Russia will provide Syria with an S-300 air defense missile system within the next two weeks, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu said on Monday, September 24, days after the existing Syrian air defenses accidentally downed a Russian electronic signals aircraft.
Shoygu said Syrian military personnel had already undergone training to operate the S-300 system, Interfax reported.
Russia and Syria concluded a contract for the S-300 in 2010 but its implementation was delayed due to Israeli requests.
Last week, the Syrian S-200 system mistakenly shot down a Russian Ilyushin-20 plane, killing all 15 crew on board and threatening to damage relations between Russia and Israel, which had launched airstrikes in the area where the plane was operating.
Moscow has accused Israel’s fighter pilots of using the larger Ilyushin aircraft as cover, causing Syria’s Soviet-era S-200 air defence system to interpret the Russian plane as a target and shoot it down.
All Syrian command posts will be outfitted with automatic control systems to “ensure identification of all Russian aircraft,” Sputnik reported Shoygu as saying.
Shoygu further said that Russia would begin “radio-electronic suppression of satellite navigation, on-board radar systems and communication systems of military aviation attacking objects on Syrian territory,” an apparent reference to Israel but possibly including the U.S.-led Coalition whose aircraft continue to conduct airstrikes against Islamic State.
On Sunday, Russian defense ministry spokesperson Major-General Igor Konashenkov blamed Israeli “adventurism” for the mishap. Israel denies Russia’s version of events and its air force commander flew to Moscow following the incident, which Russian President Vladimir Putin has called the result of a “chain of tragic accidental circumstances.”
Israel and Russia set up a hotline three years ago to avoid incidents in the crowded Syrian airspace.
The Israel Defense Forces said its fighter jets did not use the Il-20 as cover and that the Israeli aircraft were in Israeli airspace at the time the plane was downed.
The IDF says it was targeting a Syrian military facility where weapons manufacturing systems were “about to be transferred on behalf of Iran” to Lebanese group Hezbollah, which could be used to attack Israel.
In 2013, Voice of America noted that Israel has threatened to destroy the S-300 missiles if they are deployed in Syria.
This story was updated several times on September 24 with additional comments from Shoygu and background information.