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What the Deployment of Russian S-300 Air Defense Systems to Syria Really Means

Russia has deployed the Antey-2500 S-300 V4 (NATO designation SA-23 Gladiator) air defense system to Syria.

The announcement came on October 4 after Washington said it was suspending talks with Moscow aimed at reviving the ceasefire deal. This makes it the first time Russia has deployed the Antey-2500 S-300V4 outside its borders. Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said a battery of the S-300 air defense missile systems had been sent to Syria to protect a Russian facility in the Syrian port of Tartus and Russian navy ships off the Mediterranean coast. «The S-300 is a purely defensive system and poses no threat to anyone», the spokesman stressed.

The Antey-2500 is a new system that entered service only in 2014. It is operational with the Russian Army. The system is designed to defeat short- and medium-range ballistic missilescruise missiles, fixed-wing aircraft, as well as loitering ECM platforms, precision-guided munitions and ballistic missile individual warheads. It boasts focused detonation of the missile warhead.

The S-300 V4 features: high firepower potential irrespective of air attack tactics or sequence, passive electronically scanned array radars with advanced data processing methods, high electronic countermeasures immunity and inertial guidance with radio command mid-course update and semi-active radar homing at the terminal phase.

The system uses two types of missiles with a hypersonic capability, high resistance to countermeasures, and a unique capacity for terminal maneuvers against a target; one to counter aircraft and cruise missile attack, and one that can hit intermediate and short range ballistic missiles, including the US Army’s ATACMS (Army Tactical Missile System).

The smaller 9M83M can reach targets at up to 100 km (54nm) range. A much larger missile, dubbed «40N6» has a range extends to 400 km (216 nm) at maximum speed up to equating to Mach 7.4. It can counter manned and unmanned aircraft at all altitudes. The missiles are launched vertically from a special transport launch canister. They are to operate maintenance-free for at least ten years. Warheads of both missiles are packed with 150 kg of explosives.

Each system can track up to 200 targets and engage 24 simultaneously, at altitudes between 25,000m and 30,000 m (82,000ft and 98,400ft).

The 9S32ME multi-channel missile guidance radar provides guidance for up to two missiles from the same launcher and a maximum of four missiles from different launchers. The radar is mounted in front of the 9A84ME launcher unit, providing 360º coverage in azimuth angle and 180º in elevation. Mounted in a semi-fixed position, it provides 90º coverage in azimuth and 110º in elevation.

The Antey-2500 surface-to-air missile defence system is also equipped with 9S19ME sector surveillance radar to track and detect high speed targets, such as ballistic missile warheads. The detection range is about 330 km. It detects ballistic missiles at a range of about 175 km.

A circular observation radar provides all-round surveillance, early warning and target acquisition data.

The extended range engagement capability degrades an opponent’s ability to exercise effective command and control over its air assets during mass strikes against ground objects and troops, as well as efforts to conduct surveillance and jamming from standoff ranges. The efficient anti-jamming immunity enables to engage air targets in intensive electronic and fire counteraction environment, in any weather, by day and night.

The Antey-2500 is off-road-mobile. Special tracked chassis of all Antey-2500 elements is based on that of the 2S7 Pion 203-mm self-propelled gun powered by a V-84 turbocharged diesel engine, developing 840 hp. Vehicles are also fitted with auxiliary power unit that powers all systems when the main engine is turned off.

With the components tracked, it can navigate unimproved terrain with the agility of a modern, medium-size armored tank. It makes it very hard to find and attack. The system is ready to move at a moment’s notice to greatly compound the potential enemy’s efforts to knock it out preemptively. The Antey-2500 uses shoot, scoot and hide tactics in order to avoid being hit. Reloading takes about 50-60 minutes. A unique capability of reloading vehicles is that they can launch missiles themselves. Firing data is acquired from the launcher vehicle.

A battery of the Antey-2500 typically includes up two six launchers in two variants, command post vehicle, surveillance radar, sector surveillance radar, and up to 6 reloading vehicles/launchers in two variants. The command post vehicle is operated by a crew of 7. It prioritizes which targets should be attacked first and transmits firing data to launcher vehicles.

The system joins Russia's advanced S-400 missile defense battery and an array of other surface-to-air missiles (SAM) at Khmeimim air base in Syria's coastal province of Latakia to create a layered air defense zone. Amid the rising Russian-US tensions, the new deployment greatly boosts the multi-layered air defense in Syria ready to counter any imaginable threat. It sends a warning signal to anybody harboring aggressive plans and serves as a deterrence measure to prevent the worst scenarios envisaged by «Plan B» under consideration in the United States. The system’s unique capability to strike small size aerial targets is in demand in Syria against the background of the recent attack against the Russian embassy in Damascus.

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