Air Defense: Waiting For Mister GoodSam



July 25, 2008: Israeli intelligence believes that Iran might have its Russian S-300 surface-to-air missile systems in service by the end of the year. Russia has been preparing to ship the missile systems to Iran for over a year now. Iranian troops have been training to operate the S-300, and Russian air defense experts have been showing the Iranians how to get the most out of these surface-to-air (SAM) systems, especially if attacked by Western (especially U.S. or Israeli) aircraft.

Roughly equivalent to the U.S. Patriot, the Russian built S-300 was known as the SA-10 to NATO, when the system first appeared in the early 1980s. The latest version is called the SA-20. 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.

Israel has been preparing to deal with the Iranian S-300s, including practicing against S-300s operated by the Greek armed forces. The S-300 has never had any combat experience, although it looks good on paper. Russia has done a lot of realistic testing of the S-300, but never had it confront a Western air force possessing equipment designed to defeat the Russian system. So developments in Iran are being watched closely by air defense experts around the globe.

Russia has already delivered dozens of shorter range surface-to-air missile systems, which can be used to defend specific facilities.


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