Written by Federico Pieraccini; Originally appeared on strategic-culture.org
The tragic episode that caused the death of 15 Russian air force personnel has had immediate repercussions on the situation in Syria and the Middle East. On September 24, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu informed allies and opponents that the delivery of the S-300 air-defense systems to the Syrian Arab Republic had been approved by President Vladimir Putin. The delivery had been delayed and then suspended as a result of Israeli pressure back in 2013.
In one sense, the delivery of S-300 batteries to Syria is cause for concern more for Washington than for Tel Aviv. Israel has several F-35 and has claimed to have used them in Syria to strike alleged Iranian weapons transfers to Hezbollah. With the S-300 systems deployed in an updated version and incorporated into the Russian command, control and communications (C3) system, there is a serious risk (for Washington) that Israel, now incapable of changing the course of events in Syria, could attempt a desperate maneuver.
It is no secret that Greece purchased S-300s from Russia years ago, and that NATO and Israel have trained numerous times against the Russian air-defense system. Senior IDF officials have often insisted that they are capable taking out the S-300s, having apparently discovered their weaknesses.
Tel Aviv’s warning that it will attack and destroy the S-300 battery should not be taken as an idle threat. It is enough to look at the recent downing of Russia’s Il-20 surveillance aircraft to understand how reckless a desperate Israel is prepared to be. Moreover, more than one IDF commander has over the years reiterated that a Syrian S-300 would be considered a legitimate target if threatening Israeli aircraft.
At this point, it is necessary to add some additional information and clarify some points. Greece’s S-300s are old, out of maintenance, and have not had their electronics updated. Such modern and complex systems as the S-300s and S-400s require maintenance, upgrades, and often replacement of parts to improve hardware. All this is missing from the Greek batteries. Secondly, it is the operator who uses the system (using radar, targeting, aiming, locking and so forth) that often makes the difference in terms of overall effectiveness. Furthermore, the system is fully integrated into the Russian C3 system, something that renders useless any previous experience gleaned from wargaming the Greek S-300s. No Western country knows the real capabilities and capacity of Syrian air defense when augmented and integrated with Russian systems. This is a secret that Damascus and Moscow will continue to keep well guarded. Yet two years ago, during the operations to free Aleppo, a senior Russian military officer warned (presumably alluding to fifth-generation stealth aircraft like the F-35 and F-22) that the range and effectiveness of the Russian systems may come as a surprise.
The following are the words of Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu concerning the deployment of the S-300 to Syria and its integration with other Russian systems:
“Russia will jam satellite navigation, onboard radars and communication systems of combat aircraft, which attack targets in the Syrian territory, in the Mediterranean Sea bordering with Syria. We are convinced that the implementation of these measures will cool hotheads and prevent ill-considered actions threatening our servicemen. Otherwise, we will respond in line with the current situation. Syrian troops and military air defense units will be equipped with automatic control systems, which have been supplied to the Russian Armed Forces. This will ensure the centralized management of the Syrian air defense forces and facilities, monitoring the situation in the airspace and prompt target designation. Most importantly, it will be used to identify the Russian aircraft by the Syrian air defense forces.”
If the Israelis will follow through with their reckless attempts to eliminate the S-300 (if they can find them in the first place, given that they are mobile), they will risk their F-35s being brought down. The US military-industrial complex would suffer irreparable damage. This would also explain why Israel (and probably the US) has for more than five years put enormous pressure on Moscow not to deliver the S-300 to Syria and Iran. The US State Department’s reaction over the future purchase by Turkey and India of the S-400 confirms the anxiety that US senior officials as well as generals are experiencing over the prospect of allies opting for the Russian systems. This would allow for a comparison with weapons these allies purchased from the US, leading to the discovery of vulnerabilities and the realization of the US weapons’ relative inferiority.
Given Tel Aviv’s tendency to place its own interests above all others, it would not be surprising to find them using the possibility of attacking the S-300 with their F-35s as a weapon to blackmail Washington into getting more involved in the conflict. For the United States, there are two scenarios to avoid. The first is a direct involvement in the conflict with Russia in Syria, which is now unthinkable and impractical. The second – much more worrying for military planners – concerns the possibility of the F-35’s capabilities and secrets being compromised or even being shown not to be a match against air-defense systems nearly half a century old.
An illuminating example of how the United States operates its most advanced aircraft in the region was given in eastern Syria around Deir ez-Zor. In this part of Syria, there is no threat from any advanced air-defense systems, so the US is often free to employ its F-22 in certain circumstances. The Russian military has repeatedly shown radar evidence that unequivocally shows that when Russian Su-35s appear in the same skies as the F-22, the US Air Force simply avoids any confrontation and quickly withdraws such fifth-generation assets as the F-22. The F-35 is not even ready in its naval variant, and has yet to be deployed on a US aircraft carrier near the Middle Eastern theater or the Persian Gulf; nor is it present in any US military base in the region. The US simply does not even consider using the F-35 in Syria, nor would it risk its use against Russian air defenses. Israel is the only country that so far may have already used these aircraft in Syria; but this was before the S-300 came onto the scene.
