Commercial satellite imagery has revealed that a flight of 8 Syrian Arab Air Force L-39ZO/ZA Albatros have deployed to Palmyra airbase, Homs Governorate. The aircraft arrived at the north parking apron of the airbase after runway maintenance was completed in late July/ early August.
The forward movement of the fixed-winged aircraft further confirms that the Syrian regime, with the support of Russia, has firmly established control of the ancient city since forces began a new offensive between January and March 2017. At the time, skirmishes to take the area observed on handhelds and shared on social media showed Islamic State (IS) shelling the area with 122mm D-30 towed artillery. In April, Syrian forces pushed along the M-90 highway securing territory south of the city and by May controlled the roads extending from Damascus.
Throughout August, we continued to see the aircraft in operation hitting ground targets in the area as regime forces pushed northeast in the direction of Deir Ezzor. The most recent handhelds of the operational aircraft suggest they are equipped with 80mm B-8 rocket pods. The B-8 hold 20 rounds of S-8 unguided rockets, commonly fitted on both attack helicopters and ground attack aircraft. The B-8 pods were an upgrade delivered by Russia earlier in the conflict.
While forces move northeast to support hard-won gains, the L-39ZO/ZA help the regime maintain their new footing around Palmyra by continuing to prosecute IS elements operating near the Iraqi border. The latest handheld video from late September shows the light attack aircraft hitting targets near Humayma, a town less than 80 miles east from the airbase.