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Crisis in Syria

In Syria, harsh conditions are making Russian planes break down

Syria's harsh desert conditions are causing Russian warplanes to break down, leading to delays in their air strikes, a senior U.S. Defense official said.

Almost one-third of Russia's attack planes and half of its transport aircraft are grounded at any given time, the official told USA Today. The dust especially is making it hard for the Russians to fly, and the number of air strikes have dropped since Russian President Vladimir Putin deployed planes to an air base near Latakia, Syria, in September. Aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia told USA Today Russia is not used to deploying forces farther away, and "they could have bad operating procedures, inadequate supplies of spare parts and support crews."

Putin deployed Fullback ground-attack jets and other warplanes, as well as more than a dozen transport planes to Syria in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. On Friday, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said "what the Russians are actually doing is buttressing the Assad regime, which, as I have said, will have the effect of fanning the flames of the civil war." Carter said "very few" of Russia's air strikes have been directed toward the Islamic State, "which is the reason why they said, initially, they were getting into the fight. So the Russians are on the wrong side of this in every way, and they're going to contribute to the violence and the tragedy of the civil war that's been going on now, all these years."