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Moscow and Damascus train for joint night ops

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Syrian commandos conducted a raid on simulated terrorist forces using Russian air support

Syrian commandos and Russian air forces have conducted a joint tactical training exercise, the Russian Defense Ministry has reported. The night drill in the Hama Province of Syria was the first of its kind for the two allies, according to the statement on Thursday.

The drill involved responding to a militant force seizing control of a community full of civilians and digging in at the location. The plan formulated by Russian and Syrian military commanders was to disable perimeter defenses with airstrikes and artillery fire and airdrop ground troops to secure the hostages.

Russia deployed Su-35 multipurpose jets, Su-24 tactical bombers and Ka-52 attack helicopters to “destroy armored vehicles and defensive positions of the simulated terrorists.”

Troops from the 25th Special Mission Forces Division of the Syrian Arab Army then conducted ground operations. Some used Russian parachute systems to make skydives from a height of 1,500 to 3,000 meters, while others repelled from Russian military helicopters.

Military leaders of both nations appreciated the high level of coordination between the participating forces, the press-release said.

Russia is a key supporter of Syria, having sent its warplanes in 2015 to aid Damascus in its fight against jihadist groups. Moscow maintains an air force base in the Middle East nation and regularly holds joint military exercises with the host country.

The US occupies part of Syria, claiming that its military presence is necessary to keep the terrorist group Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) in check. Washington directly supported some anti-government forces during the lengthy civil war and has imposed harsh economic sanctions on the government, hampering reconstruction efforts by Damascus.

Tensions between Russia and the US in Syria have been increasing, with Moscow and Washington accusing each other of unprofessional conduct during air encounters. Last week, the Pentagon claimed that Russian pilots damaged one of its drones with flares during a mission. The Russian Defense Ministry later reported a separate incident, in which an armed American drone locked weapons on a Russian military plane, causing the automatic deployment of countermeasures.

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