Syrian crews have completed their training on the advanced Russian S-300 long-range air defense system, Tomer Bar, a senior officer in the Israeli Air Force (IAF), claimed in a recent interview with the Maariv newspaper.
“The training course for Syrian staff to deal with the system, which lasted several months, has ended … The situation may require the training of other crews,” Bar said in the interview, that was released on May 9.
Russian delivered several S-300 batteries to the Syrian Arab Air Defense Forces (SyAADF) in the wake of the downing of the Il-20 spy plane last year. Moscow held Tel Aviv responsible for the incident, arguing that Israeli warplanes used the Il-20 as a cover during the September 17 airstrikes on Syria’s Lattakia.
In the interview, Bar said that the IAF will destroy any air-defense system, including S-300, that would pose a threat to its freedom of activity or to any of its missions over Syria.
“It is not correct to stop at the issue of whether the S-300 system is managed by the Syrians, or under the control of the Russians. In all cases, we have to believe that the system is ready to repel our operations tomorrow morning,” the Israeli officer said.
Bar’s threat indicates that Israel is willing to target the Syrian S-300 systems, even if they were manned by Russian advisors, or located near Russian bases. Such move could lead to a serious crisis between Moscow and Tel Aviv.