Israel develops countermeasures to S-300 system

Special to World
Thursday, July 12, 2001

TEL AVIV — Israel's air force has acquired the S-300 and developed countermeasures as part of an assessment that its Arab neighbors will eventually obtain the advanced Russian anti-aircraft system.

Israeli and European defense sources said Israel has acquired key components of the S-300 Almaz in 1998 from Croatia. The subsystems obtained include radar and fire control components that would allow Israel to examine the operations of the air defense battery.

The system was obtained by Croatia from Yugoslavia in 1995 and then secretly transferred to Israel during the final days of the regime of Croatian President Franjo Tudjman. The sources said the deal was arranged by Croatian Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Zagorec, responsible for the military relationship between Jerusalem and Zagreb.

Israeli military sources would not confirm details of the S-300 transfer. But they said the air force has been preparing for the prospect that such countries as Egypt, Syria or Iran would obtain the system. They said the air force and the Israeli defense industries have developed electronic warfare systems and decoys meant to deceive the S-300, which in the hands of Syria could cover most of Israel's air space.

"The Israeli Air Force began to prepare for the S-300 in the mid-1990s," a senior air force source said. "Delegates visited S-300 sites in Russia and other countries to learn about the system."

A senior Israeli defense source said such state-owned companies as Israel Military Industries and Rafael, Israel Armament Development Authority, have developed means to disrupt or deceive the S-300 system. IMI has developed the Improved Tactical Air Launched Decoy [ITALD], which is meant to fool the S-300 radar. The source said the advanced versions of the SA-12 has a radar that can spot aircraft at a range of up to 300 kilometers.

Res. Brig. Gen. Shlomo Brom, a former head of strategic planning at the Israel Defense Forces and now a senior researcher at Tel Aviv University's Jaffee Center for Strategic Center, said the military appears to have formulated a response to the S-300, including advanced versions such as the SA-12. Brom said that Egypt is interested in obtaining the SA-12 as an answer to Israel's Arrow missile defense system.

"I have no doubt that already several years ago they [Israel's air force] learned of this system," Brom said. "The element of [Arab] surprise is much weaker."

Brom said the S-300, regardless of which model, is an expensive system. As a result, he did not envision that Syria would be able to purchase more than several batteries.

Croatian sources said the S-300 was purchased through the Israeli firm Nevada Trade from an owner listed as Winsley Finance. They said the system was dismantled, with Zagreb keeping the missiles and Israel obtaining the radar components.

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