Standing on a runway less than 10 metres from a Russian Su-34 fighter jet reaching takeoff velocity leaves one rattled to the core.
The intensity of the engines’ roar makes it impossible to not cover your ears and look away.
“Now you can feel Russia’s power,” said a Russian officer. He smiled as he watched the effect on the international media just arrived in Syria as part of a public relations tour of Russia’s military activities in the country.
Russia has been at war in Syria since September 2015, supporting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
Ever since, its military has been bringing domestic and foreign reporters from Moscow to showcase what its leaders say are the positive aspects of Russia’s involvement in Syria’s six-year civil war.
Most of those tours begin with an early morning trip to the tarmac at the Khmeimim airbase to watch the start of the day’s bombing missions.
When the first sorties were launched two years ago, opposition forces fighting the Syrian government were a mere 30 kilometres from the base outside Latakia, on Syria’s coast.
Now, the closest enemy troops are more than 400 kilometres away, and territory held by ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) is shrinking by the day.
They’ve been driven back by unrelenting, punishing attacks from the air by Russian bombs and missiles and on the ground by Syrian government troops and Iranian-backed militias supported by Russian “advisers” and special forces.
Tactically, Russia’s intervention has turned the course of the conflict. Assad’s regime, which was on the verge of collapse, is now resurgent.
Russian generals now openly talk about shifting to the next phase of the war, which is hunting down and taking out other militants from formerly al-Qaeda-affiliated groups elsewhere in Syria.
The threat posed by ISIS being on Russia’s back doorstep was one of the major motivations for Putin to join the conflict. Another was Russia’s desire to show the world that it could be a major power and reliable ally in the Middle East once again.