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Friday, July 25, 2008

Iran to get S-300 as early as September

Iran may begin taking delivery on the new Russian S-300 anti-missile system as soon as September according to 'senior Israeli defense sources.' While the S-300 would likely complicate an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, the good news is that they will take 6-12 months to deploy, leaving a window for American and/or Israeli action against the nukes. But US Defense Secretary Robert Gates - whose name has been thrown out as a possible Defense Secretary should Democrat Barack Hussein Obama win November's election - discounts the Israeli assessment.
"Based on what I know, it's highly unlikely that those air defence missiles would be in Iranian hands any time soon," U.S. Secretary of Defence Robert Gates said in a July 9 briefing when asked about the S-300 -- also known in the West as the SA-20.

An Israeli defence official said Iran's contract with Russia required that the S-300s be delivered by the end of 2008. A second source said first units would arrive in early September.

The official agreed with the assessments of independent experts that the S-300 would compound the challenges that Iran -- whose nuclear sites are numerous, distant, and fortified -- would already pose for any future air strike campaign by Israel.
The most sophisticated version of the S-300 can track up to 100 targets and fire on targets from up to 75 miles away.

As some of you may recall, during June's exercise over the eastern Mediterranean, Israel flew over Greece, which also has the S-300. News reports here indicated that Israel practiced against the Greek missiles, but when the Iranians reacted with fury, Greece claimed the systems had been turned off.

Former Spook reports that the S-300 is actually a family of products:
The S-300 designation actually represents a family of surface-to-air missiles, an outgrowth of the original SA-10/GRUMBLE system of the 1980s. The latest version is the S-300PMU2 “Favorit,” which has a maximum range of 200km, versus 150 km for older variants.

It is unclear which model will be delivered to Iran. Previous export customers (including China and Cyprus) bought the S-300PMU1, better known by its NATO designator, SA-20. Nicknamed “Gargoyle,” the SA-20 has the same range referenced in the Reuters article. It is the most likely variant to be exported to Iran, although sales of more advanced versions cannot be ruled out.

Acquisition of the S-300 would complicate U.S. or Israeli planning for possible attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities. Tehran is expected to deploy the SAM system in its western provinces, providing protection of the nuclear sites and other key installations. The deployment pattern would also cover air corridors used by hostile aircraft entering Iranian airspace.

At more than $300 million per battery, the S-300 is one of the most expensive air defense systems in the world. But Iran apparently views it as a worthwhile investment, offering a major upgrade to its defenses against air attack, along with ballistic and cruise missiles.

Currently, Tehran’s “primary” surface-to-air missile is the U.S.-built I-HAWK, acquired by the Shah in the early 1970s. In later years, Iran also purchased the Chinese-made CSA-1 (a clone of the 40-year-old Soviet SA-2), and the long-range SA-5, also developed by the Russians. With dwindling supplies of spare parts, the I-HAWKs are gradually falling apart; the CSA-1 and SA-5 have marginal capabilities against tactical aircraft, and they pose no threat to cruise missiles or ballistic systems.

Iran’s efforts to get the S-300 operational could be accelerated through the use of Russian contractors, who could supplement the initial cadre, or fully man the system until Iranian operators attain required proficiency.

While the S-300 represents a significant boost for Tehran’s air defense network, it is not a panacea. All modern SAM systems have vulnerabilities, ranging from long-range standoff weapons and electronic jamming, to cyber attack.
Read it all.


At 3:12 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

What was that again about talk of international sanctions against Iran? A pipe dream.


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