Russia to move air defenses to Syria 'soon,' warns Israel against attack

“If Israel decides to carry out rocket strikes on the deployment locations of the S-300, the consequences will be catastrophic for all sides.”

Syria claims U.S. launched missile strike on air base; Pentagon denies it, April 9, 2018 (Reuters)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has denied reports that Moscow will supply Syria with S-300 antiaircraft defense systems “soon” after a senior Russian official warned Israel that it would “suffer catastrophic consequences” if it attacks the systems.
TASS News Agency quoted Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying on Monday Moscow had not yet decided whether it would deliver the advanced systems to Syria, but it would not be a secret if it took such a decision.
“We know what President Vladimir Putin said,” he said. “He has discussed such matters with an official of our Defense Ministry from the standpoint of preventing a situation where Syria might turn out insufficiently prepared for aggressive attacks, like the one that occurred on April 14. It remains to be seen what decisions will be made by the Russian leadership and Syrian officials.”
According to Lavrov, Moscow has warned the US and Europe of carrying out additional strikes in Syria, but “certainly, one should be prepared to see more provocations.”
According to a report in Russia’s Kommersant newspaper, the system will be supplied to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad for no cost and will likely be brought into the country via transport aircraft or Russian Navy ships to be deployed to cover Damascus and the regime’s airfields.
The report said while Moscow believes such a move would stabilize the situation in the war-torn country,“experts believe that the reaction of the Israeli military to such a move will be predictably negative and do not exclude attacks on their locations.”
“If Israel decides to carry out rocket strikes on the deployment locations of the S-300, the consequences will be catastrophic for all sides,” Russian defense officials told the paper.
Last October, Moscow deployed the mobile S-300 and S-400 anti-aircraft batteries to Syria but they remain staffed by Russian troops.
Lt.-Gen. Aitech Bizhev, the Russian Air Force’s former deputy chief commander for the CIS joint air-defense system, said it would take about three months for the Russians to train Syrian troops to operate the S-300 and would likely see Russian military advisers stationed where the batteries are deployed to coordinate with the Syrians.
Last week, Russian Main Operational Directorate chief Col.-Gen. Sergei Rudskoy said that “in the past year and a half Russia has fully restored Syria’s air-defense system and continues to further upgrade it.”
Moscow had “refused” to supply the surface-to-air missile system to Syria a few years ago after “taking into account the pressing request of some of our Western partners.”
But following US-led air strikes on Syrian regime chemical weapons infrastructure, Russia considered the possibility to “return to examine this issue not only in regard to Syria, but to other countries as well,” he stated.
Syrian air defenses are largely Soviet-era systems, with SA-2s, SA-5s, and SA-6s as well as the more sophisticated tactical surface-to-air missiles such as the SA-17s and SA-22 systems. Moscow has also supplied the short-range Pantsir S-1 to the Assad regime which has shot down drones and missiles over Syria.
The advanced S-300 would be a major upgrade to the Syrian air defenses and would pose a threat to Israeli jets on missions as the long-range missile defense system can track objects such as aircraft and ballistic missiles over a range of 300 km.
A full battalion includes six launcher vehicles with each vehicle carrying four missile containers for a total of 24 missiles as well as command-and-control and long-range radar detection vehicles.
The system’s engagement radar, which can guide up to 12 missiles simultaneously, helps guide the missiles towards the target. With two missiles per target, each launcher vehicle can engage with up to six targets at once.