The latest shipment of missiles have upgraded guidance systems compared to the earlier ones. The missiles received are the land-based version or Bastion for mobile coastal defense.
They join other advanced Russian arms already in Syria, such as the short-to-medium range Pantsir-S1 (SA-22) and medium-range Buk-M2 (SA-17) air defense systems.
The supersonic and sea-skimming Yakhont is the export version of the domestic 3M-55 Oniks (Onyx) developed by Russia's NPO Mashinostroyeniya. The specifications are:
- Length: 8.9 m
- Diameter: 0.7 m
- Wingspan: 1.7 m
- Weight: 3900 kg (with booster)
- Warhead: 200 kg
- Range: 120 km (Lo-Lo flight profile) or 290 km (Hi-Lo flight profile)
- Maximum Speed: Mach 2.5
- Altitude: Between 10 m to 14000 m
Besides Syria, the SS-N-26 has been exported to Vietnam and Indonesia. India also has the Brahmos, which is a modified version of the Yakhont developed in cooperation with Russia.
The Yakhont deliveries come at a time when Syria is engaged in an internal armed struggle with insurgents and faces the prospects of attack from abroad. Israel has already carried out air strikes at targets in Syrian territory.
Russia has been asked to stop arms deliveries to Syria, including the S-300PMU2 air-to-surface missiles. Russia had in the past suspended some deliveries, such as the Syrian purchase of MiG-29M fighter aircraft.
However, after events in Libya, Russia has become more proactive in the region. Compared to Libya, Syria is much more important to Russia, especially with the presence of a naval base.
Loss of Syria to unfriendly forces would greatly hurt Russian influence in the region. Not surprising, Russia has been boosting its naval presence in the Mediterranean with ships from the Russian Pacific Fleet, including a Udaloy class anti-submarine warfare destroyer.