IAF said training to counter Russian-made air defenses

Exercises earlier this year included joint israeli-Greek sorties while S-300 missile system was operational, sources tell Reuters

A Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missile system on display at an undisclosed location in Russia (AP)
A Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missile system on display at an undisclosed location in Russia (AP)

The Israeli Air Force has been training for a scenario in which it would have to carry out strikes in Syria or Iran on facilities defended by the Russian-made S-300 air defense system, Reuters reported Friday.

According to the report, the drills, in which Israeli and Greek pilots conducted joint sorties, took place in April and May.

One of the most sophisticated anti-aircraft weapons in the world, the S-300 is capable of tracking multiple planes at once, and some versions have an interception range of up to 200 kilometers.

The system was sold to Cyprus in 2014 and has been deployed on the Greek island of Crete. According to Reuters, IAF and Greek pilots flew within range of the system when it was activated, allowing the Israeli military to gather data on how the S-300’s lock-on system works and to learn about its tracking radar and about potential ways of blinding or cheating it.

A source quoted in the report said Greece turned on the system at the request of the US. Israeli and Greek officials would not confirm whether the system was used in the drills and to what end.

Israeli Air Force commander Amir Eshel (photo credit: Sivan Farraj)
Israeli Air Force commander Amir Eshel (photo credit: Sivan Farraj)

In a previous interview, IAF commander Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel said the S-300 was a “significant but not insurmountable challenge” for the IAF.

The Russian army has recently deployed the S-400, a defense system not dissimilar to the S-300, in Latakia, Syria.

Vladimir Putin’s arms trade adviser said this week that Russia has begun delivering the S-300 system to Iran. Russian state news agency Tass quoted Vladimir Kozhin as saying that the implementation of the contract for the delivery of the S-300s has begun and the deliveries have started. He didn’t provide any specifics.

Israel has long sought to block the sale to Iran, which analysts say could impede a potential Israeli strike on Tehran’s nuclear facilities. Other officials have expressed concern that the systems could reach Syria and Hezbollah, diluting Israel’s regional air supremacy.

In August, Iran and Russia announced that the system would be delivered by the end of the year, with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov saying at the time that “just technical details” remained to be agreed upon.

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