‘Time needed for Syria to master the S-300’

Arms experts pushes back S-300 capability time frame, saying Syria can't likely provide necessary resources for system.

May 19, 2013 01:36
2 minute read.
Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missile system

Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missile system 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Syria would require a considerable period of time before it could master the S-300 air defense system, a defense analyst said Friday.

The comments came soon after Russia said it remains committed to an arms deal with Syria to deliver the advanced platform.

If stationed in Syria, the S-300, which comes with advanced radars and covers a range of 200 kilometers, would pose a risk to Israel Air Force aircraft.

Yiftah Shapir, director of the military balance project at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, published a paper on the system in which he argued that “it is highly doubtful that the Syrian army, in its current situation, is able to invest the manpower and resources” to learn how to use the S-300.

Shapir also doubted that Syria can, at this time, set up the facilities to make the S-300 operational on its soil.

Those factors could prompt Assad to try and send the S-300 to a “safer place,” to Hezbollah’s custody in Lebanon, although this is unlikely to happen, Shapir said.

Hezbollah has the ability to send technicians to Russia to study the S-300, and store it in a safe location in Lebanon. However, Israel would almost certainly reject such a development, and take action.

A third option, that Russia will send its own crews to operate the S-300 on Syrian soil, is also unlikely, due to the dangers they would face from rebels and “a third party,” Shapir said.

Assad is seeking the air defenses now because of the recent air strikes in Syria – one in January and two this month – attributed by foreign media sources to Israel.

The strikes “demonstrated to Assad what his vulnerabilities are,” Shapir wrote.

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“Assad, who is making gains in his internal struggle against the rebels, requires guarantees against foreign intervention,” he added.

The chances of a US, NATO, or Turkish intervention in Syria have recently grown, Shapir said. Possessing the S-300 will send out the message that Syria has far better air defenses than Libyan dictator Muammar Gadaffi did, and that Moscow is fully behind Damascus.

“At this stage, it is difficult to know whether Russia intends to proceed with the deal and sell the systems to Syria... or whether all of the maneuvers of recent weeks are empty... and aimed at demonstrating Russia’s determination to support Assad, while sending a message to Israel that there is a heavy price for its attacks in Syria,” Shapir said.

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