Friday, September 28, 2018

No need to panic - Dr. Gabi Avital

by Dr. Gabi Avital

-- we must remember that this system is not battle-tested. The Israeli Air Force is more than equipped to handle this threat.

News of Russia's plan to provide Syria with advanced ‎S-300 air defense systems has prompted a frenzy of ‎dramatic reactions decrying the potential ‎‎"restriction" of the Israeli Air Force's ability to ‎operate in Syria's skies, warning of a grave ‎diplomatic crisis between Israel and Russia, and ‎predicting unchecked Iranian military entrenchment ‎in Syria.‎

While we cannot make light of the new reality vis-à-‎vis Syria, the danger the S-300s pose to Israeli ‎aircraft and the rise in Iran's regional power, we ‎would be wise to keep the matter in proportion. ‎Looking from the outside in, one could think Israel ‎has suffered a major military blow from which it ‎cannot recover and this is certainly not the case. ‎

The IAF has learned the lessons of the 1973 Yom ‎Kippur War, when it was ravaged by Egyptian and ‎Syrian anti-aircraft fire, well. It proved that on the ‎first day of the 1982 Lebanon War, when it decimated ‎Syrian air defenses in the first two days and went ‎on to down 80 Syrian planes in the following two ‎days. ‎

Syria was stunned, especially since the Israeli ‎operations exposed the weakness of its Russian-made ‎air defenses.‎

Russia is currently trying to upgrade its military ‎capabilities to an operational level that is on a ‎par with NATO forces. Given this effort, can Moscow ‎afford to take on – and lose to – the Israeli Air ‎Force again? ‎

Could it be that the IDF's 200 strikes on Iranian ‎assets in Syria since 2017, which penetrated the ‎Russian-backed Syrian air defenses and cost Israel ‎only one fighter jet, were not a big enough hint as ‎to the fact that the IAF's abilities have only ‎increased over the past 36 years? ‎

One must also ask why Russian decision-makers insist ‎on blaming Israel for Syrian air defenses shooting ‎down their plane last week, instead of seriously ‎examining whether the Israeli-Russian deconfliction ‎channel operated as it should have. ‎

What is so special about the S-300 surface-to-air ‎missiles that has everyone in a panic? Israeli pundits ‎make it seem as if this system, first developed in ‎the 1970s, is making Israeli pilots shake in their ‎boots and our decision-makers lose sleep. Is that ‎really the case? ‎

The S-300 system has never been tested on the ‎battlefield. While it can engage dozens of targets ‎simultaneously and has a range of 200 kilometers ‎‎(120 miles), its most recent models were produced in ‎‎1992.‎

The IAF has been studying this system for a long ‎time, as have other Western air forces. No air force ‎would allow such a threat to exist without devising ‎several contingencies, which is something even the ‎Russians understand. ‎

The IAF is more than ready to deal with this threat ‎and the pundits are panicking for nothing. ‎

Syria may get its hands on S-300 missiles thanks to an unexpected, tragic incident, but this ‎deal – if it indeed takes place – is all about the ‎money, and the currency Syria will use will be ‎Iranian.‎

The only question that one must ask the Russians is ‎why they believe giving Syria an improved anti-aircraft system would make Russian planes flying in ‎Syrian skies safer. If anything, Syria may one day ‎use this system against Russia itself.
Dr. Gabi Avital is an aeronautical and space engineering expert


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