Israel has requested Russia not to proceed with the sale of the long-range S-300PMU2 Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) Air Defense Systems (ADS) to Syria. Delivery of the first units is imminent within the next three months.
Russia and Syria are supposed to have agreed in 2010 to a $900 million deal to deliver mobile S-300 systems, consisting of radar units, transporter-erector-launchers, support vehicles and up to 144 missiles.
The S-300 (NATO: SA-10) is a family of SAM ADS that was first introduced by the Soviet Union during the late seventies. The system has been continually upgraded and improved with each successive version.
The S-300PMU2 is the latest version in the S-300 family with improvements such as extended missile range up to 200 km, new radar and the ability to intercept short-range tactical ballistic missiles.
The S-300 is noted for its vertically launched missiles using the cold-launch method. The S-300 was used to develop the S-400, which has only recently started entering service with the Russian armed forces.
Besides the S-300, Syria already possesses other advanced Russian ADS, including the short-to-medium range Pantsir-S1 (NATO: SA-22), which mounts dual 30 mm guns and up to 12 missiles with a range up to 20 km.
Syria also has the medium-range Buk-M2 (NATO: SA-17) with a range up to 50 km. All are mobile and designed to complement each other to form an Integrated Air Defense System.
Should Syria receive all systems and if war does break out with other countries, it will be the first time they will see actual full-blown combat. An older version of the SA-17, the Buk-M1 was used by Georgia to shoot down Russian aircraft.
It should also reignite the debate of SAM versus aircraft, which has been ongoing for several decades. Some countries, such as Russia and China, give more or less equal weight to both with each having their own strengths depending on the situation.
Other countries tend to place priority on aircraft over SAM batteries in the belief that aircraft will have the edge and therefore deserve to be allocated available resources.