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Are the air defense systems so effective that Russia supplies abroad?

In the international markets of armaments and military equipment, including in the segment of supplies of air defense assets, competition is intensifying at the present time. This trend is particularly noticeable in the regional arms market in the Middle East and North Africa. Russian exporters use all means to remain one of the leaders in the supply of military equipment to the countries of this region, including anti-aircraft missile systems. Russia places particular emphasis on the sale of the S-300 (9K81) and “Buk” air defense missile systems, as well as the provision of appropriate services for their maintenance, repair and upgrading.

The military-technical cooperation of Russia with such countries as Algeria, Iran, and Syria makes it possible to strengthen Russian geopolitical influence in this region rich in oil and gas resources and to obtain substantial foreign exchange earnings. At the same time, they often sell samples of Russian military equipment, which are becoming obsolete and are being removed from service in the Russian army, but are still in demand from countries in this region.

Problems of S-300

The purchase of air defense systems is characterized by long-term cooperation in the implementation of contracts, because this special military equipment requires special handling skills, therefore, trained service personnel, and subsequent maintenance of contracts in other areas. It is clear that competitors in the regional arms business are extremely undesirable for Russian special exporters.

However, the situation is changing dramatically. So, for example, the S-300 air defense complex, which was developed in the early 70s of the last century, does not guarantee to hit assets of air attack of modern fifth-generation, in terms of its characteristics. This is already understood in Russia, where the last modified S-300 air defense system for the Russian army was already made back in 1994.

Since then, Russia has produced these air defense systems only for sale abroad. The export version has even worse, compared with the basic version of the S-300, the characteristics and capabilities. For example, the number of types of used missiles has been reduced to a minimum, radar equipment has been simplified, and reliable operation of the airborne target recognition system according to the “friend or foe” principle is not guaranteed. This was openly acknowledged by the representative of the Ministry of Defense of Russia, Major General Igor Konashenkov: “Exported samples of military equipment from the Russian Federation have never been equipped with a “friend or foe” system”.

The air crash of the Russian reconnaissance aircraft Il-20 in Syria in September 2018 only confirms this sad fact. After much speculation, the Kremlin admitted that the reconnaissance aircraft Il-20 was shot down by the fire of the Syrian air defense system of the Russian-made air defense missile system.

Everybody was shocked by the launches of Russian anti-aircraft missiles in Syria – Russian-Syrian anti-aircraft gunners and Russian pilots. And Israel’s Minister for Regional Cooperation, Tsachi Hanegbi, directly and without unnecessary political correctness, said that the Russian air defense system could not significantly counteract the latest F-35 fighters. In turn, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Russian-Syrian unfortunate anti-aircraft gunners that the Israeli Air Force flew and will fly, launching rocket-bombing attacks on Hezbollah and Iran in Syria.

It is clear that the Russian Federation has nothing left to “make a good face in a bad game” and continue to try to sell outdated Russian military air defense equipment to its dependent satellite allies.

Thus, it is obvious that the Russian air defense missile systems, including the vaunted S-300, are not effective in real combat conditions, and all judgments of Russian exporters about their “high” combat qualities are based solely on the declared promotional tactical and technical characteristics.

Risky relationship with the Russian Federation

As for the air defense system Buk, after the crash of Boeing MH17, which was shot down over Ukraine in July 2014, it became clear that the launcher radar is not able to recognize a passenger plane from a military one, and in general cannot reliably determine type of flying object.

A typical example of the reliability of the Russian rocket technology production, as a whole, is a recent tragicomic event during the launch of the Soyuz-FG rocket with a Russian cosmonaut and an American astronaut aboard. When this rocket was assembled by Russian “craftsmen” with the help of a “nano-sledge hammer”, an inevitable accident occurred. Even experts confirm that the astronauts are very lucky that they survived at all. As for the continuation of the launch program for Soyuz-FG rockets, insurance companies refuse to insure launches of this type of missiles. What to speak about ordinary air defense systems, which are often sold abroad after long-term storage in warehouses and arsenals?

Today, cooperation with Russian arms exporters is in a high-risk zone due to the growing tensions between the US and the Russian Federation due to non-compliance by the Russian leadership with the provisions of the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles, as well as international sanctions for armed aggression against Ukraine and the use of chemical weapons in the UK. This problem is recognized even by the high-ranking leadership of the Russian Federation, which accuses the United States of putting pressure on potential customers and threatening to impose sanctions on them if they will buy military equipment from Russia. At the same time, more modern counterparts, for example, SAM systems of foreign manufacturers “SAMP-T” (France), “Patriot” (USA) and “HQ-9” (PRC) are increasingly available on the world arms market.

The Russian leadership understands these objective negative trends in Russian special exports. Therefore, in order not to lose partners and be held among the leaders in the supply of military equipment, Russian exporters are actively using, among other things, unfair competition methods to destroy the reputation of competing suppliers.

For this, potential competitors are unfoundedly accused of allegedly disclosing some unknown and “secret” information about Russian export armaments, including its weak points, special equipment operating modes and features of combat use in general. Consumers are persuaded to say that “only in the Russian Federation” there is an important design and technical documentation and competent engineers, which means that the purchase of weapons and their servicing by other countries can be a “huge risk”, because the quality is “not guaranteed”. The absurdity of such statements is obvious, because, for example, the S-300 air defense systems at various times were and are in service of many countries of the world, including Iran, China, Vietnam, CSTO countries and even NATO member countries, and repair centers of this equipment are in many countries. The use of S-300 air defense missile systems and its characteristics were widely advertised during numerous exhibitions and tests, both in the Russian Federation and abroad. In particular, in 1995, during tests at the Kapustin Yar test site, delegations from 11 countries were present. Therefore, the tactical and technical characteristics of the complex have long been known to everyone and clearly do not represent secrets.

Thus, Russian-made air defense systems are unreliable, outdated and even pose a threat to those countries that have inadvertently acquired them, having believed in advertising brochures and convictions of Russian special exporters. Russia, in turn, continues to loudly blame the competitors for its own failures and most likely in the near future we will witness another fake scandal inflated by the Russian side, in order to hide the failure of its military-industrial complex.

IR

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