[The trajectories of the anti-aircraft missile technology have been transformed into surface to surface missiles, posing more of a threat to Israel than people realize – db]

Russian Sale of Missiles to Syria

TEL AVIV [MENL] — Russia said the sale of its anti-aircraft missiles to Syria would reduce Israeli air force missions over that Arab country.

The Russian assessment has been shared by Israel, and senior officials of that country said advanced Russian surface-to-air missiles would threaten Israeli fighter-jets in missions over Syria or Lebanon.

“It [Israel] will have difficulties with aviation,” Russian President Vladimir Putin told Israeli state television on Wednesday. “Israeli jets will no longer be able to fly over Assad’s palace.”

The reference was to an Israel Air Force mission in 2003, in which F-16 multi-role fighters buzzed the palace of Assad in the Syrian port city of Latakia. Syrian anti-aircraft forces did not respond.

Putin said the deal to sell Syria the SA-18 anti-aircraft missile, also known as the Strella-S, has been signed. The SA-18, a man-portable anti-aircraft defense system, has a range of six kilometers and was designed to overcome thermal countermeasures.

Earlier, Russian officials said Moscow would transfer information to Israel to overcome the SA-18 missile. It was not clear from Putin’s statement whether the technical data would be relayed to the Israeli military.

Moscow also pledged that KBM, the manufacturer of the SA-18, would deliver the missile systems aboard combat vehicles, officials said. They said this was meant to assuage Israeli concerns that the man-portable systems would be transferred to Hizbullah or Palestinian insurgency groups.

Russia and Syria agreed to a $20 million SA-18 deal during the visit by Syrian President Bashar Assad to Moscow in January 2005. Officials said deliveries of the first SA-18s could begin by the end of 2005.

Report Issued by Middle East News Line on April 21st, 2005