The deployment of the highly advanced Russian S-400 anti-air missiles at the Khmeimin base, Russia’s military enclave in Syria near Latakia, combined with Russia electronic jamming and other electronic warfare equipment, has effectively transformed most of Syria into a no-fly zone under Russian control.
Moscow deployed the missiles last Wednesday, Nov. 25, the day after Turkish warplanes downed a Russian Su-24. Since then, the US and Turkey have suspended their air strikes over Syria, including bombardments of Islamic State targets. The attacks on ISIS in Iraq continue without interruption. Turkey is now extra-careful to avoid flights anywhere near the Syrian border.
Both the US and Turkey are obviously wary of risking their planes being shot down by the S-400, so long as Russian-Turkish tensions run high over the Su-24 incident.
Friday, a US-led coalition spokesperson denied that the absence of anti-IS coalition air strikes had anything to do with the S-400 deployment in Syria. He said “The fluctuation or absence of strikes in Syria reflects the ebb and flow of battle.”
However, debkafile’s military sources confirm that neither the US, Turkey or Israel have any real experience in contending with the Russian S-400, which uses multiple missile variants to shoot down stealth aircraft, UAVs, cruise missiles and sub-strategic ballistic missiles. Its operational range for aerodynamic targets is about 250 km and for ballistic targets 60 km. The S-400 can engage up to 36 targets simultaneously.
Thei range covers at least three-quarters of Syrian territory, a huge part of Turkey, all of Lebanon, Cyprus and half of Israel.
Since the downing of their warplane, the Russians have put in place additionally new electronic warfare multifunctional systems both airborne and on the ground to disrupt Turkish flights and forces, Lt. Gen. Evgeny Buzhinksy revealed Friday. Turkey has countered by installing the KORAL electronic jamming system along its southern border with Syria.
An electronic battlefield has spread over northern Syria and southern Turkey, with the Russian and Turks endeavoring to jam each other’s radar and disrupt their missiles. In this, the Russians have the advantage.
With the Americans, Russians and Turks locked in a contest over Syria, and the Israeli Air Force’s freedom of action restricted by objective conditions, some comments made at week’s end by Israeli military and security officials sounded beside the point.
Thursday, Nov. 26, a senior Air Force officer remarked that Israel is being careful to avoid friction with Russia, despite that country’s expanding military presence in Syria. “Russia is now a central player and can’t be ignored. But we each go our own way, according to our own interests,” the officer noted.
“Our policy is not to attack or down any Russian plane. Russia is not our enemy.”
The officer said that Israeli and Russian officers maintain telephone contact. “We don’t notify or ask for anything; we just do our jobs,” he said.
According to debkafile’s military sources, this is not a true picture. Israel does get in touch with the Russians when their planes get too close to Israeli aircraft. There was no need to state that Israeli won’t shoot down Russian planes, as though this was self-evident, because in the current volatile situation, circumstances may change in a trice. Is it in Israel’s interest to fly into air space loaded with electronic warfare waves? But what if Russian warplanes come over the Golan as part of a blitz to destroy Syrian rebels in southern Syria, some of which are backed by Israel?