Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missile system 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Syria would require a considerable period of time before it could master the
S-300 air defense system, a defense analyst said Friday.
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.
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
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.
strikes “demonstrated to Assad what his vulnerabilities are,” Shapir
“Assad, who is making gains in his internal struggle against the
rebels, requires guarantees against foreign intervention,” he added.
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.