Image by Major Ofer, Israeli Air Force רס”ן עופר, חיל האוויר הישראלי
Russia has long threatened to supply the vaunted S-300 anti-aircraft missile system to the Syrians and recently declared it had done so, with the caveat that it would take time to train Syrian air defense crews on the system. In all likelihood, the weapons deployed to the Levant will be manned by Russian crews, as is Moscow’s habit.
Tensions were increased in the region when Israel attacked Syrian targets last month and Russia suffered a friendly-fire incident as an SA-2 battery downed a Russian reconnaissance plane during the fog of the attack.
Today Israeli officials scoffed at the system’s ability to down Israeli aircraft saying the F-35 could easily penetrate the S-300’s effective radius.
But asked in an interview if the Syrian acquisition of the S-300 would clip the Israeli military’s wings, Tzachi Hanegbi, the country’s regional cooperation minister and a non-voting member of its security cabinet, said on Wednesday: “Unequivocally, no.”
“The operational abilities of the air force are such that those (S-300) batteries really do not constrain the air force’s abilities to act,” he told Israel’s Army Radio.
Referring to F-35 Joint Strike Fighters that Israel began receiving from the United States over a year ago, Hanegbi said: “You know that we have stealth fighters, the best planes in the world. These batteries are not even able to detect them,”, reported Haaretz.
The scenario sets up a proxy showdown of America’s best fighter technology against Russian-made air defense equipment. The Syrian Civil War has been a long-running informercial for Russian armaments. One successful F-35 sortie against the S-300 will change all that in a heartbeat and could seriously threaten the Russian government in the eyes of weapons customers worldwide.