Russia shows military might in Syria ahead of peace talks (Source AP) Helicopter gunships sweep low around Russia’s air base on the Syrian coast and air-defense missile systems tower at the base’s edge as warplanes take off one after another. The sound is deafening. Russia’s heavy airstrikes in Syria continued days ahead of the hoped-for start of talks on how to end one aspect of the country’s five-year-old war, where government forces fight rebels, and militants including the extremist Islamic State have seized substantial stretches of territory. Even though the front line is dozens of miles (kilometers) away and the area around the base is tightly controlled, the Russian military methodically patrols to make sure there is no ground threat. Two heavy transport planes were parked near the main terminal as soldiers toting assault rifles stood guard. Since Russia launched its bombing campaign in Syria on Sept. 30, its warplanes have flown 5,700 missions. The number is remarkable for a force comprising just a few dozen warplanes. Since The Associated Press first visited the Hemeimeem base in October, the Russian military has put a second runway into service and has deployed powerful S-400 air defense weapons. Asked how long the Russian air campaign may last, Konashenkov said only that Russia’s goal is to strike extremist infrastructure in support of Syrian government troops. Russian ordnance includes bunker-buster bombs capable of piercing seven meters (23 feet) of rock to destroy underground facilities, Konashenko said. Some of the bombs are laser-guided, but all Russian warplanes at the base are equipped with a sophisticated targeting system, allowing them to use even regular bombs with pinpoint accuracy, he said.