The commander of the Russian Air Force says Russia has sent anti-aircraft missiles to Syria in order to safeguard its jets involved in airstrikes against militants in the war-battered Arab country.

Col. Gen. Viktor Bondarev said in an interview with the daily Komsomolskaya Pravda published on Thursday that Russia's fighter jets could be attacked or high-jacked while on their missions. He did not specify the type of missiles Russia provided.

Russia has been carrying out airstrikes on Islamic State fighters in Syria since the end of September at the request of President Bashar Assad, Russia's long-term ally.

However, Russian officials insist that their military involvement in Syria, which has been embroiled in a civil war since 2011, will be limited to an air force operation.