Russia has increased its military presence in Syria by deploying sophisticated anti-aircraft systems capable of shooting down planes over Israel. The Russian military released photographs showing photographs of the S-400 Air Defense System, known to NATO as SA-21 ‘Growler’, at the Latakia Airbase on the Syrian coast.
The S-400 system has a maximum range of 250 miles and is capable of shooting down an aircraft at a maximum altitude of 90,000 feet. From the base in Syria, the advanced system covers most of Israel, but is also a concern to British warplanes operating out of Akrotiri in Cyprus, and Turkey. The system is effective against cruise missiles, British Tornadoes, and American F-16’s, and F-15’s. The Russians claim it is even effective against the super-advanced American F-22 Raptors.
According to a Russian missile commander speaking to Sputnik News said:
“Even if a plane is flying low and with the same speed as a vehicle moving on the ground, the radar will show it on the screen. For the S-400 there is no such thing as “stealth” aircraft, the system will see it and will shoot it down.”
Russia has recently taken a leading role in the Syrian conflict, which has been dragging on for four-and-a-half years, and killing more than 300,000 people. Russia is attempting to bolster Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, claiming that Assad is the best hope for defeating the Islamic State. This puts Russia and the United States at odds, since the United States led coalition inn Syrian has been supporting the rebel groups seen as moderate.
Russia’s increasing intervention is problematic for Israel, since many of the groups Russia provides military cover for are Israel’s enemies. Hezbollah is particularly benefitting from the umbrella of protection provided by the Russian air-force, and it is expected that they are taking the opportunity to strengthen their positions on the Israeli border. This also hampers Israeli aerial intelligence efforts. Israel has had discussions with Russia and there is supposedly cooperation between the two countries over the issue.