Syria’s Russian-made S-300 air defence system is now fully operational, sending a powerful message to Turkey and Israel.
On May 17, it was revealed that the Syrian Army’s S-300 surface-to-air missile batteries, which had been proven to be operational, had been deployed to “fire dummy projectiles” on Israeli Air Force aeroplanes in order to repel an attack on a Syrian “Research Center.” The S-300 anti-aircraft missiles were launched, but the radar did not lock on the target, according to information. This firing of Syrian air defence was most likely intended as a show of might rather than to shoot down enemy planes.
Syria’s S-300 missile is thought to be a derivative of Russia’s S-300PMU-2 missile, which was supplied to Syria in September 2018 but never deployed in battle. Although some accounts claim that their radars were used to guide missiles from other air defence systems to intercept Israeli missiles, this is not confirmed. Syria was supposed to get the S-300 in 2013, but due to Israeli pressure on Russia, Moscow had to cancel the deal. This is also the most current anti-aircraft weapon system, which Syria has been denied since the dissolution of the Soviet Union due to Russia’s strong ties with Israel.
This changed only after Russia accused Israel of using the Russian Air Force’s Il-20 surveillance jet in Syria as a “headcover,” forcing Syrian air defence missiles to hit the Il-20, killing all of its crew.Although the Syrian troops had been trained for more than five years before the initial order was cancelled in 2013, Russia handed the S-300 air defence missile system to Syria.
Russian experts, on the other hand, employ the original Syrian S-300 systems as a precaution against possible assaults from the West, Turkey, or Israel. While all of these countries have targeted the Syrian Army, they have been more cautious while engaging Russian forces in Syria. Despite the fact that the S-300 systems have been delivered to Syria, it is unclear when the Syrian Army will be given control of them; however, they have not been used to counter Israeli or Turkish attacks on Syria in the last three years, including during the violent clashes with Turkey from January to October.
Following Russian improvements, the S-300 system was activated with the goal of bolstering Syria’s air defence capabilities, including the delivery of improved MiG-29SMT aircraft in the form of help and the start of operations. From January 2022, regular joint exercises will involve realistic fighting. Since August 2015, Russian military stations in Syria have been utilised to deploy strategic weapons, including MiG-31K and Tu-22M3 aircraft.
Russia’s jets, armed with khinzal hypersonic missiles, present a vital deterrent in the event of a possible battle with NATO; at the same time, Russian forces in Syria have put pressure on NATO’s southern flank. Syria’s air defence capabilities have improved, which is favourable to Russia and decreases the load on Russian soldiers in safeguarding Syria’s airspace and Russian military installations in Syria.
Notably, Russia deployed its flagship fighter, the Su-35, to Qamishli airfield, a new Russian military facility in Syria near the Turkish border, for the first time in October 2021.The Russian Army originally deployed the S-300PMU-2 air defence system in 1997, and it remained the most capable iteration of the S-300P series until the S-400 entered combat service in 2014.
If outfitted with 48N6E3 missiles, the S-300PMU-3 can strike 32 targets at once and has a range of 250 km; however, Syrian S-300s still utilise the older 48N6E2 missiles, which have a range of 200 km and a lower speed. The Syrian Army’s S-300PMU-3 batteries, stationed near Damascus, are responsible for protecting the Syrian capital’s airspace, but their range allows them to strike targets deep within Israeli airspace.
The activation of Syria’s S-300 air defence systems, as well as the arrival of more new fighters, such as the Syrian MiG-29SMT, might be a powerful signal from the Syrian Army to the forces occupying the nation, including the US Army and certain countries like Norway and France. The acquisition of airspace by Turkey in the 2020 war offers it a significant advantage over the Syrian Army. However, with Syria poised to fire S-300 missiles, it is conceivable to get around this and take critical moves forward.
Because Turkey lacks stealth planes or fighters with significant electronic warfare capabilities, such as the Israeli F-16I, the activation of the S-300PMU-2 in Syrian hands could pose a direct threat to the Turkish Air Force.The threat of the S. -300 may be reduced for Israel, which has been conducting attacks on Syrian targets for than a decade and has the benefit of utilising long-range offensive weapons on Syrian soil, but the Israeli Air Force cannot freely enter Syrian airspace as it did previously.