Country Risk

Israel shoots down Syrian SAM with Arrow 2 interceptor

21 March 2017

A 5V21-series SAM is seen at a Syrian air defence base that was overrun by rebels in November 2012. (Syrian Revolution Memory Project)A 5V21-series SAM is seen at a Syrian air defence base that was overrun by rebels in November 2012. (Syrian Revolution Memory Project)

The Israeli Air Force (IAF) used an Arrow 2 interceptor to shoot down a Syrian surface-to-air missile (SAM) that was heading into Israeli territory on 17 March.

This was the first time the Arrow 2 has been used operationally. It was also the first time a SAM has been shot down by another SAM, although ones that have been converted into ballistic missiles have been intercepted by Patriot batteries during the ongoing conflict in Yemen.

According to a Syrian government account, the incident began at around 0240 h local time on the morning of 17 March, when four Israeli combat aircraft crossed the Lebanese border into Syrian airspace in the vicinity of Al-Burayj in Homs province and targeted a military site near Palmyra, 140 km to the east.

The Syrian military claimed it responded by shooting down one of the aircraft, but no evidence subsequently emerged to corroborate this claim.

Israeli officials confirmed later that day that Syria had launched SAMs at IAF jets operating inside Syria, but said none of the aircraft were endangered and one of the missiles was intercepted.

Providing further details on 20 March, a senior IAF official briefed journalists that a consignment of 'high quality' weapons that was destined for the Lebanese group Hizbullah was the target of the airstrike.

The official added that the Syrian military launched a volley of SA-5 SAMs in the direction of the aircraft, which were probably out of range at the time. One of the missiles was heading for Israeli territory, triggering warning sirens in the Jordan Valley, at which point the IAF shot it down with an Arrow 2 missile, a type developed to intercept ballistic missiles.

SA-5 is the US military designation for the Soviet-era S-200 long-range air defence system. Russian Defence Minsiter Sergei Shoigu said in November 2016 that Russia had repaired Syria's S-200s so that they could effectively defend the country's airspace.

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