Syria's Russian Missile Defenses
Since the consensus now is that Obama's red-line for using chemical weapons have been crossed, even if in small amounts, begs the question of what to do.
The easiest and safest way to deal with this is to send a few cruise missiles on key targets to show Assad further use of chemical weapons is not tolerated. It is difficult to shoot down a cruise missile and easily done from off shore. Using airpower to do the same is much more dicey if stealth fighters and bombers are not being used.
Since 2007, Syria has been enhancing its Russian-made missile defenses. These upgrades cause for concern.
- SA-5 Gammon - missiles with a range of 175 miles and can hit aircraft taking off from Cyprus where the U.S. has a base
- SA-22 Pantsir - a mobile missile with a range of 12 miles. It can be used against cruise missiles also. Syria has 36 of them.
- SA-17 Grizzly - missiles with a 20 mile range and can engage in multiple targets from various directions. Syria has 10.
- SA-26 Pechora - a missile with a 17 mile range and is better against maneuvering targets and low level ones. Each launcher as two missiles and Syria as 100-150 of them.
- SA-9 Gaskin - an infrared missile with a range of 5 miles
- Older missiles include SA-6, SA-2 and SA-8.
It was thought that Israel had created ECM to make the Syrian missiles ineffective but this was not the case, The past Israeli jets that had destroyed Syrian targets had not crossed into Syria airspace but fired from Israeli or Lebanese airspace into Syria. Had they crossed into Syria, the outcome might be different. The same applies to NATO aircraft. On May 4th, 16 Israeli aircraft flew into Lebanon and attacked into Syria at a chemical weapon plant attempting to move chemicals into Lebanon. The Israeli jets DID fly defiantly over Assad's palace sending him a message. None of the aircraft were shot down, which leads to the question as to the effectiveness of Syria's modernized air defenses. Maybe they are not operational or lack components or ECM confused them.
Most of the newer Russian missile systems are still operated by Russian technicians and repair them.