Air Defense: A Special Shot in Lebanon

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August 11, 2008:  Apparently, Syria has shipped some SA-8 (officially, the 9K33) mobile anti-aircraft missile systems across the border to Lebanon, for use by the Shia terrorist group Hezbollah. This bit of news came out during  the clamor that followed the August 2nd assassination, by a sniper in northern Lebanon, of Syrian Brigadier General Mohammad Sulaiman. Israel denied any responsibility for the killing, even though Sulaiman was known to be responsible for shipping Iranian weapons from Syria to Hizbollah forces in Lebanon. Sulaiman has long been a major player in supporting Hizbollah, and is part of the senior leadership in Syria.

The SA-8 is a four decade old Russian system that was quite innovative when it first came out. The 6x6 vehicle carries the radar (with a range of 30 kilometers), and six missiles (with a range of 15 kilometers). The system has undergone many upgrades over the years, and can still be dangerous to aircraft not equipped (with countermeasures) to cope. The presence of the SA-8 makes the skies over southern Lebanon more dangerous for the regular recon flights by Israeli jets, as well as any combat operations in a future war.

It's not certain that the Israelis killed Sulaiman, although the sophistication of the hit points to Israeli special ops. But Sulaiman had many enemies in Lebanon, where he has long been active in legal, and illegal, business dealings. Lots of powerful businessmen in Lebanon have been burned by Sulaiman over the years, and would like to see him gone.

 

 


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