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The Russian S-300 system. Wikipedia

Russia to equip Syrian Army with S-300 air defence within two weeks

The Syrian army will be equipped with Russia S-300 air-defense missiles within the next two weeks following the downing of a Russian Ilyushin Il-20 aircraft in Syria, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Monday.

Published: September 25, 2018, 8:08 am

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    Russian President Vladimir Putin informed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the decision in a phone call on Sunday, a day before Shoigu’s announcement.

    “A modern S-300 air defense missile system will be supplied to the Syrian Armed Forces within two weeks. It is capable of intercepting air assault weapons at a distance of more than 250 kilometers and hit simultaneously several air targets,” the defence minister declared.

    The S-300 system will strengthen Syrian defensive capabilities thanks to their jamming invulnerability and firing speed, Russian news agency TASS reported.

    “I will underscore – at the request of the Israeli side, in 2013 we suspended the delivery of S-300 systems that were ready for the dispatch, while the Syrian military had undergone training. Now the situation has changed, and we are not to blame,” the Russian defense minister added.

    The delivery of the S-300s via transport planes from Russia may already actually be in progress, as the following tweet notes.

    Syrian President Bashar Assad has been informed of the delivery. According to a statement issued by Assad’s office, Putin told him that the blame for the plane incident lay squarely with Israel.

    Shoigu noted that Syria’s air defenses will now also be equipped with Russian IFF systems: “The command posts of Syrian air defense forces and units will be equipped with automated control systems only supplied to the Russian armed forces. This will facilitate centralized control over all forces and resources of the Syrian air defense, monitor the situation in the air, and ensure operative issuance of orders. Most importantly, we will guarantee the identification of all Russian aircrafts by the Syrian air defense systems.”

    Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) systems send codes to unidentified airplanes. If the code is incorrect, an enemy airplane will not be able to respond with an identification token.

    NATO operating procedure demands that two officers be present in updating such codes. Russia will likely now demand that Russian officers be present at Syrian air defense command posts to update IFF codes.

    The third measure announced by the Russian defense ministry is extensive electronic countermeasures in defence of the Syrian coastline, which would “suppress satellite navigation, onboard radar systems and communications of warplanes attacking targets on Syrian territory” to “cool down hotheads”.

    In his call to the Israeli leader, Putin said he disagreed with the Israeli version of events concerning the downing of the Russian Il-20 electronic intelligence plane.

    “The information provided by the Israeli military… runs counter to conclusions of the Russian defense ministry,” the Kremlin said in a statement, adding that the actions of the Israeli pilots had directly led to the plane being targeted by Syrian air defense systems.

    “The Russian side proceeds from the fact that the actions by the Israeli air force were the main reason for the tragedy,” a statement said.

    Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the media: “According to information of our military experts, the reason [behind the downing of the plane] were premeditated actions by Israeli pilots which certainly cannot but harm our relations.”

    Peskov added that the measures were “not directed against third countries but towards defending our own military”.

    Despite being directly implicated in the hostile act, both Jerusalem and Washington warned Russia after the announcement on Monday against providing the Syrian military with advanced surface-to-air missiles.

    Netanyahu’s office said on Monday night that he had “expressed his confidence in the credibility of the IDF probe and its conclusions, and stressed once again that responsibility for the unfortunate incident lay with the Syrian army”. And the Israeli Prime Minister “once again expressed his condolences for the deaths of the Russia soldiers”.

    Israel’s high-level security cabinet was nevertheless set to meet on Tuesday morning to discuss the latest developments involving ties with Russia, the Times of Israel reported.

    A statement issued by Netanyahu’s office read: “The prime minister said providing advanced weapons systems to irresponsible actors will magnify dangers in the region, and that Israel will continue to defend itself and its interests.”

    At the same time, US National Security Adviser John Bolton said Russia’s decision was a “major mistake” that would cause a “significant escalation” of tensions and he urged Moscow to reconsider.

    A senior American official, quoted by Channel 10 News, said that the system could endanger US Air Force jets operating in Syria.

    Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman is not backing down however. “One thing needs to be clear: If someone shoots at our planes, we will destroy them. It doesn’t matter if it’s an S-300 or an S-700,” he said.

    Israel’s former Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin, believes the Israeli air force would destroy the S-300. “If I know the air force well, we have already made proper plans to deal with this threat. After you remove the threat, which is basically what will be done, we’re back to square one,” Yadlin told Bloomberg earlier.

    On Sunday, Israeli lawmakers called for greater American involvement in Syria amid growing tension between Israel and Russia.

    But ex-Mossad chief Danny Yatom on Sunday told Israeli Army Radio that the crisis with Russia may only get worse. “This is the beginning of what could be a very serious crisis with Russia.” He warned: “The Russian military has a broad spectrum of possible actions it can take, up to and including contemplating shooting anti-aircraft missiles at our planes.”

    In yet other developments, Russian Senator and former Air Force commander Viktor Bondarev announced the establishment of a no-fly zone in Latakia to prevent a repeat of the IL-20 aircraft tragedy. He added that “any unauthorized objects in the sky over Hmeimim Airport will definitely be eliminated”.

    A Russian Su-35S has reportedly intercepted a US F-22 over Syria. The Defence Blog’s report cited an Instagram photo from an unofficial Russian pilot. It showed the moment the F-22 Raptor was allegedly intercepted by the Russian Su-35S.

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