The F-35 program has already cost hundreds of billions of dollars and will soon reach the exorbitant and surreal figure of over 1 trillion dollars. It has already been sold to dozens of countries bound by decades-long agreements. The F-35 has been developed as a multi-role fighter and is expected to be the future backbone of NATO and her allies. Its development began more than 10 years ago and, despite the countless problems that still exist, it is already airborne and combat-ready, as the Israelis insist. From the US point of view, its employment in operations is played down and otherwise concealed. The less data available to opponents, the better; though the real reason may lie in a strong fear of any revelation of potential weaknesses of the aircraft damaging future sales. At this time, the Pentagon’s marketing of the F-35 is based on the evaluations provided by Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer, and on the tests carried out by the military who commissioned it to Lockheed Martin. Obviously, both Lockheed Martin and the US Air Force have no interest in revealing any weaknesses or shortcomings, especially publicly. Corruption is a big thing in Washington, contrary to common assumptions.
The combination of Israel’s ego, its inability to change the course of events in Syria, coupled with the loss of its ability to fly throughout the Middle East with impunity due to Syria now being equipped with a superior air defense – all these factors could push Israel into acting desperately by using the F-35 to take out the S-300 battery. Washington finds itself in the unenviable position of probably having no leverage with Israel over the matter ever since losing any ability to steer events in Syria.
With the Russian air-defense systems potentially being spread out to the four corners of the world, including China, India, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and who knows how many other countries waiting in the queue, Russia continues to increase its export capacity and military prestige as it demonstrates its control of most of the Syria’s skies. With the introduction of the the S-500 pending, one can imagine the sleepless nights being spent by those in the Pentagon and Lockheed Martin’s headquarters worrying about the possibility of an F-35 being taken down by an S-300 system manufactured in 1969.
It would be sweet to see a F-35 downed. In most people’s minds the Israelis operate superior versions of American aircraft, with avionics comparable to, if not better then even the Americans, as Israel never gets the monkey versions the US sells to its allies. And the Israelis love to install their own avionics, which have a very good reputation. The Indian Air Force SU-30’s for instance are equipped with Israeli avionics. Which probably played no small part in them performing so good in wargames in the US against the best that the USAF can offer. So, if a NATO F-35 gets shot down, monkey version to most people’s mind, American F-35 gets shot down, serious problem, but the Americans do have a reputation of being stupid cowboys, but if an Israeli F-35 gets shot, shit be hitting the Lockheed-Martin’s PR fans in epic volumes.
The S300 does come in different versions, the Russians have in Syria the S300V4 which is an advanced version to the one that Russia is supplying Syria with. What makes this interesting is that the Russians haven’t used their S300/400 and now with little brother taking a seat the Syrian territory is now pretty well protected, use the Syrian S300 when attacked and if required then the Russian S300/400.
There is also a S350, not much is known about it.
You are onto something there John.
Thanks for the links Al. The whole scenario concerning the downing of the iL20 smells like rotten fish. I believe that the Russians set up the incident but didn’t expect the plane to be shot down. A lot of questions remain unasked or ignored such as exactly what was the altitude, air/ground speed, wind speed and direction, missile strike front/back or to the side. The S400/350/300 system would have picked up all the traffic and made sure that the iL20 was safe.
The French definitely shot it down, convenient to blame the israelis.
Fort Russ is pretty sure the French killed the Il-20 with that missile fired from the frigate Auvergne. https://www.fort-russ.com/2018/09/how-we-know-the-il-20-was-shot-down-by-france-or-the-uk/
The Russian systems are highly flexible and integrated, and it’s the control centres and radar units that make the difference. They can use the Polyana D4M1 Command Post or the 73N6 Baikal E Command Post. I think it’s the Polyana in Syria.
Radars 91N6E is designed to track aerial and ballistic targets, identifying targets, and performing angle measurements on standoff jamming aircraft.
N2N6E Tombstone is the engagement radar, and can track 100 targets, whilst simultaneously guide missiles to six different targets.
Then there is the stealth killing VHF Nebo M radar.
Here’s one possible configuration. http://www.ausairpower.net/XIMG/S-400-Battery-Composition-Diagram.gif
…no one will know which ‘complex’ and which missile killed the jet. The Russians have plausible deniability.
I don’t think it will bother Lockheed, they have most of the buyers under contract, and quite a few have paid in advance. As for the US military, what else can they buy, Sukhoi’s?
You have forgotten that 1 x F-35 has already crashed. Norway’s F-35s are rusting away, because they forgot to buy the hangers (1 of the Scandinavian Countries anyway), the Aussies were talking about minimising the number they bought and so on and so on. The F-35 is a Jack of all trades, master of none
Good stuff on the F-35I.
