According to an exclusive report on the Rheinische Post’s official website, Russian Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker-Es routinely shadow German Luftwaffe Tornado supersonic strike aircraft on missions over Syria, flying within visual range without behaving aggressively. Lieutenant General Joachim Wundrak, current Executive Director of the Bundeswehr’s Joint Air Power Competence Centre, commented that the encounters were wholly uneventful, and there was no real cause for alarm. It would seem that Russian military generals simply want to make sure the western-led anti-Daesh coalition knows their fighters are in the area.
The German Tornadoes deployed to Incirlik Air Base in Adana, Turkey are a part of Tactical Air Force Wing 51 “Immelmann, a tactical aerial reconnaissance element of the Luftwaffe. They currently do not participate in strike operations, but rather fly to gather photographic intelligence of Daesh movements around Syria. These particular Tornadoes were recently reported to be grounded for night flight operations, due to software issues which hindered the safe integration of night vision goggles in the cockpit to enhance pilot visibility.
The Su-35s are likely part of the small contingent forward-deployed to the Khmeimim airbase near Latakia, Syria, where the Russian Air Force stages all of its aerial operations from in the Syrian theater of conflict. The Flanker-E is the latest member of the Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker family, equipped with three-dimensional thrust vectoring which gives it an incredible edge in air combat maneuvering.
Russia currently operates 40 Flanker-Es, and has 50 more on order for the coming years.