Russia has reportedly deactivated the S-400 anti-air system stationed at the Khmeimim Air Base in Syria in a move that frees up the skies for other countries including Israel and the U.S. to run air-operations in the region.
Debka File, an English language military intelligence website, published an unconfirmed report on Sunday citing Russian military sources as saying that the radar systems of the S-300 and advanced S-400 systems had been deactivated. The systems are the most advanced in the Russian arsenal and are supposed to be able to track air traffic in the entire region. The article noted that despite being deployed in Syria for the past four years, they have never been used to prevent Israeli airstrikes against Syrian or Iraqi targets. Israel has reportedly coordinated these operations with Moscow. In last week’s operation that killed Islamic State (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, President Trump was in communication with Vladimir Putin, possibly to coordinate the American air assets involved in the operation.
“This week, for the first time since the Russians military intervention in the Syrian war began in 2015, an American B-52 strategic bomber flew over Khmeimim and then headed down the Syrian coast before turning east and landing in Jordan,” Debka wrote. “Our sources report that the lone US bomber was likely on a mission to test Russia’s reported neutralization of its state-of-the-art defense systems in Syria.
At the same time, Reuters reported that the delivery of the second batch of Russian S-400 missile defense systems to Turkey may be delayed beyond a planned 2020 timeline. The S-400 system was specifically designed to counter NATO and U.S. air assets including the F-35 stealth fighter. Despite being a NATO member, Turkey made a deal with Russia to purchase the anti-air system, a move which angered the U.S. President and sent shockwaves through Turkey-U.S. relations.