WASHINGTON, Dec. 1 (UPI) -- Russian media reported the Russian military is equipping Sukhoi Su-34 fighter-bombers with air-to-air missiles for combat missions in Syria.
The multi-role warplanes will be equipped with both short and medium-range air-to-air missiles capable of hitting targets within a 37-mile range, marking the first time the planes will carry such weaponry in the Russian anti-terror campaign in Syria.
Russia Today reports Russian defense officials maintain the missiles will be used for defensive purposes as they continue their fight against the Islamic State, Sunni radicals based in Iraq in Syria also identified as Daesh and by the acronyms ISIS and ISIL.
"The Russian Su-34 fighter-bombers today have for the first time taken on combat mission not only the OFAB-500 air bombs and KAB-500 guided bombs, but also short-and medium-range air-to-air missiles. The planes are equipped with missiles for their defence," Russian Aerospace Forces Colonel Igor Klimov told Russian state-owned news agency TASS.
The Sukhoi-made Su-34 multi-role fighters are based on the earlier designed Su-27s, fourth-generation fighters designed for tactical engagement against both ground and naval targets.
The new equipment on the planes follows escalating tensions between Russia and NATO-member Turkey, a country also engaged against the Islamic State, after Turkish F-16s shot down a Russian fighter jet that entered Turkish air space.