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Air Defense: Fear and Loathing in Iran
   Next Article → INFORMATION WARFARE: The NSA Steps Up
September 28, 2007:
Information coming out of Iran indicates that the military there is very dismayed at how ineffective new Russian anti-aircraft systems were during the Israeli September 6th air strike  on a Syrian weapons development facility near the Iraqi border. Syria  and Iran have both bought billions of dollars worth of the latest Russian anti-aircraft missile systems. Apparently the Israelis were able to blind these systems electronically. Syria isn't saying anything, nor are the Israelis, but Iranian officers are complaining openly that they have been had by the Russians. The Iranians bought Russian equipment based on assurances that the gear would detect and shoot down Israeli warplanes.

Over the Summer Russia delivered the first dozen or so (of 50) Pantsir-S1 anti-aircraft systems to Syria. It is believed that some of these systems are going to Iran, if only because Iran is apparently paying for them. Russia made the sale to Syria, despite $13.4 billion still owned for past purchases. Russia forgave most (73 percent) of the old debt, and is taking some of the balance in goods. In return, Syria is able to buy $400 million worth of anti-aircraft systems, mainly the self-propelled Pantsir-S1. This is a mobile system, each vehicle carries radar, two 30mm cannon and twelve Tunguska missiles. The missiles have a twenty kilometer range, the radar a 30 kilometer range. The missile can hit targets at up to 26,000 feet. The 30mm cannon is effective up to 10,000 feet. The vehicle carrying all this weighs 20 tons and has a crew of three.

 

By selling to Syria, even via the use of an enormous discount, Russia gets another foreign customer for their new anti-aircraft systems. Previously, fifty of these systems had been sold to the United Arab Emirates. Each foreign sales make it easier to sell these systems to other foreign customers. But the poor performance in Syria makes it much more difficult to sell any Russian air defense systems (which have a spotty track record in any event.)

 

As a practical matter, Syria is too poor to ever pay back the forgiven debt, so forgiving the debt recognizes that reality. However, because Syria has been a client state of Iran for decades, the assertions that Iran put up the money, and will get many of the systems, carry a lot of weight. Iran would most likely use these systems to protect high value targets, like nuclear weapons research facilities. However, if anyone should get photos of these systems in Iran, there would be quite an uproar.

 

The Iranians fear an Israeli air strike against their nuclear weapons development facilities. It was thought the new Russian missiles and radars would persuade the Israelis to stay away. But now the raid on Syria looks like a dress rehearsal for one a little further east. Since Iranian leaders have openly called for the destruction of Israel, one can't deny the Israelis a little self-defense. Thus the cries and whispers in Iranian military headquarters. A lot of this is leaking on to Farsi language email and message boards. There is much angst and unhappiness.


Next Article → INFORMATION WARFARE: The NSA Steps Up