Russian electronic warfare system arrives in Syria — report

Equipment intended to interrupt radar, navigation of attacking aircraft and satellite-guided weapons; Moscow said planning to ship up to eight S-300 anti-aircraft systems to Assad

An Israeli Air Force F-16, front, and F-15, rear, prepare to take off from the Ovda airbase near Eilat, southern Israel. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
An Israeli Air Force F-16, front, and F-15, rear, prepare to take off from the Ovda airbase near Eilat, southern Israel. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Russian electronic warfare equipment intended to disrupt airstrikes has arrived in Syria as Moscow moves rapidly to boost air defenses for its ally Damascus, according to Russian media reports Tuesday.

After a Russian plane was shot down by Syrian air defenses last week as they tried to repel an Israeli airstrike, Moscow said it would provide Syria with its advanced S-300 missile system as well as send jamming technology to the region, a move that has alarmed Israel and the US.

According to the Moscow-based Izvestia daily newspaper, the electronic warfare equipment arrived at Hmeimim Air Base near Latakia on Monday, aboard Il-76 transport aircraft. The paper cited sources familiar with the delivery.

Without detailing exactly what was sent, the sources noted that the systems were intended to disrupt airborne radar, aircraft communication and controls and satellite navigation systems used in attack jets, drones and guided munitions.

Operators will be able to project a protective “radioelectonic dome” over hundreds of kilometers over Syria and along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, the report said.

Hmeimim is the main air base used by Russian forces in Syria supporting the regime in its battle to end the country’s civil war. It is the base at which the Ilyushin Il-20 plane was attempting to land when it was brought down by the Syrian defenses, killing all 15 crewmen.

In this file photo taken March 4, 2017, the Russian Ilyushin Il-20 electronic intelligence plane of the Russian air force with the registration number RF 93610, which was accidentally downed by Syrian forces responding to an Israeli air strike, flies near Kubinka airport, outside Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Marina Lystseva)

Russia already has its own S-300 air defense system in Syria, along with the more advanced S-400 system.The Kommersant newspaper reported Tuesday that Russia intends to send two to four S-300 batteries to Syria. If necessary, the deployment will be increased to six to eight units, sources told the newspaper.

An agreement between Russia and Syria will see the surface-to-air missile batteries provide protection for facilities on the Mediterranean coast, as well as the Syria’s borders with Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, the report said. Sources said the missile systems could be operational within two weeks.

The electronic warfare systems and S-300s are expected to complicate Israel’s ongoing efforts — which have included numerous airstrikes — to prevent Iran deepening its military presence in Syria and to thwart the transfer of weapons in Syria to Hezbollah.

Israeli fighter jets conducted the September 17 airstrike on a weapons facility in the coastal city of Latakia that the IDF said was going to provide weapons to the Hezbollah terror group and other Iranian proxies.

Both Jerusalem and Washington warned Russia on Monday against providing Syria with the S-300s, saying the move would further destabilize the region and increase already high tensions.

The Kremlin had earlier issued a devastating critique of Israel over the downing of the Russian plane, accusing Israel’s air force of “premeditated actions” and warning the incident would harm relations between the two countries.

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