of multi-role fighters are meticulously planned by aviation navigators, taking into account the aircraft’s maximum non-stop flight capabilities as well as weather conditions along the entire journey.
“After arriving at the airfields of the Republic of Belarus, the crews of the Su-35s multifunctional fighters will take up combat duty for air defense as part of checking the functioning of the unified air defense system of the Union State,” the ministry said.
The crews of the Su-35s of the EMD, involved in the inspection of the reaction forces of the Union State, continue to relocate to Belarusian airfields https://t.co/Hb5iJUPFUl pic.twitter.com/SM3a2WfsIm
— Минобороны России (@mod_russia) January 26, 2022
Earlier, Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin had announced that two battalions of S-400 air defense systems and 12 Sukhoi-35 fighter planes would be sent to Belarus for participation in an exercise scheduled for next month to assess the readiness of the Union State’s collective reaction force.
The joint drills are set to take place on Belarus’ western border and in southern Russia, where it borders Ukraine, according to Belarus’ autocratic president, Alexander Lukashenko.
Lukashenko, who has grown closer to Russia as a result of Western sanctions over his government’s repression of internal uprisings, has also offered to host Russian nuclear weapons, according to India Today.
The relocation of Su-35 multi-role fighters to Belarus will add fuel to the western concerns regarding an imminent Russian invasion. The United States and NATO allies have provided military aid to strengthen Ukrainian’s defense against Russian forces. In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine using military force.
Preparing A Combined Force With Belarus
The said inspection, for which the Su-35 fighters are being sent to Belarus, will be conducted in two parts, as previously stated by the ministry. The redeployment and formation of force groups on Belarusian territory will be carried out until February 9. A similar drive will be undertaken for the protection and defense of key military facilities, the state border as well as the airspace.
There will also be a test of the preparedness and ability of the air defense forces and equipment on duty to cover critical objects on the republic’s territory.
A joint exercise called “Allied Resolve – 2022” will be held during the second stage of the inspection, from February 10 to February 20, to work out concerns such as suppressing and repelling foreign aggression, combating terrorism, and preserving the Union State’s interests.
Российские и белорусские военные на совместных учениях «Союзная решимость — 2022» отработают отражение внезапного нападения террористов, поддержка которых идет из-за рубежа:https://t.co/c8xL0yEv15 pic.twitter.com/U43rLeAWIG
— РЕН ТВ | Новости (@rentvchannel) January 22, 2022
Meanwhile, NATO has significantly increased its deployment to ward off an invasion threat. According to NATO, a number of allies have made announcements in recent days about ongoing or impending deployments.
Denmark will send a ship to the Baltic Sea and four F-16 fighter jets to Lithuania to reinforce NATO’s long-running air-policing mission in the region. Spain is deploying ships to NATO’s naval forces and may send fighter jets to Bulgaria. It operates F/A-18 Hornets and Eurofighter Typhoons.
France has stated that it is willing to deploy troops to Romania under NATO command. From April, the Netherlands will send two F-35 fighter jets to Bulgaria to help NATO’s air-policing operations in the region, as well as ship and land-based forces for NATO’s Response Force. The US has also stated that it is considering strengthening its military presence in the region. America’s best fighter jets are the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II.
Russian Su-35 aircraft is one of the best in the Russian inventory and its relocation is expected to signal Moscow’s seriousness regarding its demands from the west. Even though Vladimir Putin has regularly denied any intent to invade, his military has simultaneously amassed troops along the Ukraine border from multiple directions.
Additionally, military exercises with Belarus and Iran have come to be seen as a power projection move ahead of military action against Kyiv.
Su-35: The Russian Dogfighter
The Su-35S is a single-seat all-weather fighter that can fly at any time of day or night. It is well protected by upgraded electronic countermeasures such as active and passive jamming. Depending on the size of the target, the advanced Irbis-E passive electronically scanned array radar can track up to 30 targets at a range of roughly 217 miles.
A 30mm auto-cannon and 17,630 pounds of payload on 12 external hardpoints are among the Su-35’s weapons and munitions. It can fire a variety of air-to-air, air-to-surface, anti-radiation, anti-ship missiles, besides laser and satellite-guided bombs. The aircraft usually carries six short-range air-to-air missiles and 12 beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles.
The secret to its extraordinary maneuverability and quick agility is the twin Saturn AL-41F1S thrust-vectoring turbofan engine. These engines have a top speed of 1,550 mph and a maximum altitude of 59,000 feet. Canard wings near the nose were also added to the plane, allowing for more flexible maneuvers without requiring a major overhaul of the airframe.