S-300s for Iran: an argument for peace

S-300s for Iran: an argument for peace

15:46 | 19/ 12/ 2008

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti military commentator Ilya Kramnik) – The
likelihood of Russia supplying S-300 surface-to-air systems to Iran has
always been a headache for the United States and its allies. For
several years the media has reported the conclusion of a contract or
even the actual shipment of long-range air defense missiles to Iran. As
a rule, these reports came from Iranian sources and were later denied
by Russia.

On December 17, 2008, RIA Novosti, quoting confidential sources,
reported on its website that Russia is to deliver S-300 surface-to-air
systems to Iran. Which, based on previous experience, is most likely
true. How will the balance of strength change in this region if Iran
really gets the systems? (Russian mobile surface-to-air missile systems
– Image gallery)

Before considering an answer, it is necessary to see what weapons
Iran’s armed forces will receive and in what quantities.

It has been repeatedly stated that Iran expects to get five battalions
of S-300PMUs, or up to 20 systems (60 launchers), depending on the
make-up of a battalion. Each of the launchers carries four 48N6E
missiles (48N6E2s with the PMU-2 mobile launchers) with a range of 150
kilometers (up to 200 kilometers for the 48N6E2s). Each launch system
consists of three launchers and is capable of engaging six targets at
the same time, aiming 12 missiles at them. One battalion consisting of
four systems is, therefore, capable of dealing with 24 aircraft
simultaneously. After changing position and replenishing ammunition, it
can be quickly re-deployed for repulsing a repeat raid.

It should be remembered that S-300 missiles themselves need to be
protected – for this purpose Iran can use Tor-M1 surface-to-air
missiles (SAMs) and Chinese FM-80s. Coupled with S-300s, these
short-range missiles can set up a credible air defense system able to
protect the facility covered and itself. In this tandem, S-300s will
act as a long arm to shoot down sophisticated targets at long
distances, while close-in weapons will protect the facility and S-300s
from cruise missiles, aircraft and UAVs that break through.

Five battalions of S-300 SAMs will contribute significantly not only to
the protection of designated facilities, but also to the defense
capability of the country as a whole. Deliveries of new SAMs will make
it possible to move old systems to other parts of the country,
increasing its air defense density. Should Iran have time to deploy the
Russian systems and to control the grouping, the overall damage from
air defenses may exceed the threshold acceptable to Iran’s potential

S-300s do not, of course, guarantee Iran’s invincibility or
invulnerability. The U.S. Air Force and naval aviation can, if
necessary, break through even these defenses. At issue is the time
required and acceptable level of loss. Ultimately, the question may
prove to be the main argument in the hands of those opposed to a
military operation against Iran and remove an Iran-U.S. armed conflict
from the agenda for a long time.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s and do not
necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.