Russian has used the war in Syria to train scores of its servicemen and to pick up valuable glimpses of the United States’ own tricks and tactics on the battlefield, a top Air Force intelligence general said.
Moscow launched an aerial campaign in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2015, and though the operation’s targets overlapped with those of the U.S.-led coalition at times, the two have had several tense standoffs. The latest close encounter between U.S. and Russian jets came last month, when a U.S. spy aircraft had to fire flares in a bid to avoid collision with incoming Russian Su-25 fighter jets.
“By their own account, Russia has cycled nearly 85 percent of all line-unit aircrew from across their air force into combat operations” in Syria, said Jamieson. “One of the things they learned from us was, ‘It’s one thing to be in an exercise and train. It’s a whole other thing to be in combat and face an adversary and threat.’ And they wanted to test that out. Not just for the few, but for the majority of their line aircraft and pilots.
Those encounters, and the tense coexistence of the competing forces in Syria, have given Moscow the opportunity to get well informed about how U.S. forces operate, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for intelligence Lieutenant General VeraLinn “Dash” Jamieson said.