2008: Russia has offered to send technical experts to Cuba, to help optimize
Cuban air defenses. Currently, the Cuban air defenses are largely ineffective.
The main anti-aircraft weapons are some SAM-6 (self-propelled system that fires
1200 pound missiles with a range of 24 kilometers), SAM-8 (self-propelled
system that fires 360 pound missiles with a range of 15 kilometers) and several
shorter range (4-8 kilometers) missiles, either portable or self-propelled.
Most of these are inoperable, as Cuba has had little money for spare parts and
maintenance since Russian aid was ended in the early 1990s. There are only
about two dozen warplanes in working condition, but these can be quickly
eliminated by a smaller number of more modern aircraft. The most effective
anti-aircraft weapons are thousands of heavy (14.5mm) machine-guns and
automatic cannon (mostly 23mm).
Cubans need is $20-30 million worth of spare parts, and several hundred new
missiles. The Russians are apparently not willing to be that generous. The
Russian offer does include training some Cuban air-defense officers. All this
appears to be what you could call a "friendly gesture," and not
something really meaningful. But it's a start, and perhaps the Russians are
thinking of reopening their electronic listening operation. The Chinese have
replaced them in that department, but Cuba would welcome the Russians back, for
the right price.