Dec 28, 2015 00:20 UTC by Defense Industry Daily staff
Russia is to commence delivery of the S-300PMU-2 air defense system to Iran from January 2016. The first regiment of the system is expected to be completed by February, with a second expected to come in either August or September 2016. The sale follows an April 2015 decree by Russian President Vladamir Putin which lifted an export ban to Iran following progressive international negotiations over Iran’s nuclear energy program. An $800 million defense system contract signed in 2007 was suspended by Moscow in 2010 over the international sanctions imposed on Tehran, causing them to sue Russia for $4 billion. The delivery of the system will now see the case dropped.
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See the S-300 change the game for IRAN
Graphic 1 shows Iran with a pre-S-300 baseline. Missile systems are grouped and layered to protect high-value areas. The anti-air missile system with the longest intercept range – the former-Soviet SA-5 system – is permanently installed, in a characteristic site configuration, and is thus relatively easy to find and attack preemptively. The shorter-range systems on the graphic are also installed at permanent sites. Iran has modern, mobile anti-air missile systems, but their range is extremely short; they are deployed, at need, to high-value locations, and neutralizing them is part of routine planning for a strike package by a force like the IAF or the U.S. military.
Pre-S300 air defense baseline in Iran. (Google map; author annotation)
Graphic 2 shows how the mobile S-300 could dramatically complicate the air space picture for strike planners, with its initial deployment. Where once attacking aircraft might have used the Zagros Mountains on the western edge of Iran to mask their approach to targets in central Iran, S-300s deployed to the western slopes of the mountain range could limit that option enough to make it effectively impossible, at least for massed waves of strike aircraft.
Notional initial deployment of S-300 for western approaches coverage. (Google map; author annotation)
The Iranian air defense force could maintain the threat rings depicted in Graphic 2 while moving the missile launchers around to evade reconnaissance. It could also lose a launcher and quickly deploy another one to “fill the gap.”
Graphic 2 shows, for notional purposes, a deployment of eight rough launcher positions, not taking into account where the early warning/target acquisition radars would have to be positioned for coverage. (The system field-deploys typically with 6-8 launchers per battery. An actual deployment will not look exactly like Graphic 2 or 3.)
With a deployment of 16 launcher positions, shown in Graphic 3, Iran could blanket her entire perimeter with S-300 coverage. Iran would receive the batteries she needs for a version of the Graphic 2 concept in the first delivery from Russia. The Iranians could also choose to layer the western and southern sectors of the country more heavily, with less emphasis on the east and northeast.
With enough launchers, Iran could rotate ready positions within a coverage area and “fill in” holes where launchers were lost to attack. She has nothing approaching this capability today. The S-300’s range and mobility alone will make an attacking force work much harder, and probably take more losses, to fight through to its targets.
Notional saturation deployment of S-300 with 16 launcher positions. (Google map; author annotation)
A nightmare scenario would be Iran getting both the PMU-series system and the army VM system. Here’s what the Air Power Australia site has to say about the S-300VM:
Rapidly deployable, high survivable, and highly lethal, these weapons are especially difficult to counter and require significant capabilities to robustly defeat. The US Air Force currently envisages the F-22A Raptor as the primary weapon used to defeat these capable systems.
It is important to note that no F/A-18 variant, nor the Joint Strike Fighter, were designed to penetrate the coverage of the S-300V/VM systems. The survivability of these aircraft will not be significantly better than that of legacy combat aircraft [e.g., F-15 or F-16 – J.E.].
Part of script from the article “Bad, or worse? Depends on what the meaning of ‘S-300’ is” by By J.E. Dyer on April 17, 2015