Iran’s air defence commander has raised the prospect that the Islamic Republic could deploy its new S-300 systems so that their long-range can be used to cover international airspace over the Gulf.
Iranian news agencies quoted Brigadier General Farzad Esmaili as saying: “New plans for making changes in the area of air defence of the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman are on the agenda.”
Most of Iran’s older long-range systems are currently located around the central cities of Tehran, Esfahan, and Kashan, although there are S-200s and HQ-2s on the Gulf coast at Bushehr and Bandar Abbas.
These systems are being augmented by four S-300PMU-series systems that Russia started delivering earlier this year.
Why the Iranian Purchase of the S-300 Should Worry the Gulf States
Michael Stephens and Justin Bronk
RUSI Defence Systems, 1 May 2015
Saudi Arabia’s decision to intervene militarily in Yemen against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels has raised regional tensions to a boiling point. In a cold war between Iran and Saudi Arabia that is growing increasingly hot, the move by Russian President Vladimir Putin to lift the ban on the sale of S-300 missiles to Iran has come at just the wrong moment.
S-300PMU-1, known as SA-20 in NATO parlance, is a long-range and highly capable surface-to-air missile (SAM) system which can target both high-performance military aircraft as well as ballistic and cruise missiles. Its range of 150 km against aircraft targets would give Iran a weapons system capable of holding potentially hostile aircraft at threat far beyond its own borders.
Under most combat conditions the S-300 can threaten modern combat aircraft that do not have very low observable (VLO) or stealth technology – Russian sources claim that the S-300PMU-1 even has limited capabilities against stealth aircraft, but since no S-300s are known to have been fired in anger, let alone against VLO or LO designs, it is impossible to verify such claims.
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Iran’s Plans to Transform the Middle East Military Balance
Media reports suggest that Iran has taken delivery of parts of the S-300 air defense system from Russia. This system would greatly complicate Israel’s ability to conduct air strikes against Iran, and would make it harder even for the U.S. to do so. But Iran has also given Russia a shopping list of other military hardware it desires to purchase, including the Su-30 air superiority fighter-bomber (similar in characteristics to the American F-15E Strike Eagle), and the Yakhont supersonic anti-shipping missile system.
Iran’s acquisition of any of these systems would be significant, but its acquisition of all of them could be game-changing. It could give Iran the ability to compete militarily with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and even Turkey and possibly Israel for the first time since the Iranian Revolution in 1979. It could even make it difficult or impossible for the U.S. to maintain aircraft carriers or large-deck amphibious ships in the Persian Gulf.
This graphic shows the ranges of the various weapons systems Iran has requested from Russia. A handful of Yakhont batteries, which are truck-mounted and therefore mobile and hard to track, can cover the entire Persian Gulf with missiles against which American ships cannot reliably defend themselves. Four S-300 launchers (which the Iranians have already purchased from Russia and are waiting for their delivery) provide wide coverage against an Israeli air attack. The combat radius of the Su-30 covers almost the entire Middle East.
The graphic also shows the two systems Russia has already deployed in Syria at Latakia and Tartus, which will likely remain there indefinitely. If Russia chose to support Iran in efforts to deny the U.S. or its allies easy access to the region, these systems would form an important part of the overall defense.
Each system would be problematic by itself. Taken together they form the basis of a real access denial capability that could fundamentally alter the correlation of forces in the region. @irantracker.org
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