You’d think that Norway would have hangars. Where else have they been storing their F-16’s all that time?
If true I wouldn’t be surprised if Australia would want to minimize their order. As the aircraft got more and more expensive using alternatives looked better and better. The Super Hornet which Australia uses is still in production. Now maybe the US is perfectly willing to foot the bill, they would just print more money to fund it, other countries do not have that luxury, or willingness.
Yea, the F-35 has its issues for sure, but one thing it has going for it, ie, stealth. Russia has the Struna-1 radar system that can “see” the F-35 in flight if it is close enough, but so far, no one has reported on a radar missile guidance system that can guide a missile to the F-35. That is the main cause of concern in that case of Israel.
More importantly in an integrated system no one will know which ‘complex’ and which missile killed the jet. The Russians have plausible deniability.
the opposite can happen as well, an Israeli F-35 to hit a S-300 system. Wish both good luck. Lets’s see who outsmart the other *grabs popcorn*
Yes that could happen, in fact they could take each other out. Missiles passing each other in the night.
And saluting each other like real gentlemen
It’s a good one.
Thing is if isisrael hits an S300 before its destroyed then that jet will without doubt be taken down by another… its what happens after that if anything (all pretend it didn’t happen) that will be interesting.
Depends if the S-300 will still have remaining missiles after a volley of fake cruise missiles
cruise missiles will be taken with the S200 , BUK and Pantsir systems . So the S300 will be ready for the zionist pilot in his “invisible” F35 .
We’ll live and see…
We have seen on previous occasions that the actual syrian Air-defense can deal with incoming cruise misseles quiet succesful. So why waste S300 on a Cruise missile.
on SOME previous occasions, but many times, Iranian men died there.
The Syrians are taking out most missiles with the Pantsir, which does well short-range. But if they want to take out an Israeli plane, they need the S-series air defences.
IMHO the only way of taking out the S300 is with special forces on the ground. But this scenario has the risk of showing afterwards IDF-men in chains at the central square in Damascus.
The author forgot that the navy variants the F35B, was already gone to combat in Afghanistan a few days ago, and these F 35B operated from USS Essex stationed in the Persian Gulf ,it seems the writer failed to monitor /update the current F35B mission’s.
Operations against Taliban that have no real AD capability is not worth mention. The article talks about whether it can do what it claimed to do which is evading and defeating it’s adversary radar detection network. F35 vs S300. Either side victory would be billions worth PR victory. Though historical sides on favor of the Russian system.
The F35B is the marines version, the US Navy version is F35C.
Scary stuff…up against guys wearing flip flops and carrying AK’s and RPG’s.
While the British health care, education and infrastructure are being gutted and the earnings of families and communities are being reduced to beggars the Defense force commissions an aircraft carrier worth billions.
While the Australian government purchases billions of nuclear submarines they also announce that the retirement age is now 65.
Russia Russia Russia right?
“While the Australian government purchases tens of billions of nuclear submarines they also announce that the retirement age is now 65.”
Fact 1 Australia is buying submarines, but they are not nuclear. Fact 2 The Australian pension age was 65 for many years, but is now 67. That is for the Government pension, most Australians pay compulsory superannuation, and can retire at any time after 60 and claim their loot.
PS life expectancy in Australia is 82.
Straight from the french defense site……..The Barracuda class (or Suffren class) is a new nuclear attack submarine, designed by the French shipbuilder DCNS for the French Navy, replacing the Rubis-class submarines. Construction began in 2007 and the first unit will be commissioned in 2018.
They put the retirement age up in the hope anyone claiming dies. Except wanker and useless politicians that get gold plated pensions.
Your right about the aged pension, I knew they were putting it up to 67, and when they introduced the new rules last year I thought that it was now 67. I didn’t realize they were doing it incrementally.
As for the subs, yes they are the French Barracuda class, but without the nuclear propulsion.
Another conventionally powered design, the Shortfin Barracuda, was selected as a future replacement for the Collins-class vessels with the Royal Australian Navy.
The Israelis will want to test the S300 and the new air defence capacities of Syria – using their Western golems of course. The US MIC will want to avoid the embarrassment and loss of sales following from the destruction of some F-35s. I suppose that means some British or French airmen will be forced to die for Israel.
EB is a shaky ‘opposition’ Syrian news source, so it’s okay to take this with a grain of salt.
They claim that the T4 airbase is switching from Iranian to Russian control, and that the newly received s300s for Syria will be installed at this location.
Let us remember that a bird (called S-200) damage an Israeli F-35, and they know what a big bird (S-300) can do to their flying mosquitos.
Let’s hold the cheering until we know what we are up against. While there are radars like the Struna-1 that can “see” the F-35, there is no known radar system in the world that can guide a missile to a stealth aircraft. That is the sticking point right now. We can only hope that Russia develops and fields such a radar system before Israel starts WW III. The only other option is for Russia to strike the Israeli planes while they are on the ground, but that sounds too much like WW III to me.