Submited via Within Syria blog
Syrian Acquisition of Pantsir S-1 air-defense systems (SA-22 Greyhound) is a well-known fact today thanks to the few pictures taken during the current war. But as we all know, Syria was never this open about its inventory, and for years before the war, everyone with the least interest in the Syrian military knew about the news of Syrian interest in the Pantsir system. Today, we are going to have a look at the full story.
After Assad’s visit to Russia in 2005, news of new weapon deals between Syria and Russia took on the media worldwide, and kept resurfacing for years. One of those deals, is the 2006 Pantsir S1. It was a 2 stage bargain, Syria would receive 36 units, and afterwards, there were 14 optional units, estimated at $1 billion for the whole deal.
As expected, Israel staged a diplomatic war against the deal, supporting the effort with claims from media sources, like in the Jane’s Defence Weekly article that claimed those systems real destination was Iran (which was still under international sanctions and arms ban at the time), and that Syria is just playing an intermediary part in the deal. Other journalists and followers claimed the systems would end up in Hezbollah hands. Several Russian officials denied these claims.
Deliveries started before the first stages of the Syrian crisis in 2011 (some are reported back in 2007-2009). But by 2012 all 36 units were delivered. Judging by the delivery time, the systems are equipped with the UHF band, PESA target acquisition radars, with an up to 32km detection range.
During the Russian intervention in Syria in 2016, Russia agreed to supply the second stage of the 2006 deal, especially after the rising tensions with Turkey and the few aerial incidents near the borders. These, unlike the first batch, were equipped with the more advanced AESA Target acquisition radars, with a range that can detect and track targets from 40km (wider ranges is reported, probably under ideal conditions), and a higher jamming resistance.
The older units were armed with 12 57E6-E short range SA missiles – export version -, with an average range of 20km ,we can confirm that all the older systems are armed with 12 from unofficial photos from the social media like this one .
However, newer systems appeared in leaked pictures with 6 missiles only, which may mean that the newer systems have a new missile (or maybe at least a non-export Russian version). This is highly possible, if we take in consideration that Russia brought many arms into Syria with no intention to take them back (it would be easier and more efficient to sell the weapons to Syria, than to transport them back to Russia).
No detailed information is available regarding the operational history of the Syrian Pantsir S1 systems. But back in 2012, during the Turkish RF-4E incident on 22/01/2012, some sources reported that the fighter was shot down using the Pantsir S1 automatic guns, however no evidence was presented at the time ,just a video that confirm the use of an undefined automatic gun .
Another incident is the December 2014 Israeli strikes on AA batteries near Damascus, the aggressors used Popeye cruise missiles (probably fired from F-15 strike fighters), this time we are sure the Pantsir was behind the failed strike, the location, pictures, and local media reports all point at this fact, but again, no further details are available.
At the end, it was hard enough to find evidence of the systems’ existence in Syria, it only makes since that it is even harder to determine how well they do on the proving ground. But looking back at the 2006 Pantsir deal, we realize that it is one of few Sryian arms deals that were fulfilled despite the international pressure.
special thanks to my friend Kane