2008: Venezuela has hired Belarus to build an air defense system for them.
Belarus has the credentials. They still operate several of the Soviet era
air-defense schools, and many Soviet era air defense installations. Two years
ago, Belarus received 24 Russian S-300 missile systems. Roughly equivalent to
the U.S. Patriot, S-300 was known as the SA-10 to NATO, when the system first
appeared in the early 1980s. S-300 missiles weigh 1.8 tons each and are 26 feet
long and about 20 inches in diameter. The missiles have a range of some 200
kilometers and can hit targets as high as 100,000 feet. The missile has a 320
pound warhead. Belarus and Russia have integrated their air defenses, mainly to
give Russia more "depth" in case of an attack from the west.
Of all the
former communist nations in Europe, Belarus is the only one still run by its
Soviet era officials. Basically it's a police state, and very tight with
Russia. In 2006, Venezuela said that it was interested in buying S-300 systems from
Russia. Venezuela has since ordered shorter range Tor M-1 system. Known to NATO
as the SA-15 Gauntlet, the Tor-M1¬† has a
maximum range of 12 kilometers. It is only effective up to 6,000 meters
altitude. The system was designed as a successor to the SA-N-8 Gecko. Each
launcher carries eight missiles, and it is claimed to be capable of engaging
two targets simultaneously. The system was designed to be a tactical
battlefield air-defense system, designed to take out close-air-support planes
like the A-10 or tactical fighter-bombers like the F-4, F-16, and F-18.
Belarussians will help install and operate these missiles, along with the
communications systems needed to create a national air defense system.