In a major development, reports suggest that the Iranian air force is now planning to deploy two squadrons of Sukhoi jets in Syria.
There have been several speculations off-late that Iran after suffering increased losses in the past few months may be pulling back the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officers from the Syrian front.
Several reports have said that Iran suffered a major loss recently after the IRGC Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani suffered critical injuries in Aleppo.
Amid the claims of Iran's withdrawal from Syria, contrary reports have emerged which suggest that Iran, bolstered by the presence of Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missiles, is now in the process of deploying two squadrons of Sukhoi jets at an airport near Homs, according to Kuwait-based Arabic newspaper Al Rai.
The report said that the Russians have agreed on providing the maintenance and cover for the Iranian warplanes.
Given the fact that the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force capabilities are technically inferior to most of the aircraft operating in the Syrian air space, it is yet to be seen if Iran will fly combat missions in Syria.
Russia in Syria
Russia has spearheaded a massive air campaign against the Syrian rebels including the Islamic State (Isis) in Syria. Since 30 September, Russia has used a mix of upgraded Soviet aircraft, including Su-24, Su-30SM and Su-34 fighter jets that boast of a surprising level of accuracy.
Most recently, Russia even launched missiles from an advanced stealth submarine, dubbed as "Black Hole" by the NATO, in the Mediterranean Sea near the Syrian coast on Isis targets.
Referring to the Russia's intervention in Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said that Moscow looked at it as a "military exercise" for the country's "air forces, air defence" and "intelligence."
"We did not start the war.We are just conducting separate operations, using our air forces, air defence, intelligence. This is not a serious burden for the budget. ... It's hard to imagine a better exercise [for the Russian forces]. So we can train there [in Syria] for a long time without any serious harm to our budget," Putin said during his press conference, according to a translation by the state-sponsored news agency Russia Today.