The campaign is limited, with a force of about 30 Russian fixed-wing aircraft and 20 helicopters operating out of a regime-controlled airbase outside the coastal city of Latakia. The tactics being used are a hybrid of classic-Soviet air support missions and Western-style precision air strikes.
"It is the first time that the Russian Air Force is using high-precision weapons," Buzhinsky said. "It lacked these for quite a long time since we are lagging behind the US, and the West in general, in high-precision weapons because of the 1990s," Buzhinsky said.
During that time, the US and its European allies made huge strides in precision ordnance, employing them in numerous engagements since the Gulf War in 1991. The fact that Russia has caught up "is a testimony to the military modernization efforts" under President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, Buzhinsky said.
Though the weapons are new, and being employed in ways similar to the West in its various interventions of the past two decades, "the air campaign in Syria is very similar to that of the Soviet Air Force in Afghanistan, except that a lower percentage of the missions are in direct support of ground troops," said Russian military expert Mikhail Barabanov.
Barabanov, the editor in chief of Moscow Defense Brief, an English-language monthly published by the Center for the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, a Russian defense think tank, argued that the use of precision air strikes is not a uniquely Western doctrine.
"There is usually an inevitable advance in weapons, which was hampered in Russia by its poverty [in the 1990s]," he said.
"The Russian Air Force was never used to simply bomb separate cities, territories and infrastructure into oblivion, and since the Second World War it was used primarily to support ground operations, as well as conduct air defense," Buzhinsky said.
That said, the Syria campaign has been an impressive demonstration of new Russian military capabilities, with a number of guided weapon systems employed for the first time in combat, including air-to-surface missiles and even the new Kalibr cruise missiles.
The ministry said it conducted 32 strikes during 33 sorties on Islamic State positions on 24 hours — the first time it had conducted fewer than 40 strikes in over a week — in a statement posted on Facebook on Oct. 15.
The downturn in sorties was described as being "caused by transformation of contact line as a result of offensive operations carried out by the Syrian Armed Forces."
"The militants are retreating and trying to equip new positioning areas and change the ammunition, armament and materiel supply logistical system. ... The Russian reconnaissance means are registering these changes," the Defense Ministry said.
But, according to Barabanov, "the main problem Russia faces is that the air campaign is not an end in itself, but should create conditions for a successful offensive of Syrian government troops."
New Weapons and Capabilities
But according to data provided by international defense consultancy IHS, the majority of Russian munitions being used are older, unguided weapons, such as the OFAB-100 and OFAB-200 anti-personnel fragmentation bombs.
"It is difficult to judge without knowing exactly the effectiveness and results of the strikes, but for now at least it looks good enough," Barabanov said.
"There have been no casualties, the intensity of action is quite high, and new types of weapons — such as satellite-guided bombs, cluster munitions with smart elements, and cruise missiles — have been tested," he said,
Sea-Launched Cruise Missile Strikes
While US Ambassador to NATO Douglas Lute was giving a briefing to journalists on the Russian moves in Syria at NATO headquarters in Brussels, ships from Russia's Caspian flotilla launched a massive cruise missile strike on targets in Syria.
This was the first time the Caspian flotilla, which Buzhinsky said was Russia's most modern naval force, featuring new ships, was used for its intended purpose — to project Russian military power in the Middle East.
But Buzhinsky said this is probably the extent to which Russia's new capabilities matter.
A total of 669 sorties have been launched, 115 of which were night raids, and 272 opposition strongholds were destroyed, according to Russian state media accounts of Kartapolov's press conference.
The Su-25s are only using unguided rocket pods, according to IHS and available photos of the plane loadouts.
"Their planes have been dropping from medium altitudes but their attack helicopters have been seen pressing home highly aggressive low level attacks. There is no doubt that Russia's Air Force has been able to inflict serious damage to rebel groups before they geographically dispersed but we have also seen that large numbers of vehicles were destroyed in the subsequent ground offensive suggesting that many rebel heavy weapons survived the air attacks."
Russian air power has been used at an operational level but if it is to fully utilized at a tactical level then either Russian air target designation teams will need to be embedded with Syrian forces or Syrian forces equipped and trained to co-operate with Russian Air Force but this will take time."
Matthew Bodner covered Russian affairs for Defense News.