The defense industry website Airforce Technology reported today that Syria is considering to buy advanced air defense and other weapons systems from Russia.
A group of Syrian observers was present at a recent live fire exercise in South Russia and was apparently impressed by the performance by the Russian hardware. However, another reason might be that not many countries are willing to sell arms to the dictatorial regime of Bashar al-Assad, that has reportedly killed about 2,400 people during ongoing clashes since March.
Russia seems to have no such qualms. A Russian defense industry source told RIA Novosty that, “Syria and some other countries are interested in long-range S-300 Favorit systems, medium-range Buk and short-range Tor.” The same source was also quoted as saying that Russia will honour a contract dating from 2007 for delivery of several Bastion anti-ship missile systems armed with Yakhont (SS-N-26) supersonic cruise missiles to Syria, despite efforts from Israel and the United States to stop the deal.
The S-300 air defense missile system is a mobile, easily deployable system that can target aircraft up to 150 km, exactly what the Libyan army was missing during the NATO-led operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR.
Russia seems to be desperate, not to let the deal go to its main competitor in that field, China. The already quoted defense industry official continued, “We hope that the current political crisis in Syria will not affect the sales of Russian weaponry to that country.” RIA Novosti writes that Russian experts believe that the arms exports to Syria could largely compensate for the loss of lucrative arms deals with Iran and Libya after a UN ban on arms sales to Tehran and the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.
Syria already has the most powerful armed forces in the region with over 10,000 (!) tanks, almost 6,000 artillery pieces and up to 600 combat aircraft, almost all with the label “Made In Russia/Soviet Union”.