Military Capabilities

Russia announces Syrian S-300 delivery

05 October 2018

A still from footage released to Russian TV channels on 3 October shows a transporter erector launcher from an S-300P-series SAM system being unloaded from an An-124-100 transport aircraft, purportedly in Syria. Source: Ruptly

Key Points

  • Russia appears to have deployed several of its S-300PM SAM systems to Syria
  • These are ostensibly Syrian assets but will be operated by Russian personnel, at least until Syrian crews are trained

Russia announced on 2 October that it had delivered S-300 long-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems to Syria: a move that has blurred the line between Russian and Syrian air defences in the country.

"We have completed the delivery of S-300 complexes [systems]. It included 49 units of equipment, including radars, control vehicles, and four launchers," Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said during a Russian Security Council meeting attended by President Vladimir Putin. "The work was completed a day ago. We have completed the delivery of the entire complex to Syria."

Open-source tracking of aircraft ADS-B transponder data showed that the Russian Aerospace Forces carried out a major airlift operation to their Humaymim Air Base in eastern Syria from 18 September to 3 October. This involved dozens of flights by Russian transport aircraft, including at least 20 flights by Il-76s, two by Il-62s, six by Tu-154s, and 17 by An-124s.

The S-300 transfer is ostensibly to prevent a repeat of the 17 September incident during which a Syrian S-200 SAM system shot down a Russian Il-20M intelligence-gathering aircraft over the Mediterranean. The Russians accused Israeli F-16 jets of using the Il-20M as cover to carry out an airstrike in Syria: a claim the Israeli military has rejected.

According to Shoigu, new electronic warfare systems have also been deployed to Syria. "As a result, today we control the near zone up to 50 km and the distant zone - the main direction from which the [Israeli] entries onto Syrian territory took place - is controlled up to 200 km," he said.

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