Yochanan Visser is an independent journalist/analyst who worked for many years as Middle East correspondent for Western Journalism.com in Arizona and was a frequent publicist for the main Dutch paper De Volkskrant. He authoreda book in the Dutch language about the cognitive war against Israel and now lives in Gush Etzion. He writes a twice weekly analysis of current issues for Arutz Sheva
Russia is expected to deliver the sophisticated S-300 missile defense system to the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, Russian officials told the newspaper Kommersant last week.
“The S-300 PMU-2 ‘Favourite’ version of the anti-aircraft systems will be provided to the Syrians free of charge and very soon,” according to Kommersant.
The news drew a sharp response by Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman who promised Israel would act against the system if it is used against Israeli warplanes or other aircraft.
The delivery of the S-300 system could set Israel on a crash course with the regime of President Vladimir Putin.Russian officials reacted to Liberman’s comments by warning Israel will suffer “catastrophic consequences” if it dares to act against the S-300 PMU-2 system.
The system has already been used in Syria for several years but the operators were always Russians, not Syrians or Iranians.
The S-300 is able to track up to 100 targets simultaneously while it can engage with 12 at the same time. The system has a range of roughly 200 kilometers and can reach targets flying on an altitude up to 27,000 meters.
Deployment of the system by Assad’s army would give the Syrian tyrant the possibility to shoot down planes departing from or landing at Ben Gurion Airport and at the Palmachim Israeli Air Force (IAF) base near Nes Tziona.
American weapon and Middle East expert Jennifer Dyer says Assad’s S-300 anti-aircraft system will even be able to reach planes flying over the northern Negev desert.
In an exclusive interview with Arutz Sheva, Dyer warned: “the S-300 would create a no-go situation for Israel if allowed to be made operational by the Syrian regime.”
“The kinds of low-level, preemptive strikes (in Syria) the IAF has executed in the last few years, against Hezbollah targets and the special weapons targets of Iran and the Assad regime, would become virtually impossible,” the retired US Naval officer said.
“Israel would lose the ability to preempt the ‘build-up’ to war before Iran and Syria can make it a full-blown war,” Dyer added.
She recalled that this is why, as far back as 2013, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned that Israel would prevent the delivery of the S-300 system to the Assad regime.
“The same security threat for Israel is still in play,” Dyer noted.
“Besides being a mobile system, and much more capable than anything Syria already has in terms of rapid, integrated command and control, the S-300’s missiles can target IAF aircraft well outside Syrian airspace,” she argued while adding that this “includes all of Lebanese airspace and much of Israeli airspace down to the northern Negev.”
Israel is routinely using Lebanese airspace to launch aerial attacks on Iranian-linked targets in Syria.
“Precision attacks by the IAF with the more powerful explosives become prohibitively harder, or even impossible, as the standoff range grows,” according to the American expert.
She told Arutz Sheva the IAF has trained against Greece’ version of the S-300 system which is an older system than the one Russia plans to give to Syria.
The Israeli Air Force is able to fight the system “credibly if a full-blown war were started,” Dyer said but warned that Israel’s ability to prevent such a war via preemptive attacks would “shrink drastically if the S-300 is allowed to go operational in Syria.”
Furthermore, Israel should not allow the S-300 to become operational, Dyer said, and advised the IAF to focus on taking out the missile launchers of the sophisticated system.
“Without their launchers, the missiles are no good. There’s more than one way to attack the launch vehicles when they’re en route or stored before deployment,” Dyer said and warned that letting the S-300 go operational in Syria would mean the IAF will need “extra warplanes” and “a concerted effort for each strike event.”
“The IDF might attack S-300 command elements using cruise missiles,” the US-based weapon expert told Arutz Sheva.
“To protect IAF strike-fighters (F-15, F-16, F-35) on their core mission, the IAF needs to escort them with electronic warfare aircraft to kill the S-300 radars and disrupt the electronic environment for the Syrian air defense system as a whole,” she continued.
The IAF pilots themselves will have to be trained on “evasive maneuvers and the use of defensive systems to confuse the S-300 missiles,” Dyer explained adding that the F-35 “will be an asset once it’s fully integrated into the IAF, because of its lower radar observability.”
“If the S-300 goes operational, that would force Israel to ramp up the ‘offensive’ level of preemptive attacks,” she concluded.
Other experts think Israel should develop a new electronic warfare system to neutralize the threat posed by a Syrian S-300 anti-aircraft system.
In 2013, senior IAF officer Colonel Zvika Haimovich, furthermore, said the Israeli air force would be capable of overcoming the system.
"Though it would impinge on our operations, we are cable of overcoming it," Haimovich told Reuters at the time.