Iran will boost Syria’s air defenses, Iranian media said on Wednesday. This surprise announcement was made by Major General Mohammad Baqeri after an agreement with Syrian air defense minister Ali Abdullah Ayoub. The agreement will expand Syria’s air defense systems and could see Iran sending its 3rd Khordad or other air defense systems to Syria, which could pose a threat to Israel. Iran says a 3rd Khordad shot down the sophisticated large Global Hawk US drone in June 2019. Just as likely, the agreement could be a political boost for Damascus, with no real military ramifications in the near future.
Iran’s new air defense help could also have ramifications for Turkey’s military presence. Iran, Turkey and Russia frequently work on issues relating to Syria. They all oppose the US presence in Syria and Turkey and Iran have worked together against Kurdish dissident and militant groups. This means Iran’s message in boosting Syria’s air defense is directed at Israel, the US and possibly Turkey.
The 3rd Khordad system, which is based on the Russian S-300, has made its appearance in Syria before. In April 2018, according to a report at Ynet, it was flown into the T-4 base and was destroyed “before even being unpacked. Apparently IRGC Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani was so angered by the destruction of the precious system that he ordered the firing of a salvo of rockets at Israel. What the 2018 report also reveals is that the Khordad was brought to T-4 because of an earlier round of incidents in which Iran flew a drone from T-4 into Israeli airspace in February and Israel shot down the drone. Ynet notes in its May 15, 2018 article that subsequent strikes on T-4 led Iran to bring the air defense and then the air defense was also destroyed.
Syrian air defense has failed over the years to stop airstrikes on the country, including those by the US in 2017, and it has often been so erratic that it endangers Syria’s allies. In 2017 an erratically fired S-200 had to be intercepted by Israel’s Arrow air defense. Ynet noted at the time that the missile carried a 200 kg. warhead and was heading for the Jordan valley. In September 2018, Syrian S-200s shot down a Russian military plane. Syria thought it was firing at Israeli aircraft. In January 2019 a Syrian air defense Russian-made Pantsir was eviscerated by an Israeli drone, according to The National Interest. Defense World suggested that a mobile phone used by a Syrian air defender led to the Pantsir being found and destroyed. In July 2019, Syrian air defense shot an S-200 missile that landed in Cyprus. Business Insider has written about Syrian air defenses being “beaten badly by Israeli forces in Syria.” In May, i24 wrote that Syrian Russian-made radar were also “of little use against alleged Israeli airstrike.”
The message is clear. Syria’s air defense has a problem. It was supposed to get S-300s from Russia after the September 2018 incident. But there is lack of clarity over whether those systems were deployed. June 2019 reports indicated the Syrian S-300s might be operational and were deployed near Masyaf near Hama.
Overall then the picture is clear. Syrian air defenses have largely failed to stop airstrikes on Syria. That doesn’t mean they are all sub-standard, it could speak to the level of sophistication they are facing or the complexity of attack. However the Syria-Iran agreement may be more a political message than a military one. Will Syria really get a hold of Iran’s systems? Even Iran has problems with its air defense. It did shoot down the Global Hawk, but the Global Hawk is a relatively large, fat target. In January, Iran mistakenly shot down a civilian airliner.
Source » jpost