Stopping the S-300

It is in Israel's interest that Syria be stabilized, but it is in the world’s interest that weapons do not proliferate to terrorist groups and terrorist regimes.

April 28, 2018 22:15
3 minute read.
The self-launching component of the S300 surface-to-air missile

The self-launching component of the S300 surface-to-air missile. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Russia’s s-300 surface-to-air missile platform is one of the most sophisticated air defense systems in the world. It is for that exact reason that Israel and the united states have worked tirelessly over the years to prevent its delivery to Iran and why Israel is now working to stop it from getting to Syria.

The real question concerns Russia’s intentions and why it recently announced its intention to deliver the system to the Bashar Assad’s military.

What makes the s-300 a cause of such concern in Israel is that it has the reported ability to track up to a hundred targets simultaneously while engaging up to 12 at the same time. It has a range of about 200 kilometers and can hit targets at altitudes of 27,000 meters. Moscow has already deployed the system in Syria – as well as the more advanced s-400 – but they are under the control of the Russian military. The new systems would be given to the Syrians.

This poses two problems for Israel. First is the possibility that it will be used to shoot down Israeli aircraft. Due to its long range, it can reach deep into Israel and hit planes taking off and landing at Ben Gurion Airport, not to mention Israel Air Force jets operating over Syria. In addition, there is the possibility that Syria will transfer the system to Hezbollah in Lebanon, further undermining Israel's operational freedom and aerial superiority in the region.

In Israel, there have traditionally been two schools of thought with regard to the severity of the s-300 threat. On the one hand, there are those like former air force commander Maj.-Gen. (res.) Ido Nehushtan who said a few years ago: “We need to make every effort to stop this system from getting to places where the IAF needs to operate or may need to operate in the future.”

Other officials have been less concerned and claim that if and if and when the s-300 is delivered to Iran or Syria, Israel will be able to develop an electronic warfare system to neutralize it.

The problem is that delivery of this system to Syria could lead to a war. defense minister Avigdor Liberman told Ynet last week that if the s-300 is used against Israel, “we will act against it.” Moscow has reportedly warned of catastrophic consequences if Israel attacks the system once it reaches Syria.

Russia's aim seems to be, on the one hand, an attempt to bolster the regime of Bashar Assad that it has been fighting to keep in power for the last few years. at the same time, it wants to use the threat of delivering the system to Syria as diplomatic leverage in its dealings with the United States over the future of the middle east.

What Israel will do if the s-300 is delivered to Syria remains to be seen. It will have to navigate between destroying a system that could significantly under - mine its capabilities and at the same time avoiding a direct military confrontation with Moscow.

Russia should be careful. It is true that it has deployed significant military assets in Syria, but Israel has proven over the last few years that a Russian presence does not stop it from acting against strategic threats. The IAF has carried out more than 100 strikes against targets in Syria in recent years, most recently, according to foreign sources, on an Iranian drone base.

Russia should not be allowed to get away with whatever it wants in Syria. US president Donald Trump has already accused Vladimir Putin of responsibility for allowing Assad to gas his own people, but he needs to keep the pressure on the Russian leader to stop the delivery of the s-300.

It is in Israel's interest that Syria be stabilized, but it is in the world’s interest that weapons do not proliferate to terrorist groups and terrorist regimes. Giving the Syrian military the s-300 achieves the exact opposite. The world needs to act now to stop that from happening.

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