by WorldTribune Staff, May 16, 2018
Russia relies heavily on foreign military sales to boost its economy. So the Kremlin scrambled to avoid bad publicity for one of its weapons systems last week after it took a direct hit during Israeli airstrikes in Syria.
Israel released footage from the May 10 airstrikes showing the Russian-made Pantsir-S1 missile defense system being hit.
Israel said it launched the attack after Iranian forces fired 20 rockets toward the Golan Heights on May 9.
Moscow, via state-run news agency RT, offered two explanations for why the Pantsir-S1 (SA-22 according to the NATO designation) was hit.
“One is that it had already used up its ammunition reserve,” Aytech Bizhev, a former deputy commander-in-chief of Russia’s air force, told RT. “The other is that it was simply turned off; it wasn’t battle ready.”
There “can be no third option, as it wouldn’t have let itself to be destroyed,” Bizhev told RT, adding: “When it’s battle ready, it performs constant surveillance of enemy aircraft and has a very fast reaction time. It would’ve brought down those cruise missiles with either its cannons or own missiles.”
Mikhail Khodorenok, a retired Russian colonel, also told RT that the Pantsir-S1 wasn’t camouflaged, meaning it “wasn’t ready for engagement.” He added that the incident didn’t “question the high combat capabilities” of the system.
Bizhev also said the Israeli jets had a geographic advantage in that they fired their missiles “without entering the [Syrian] air defense area.” He told RT that “they approached at low altitudes, then bounced from behind the Golan Heights, carried out the attack, and left.”
The Pantsir-S1 “requires between three to five minutes to go operational,” Bizhev said, adding that it’s exhausting for the crew to keep the system on at all times.
Analysts questioned why the missile defense system would have been turned off and not strategically placed or camouflaged during two days of back-and-forth strikes.
Analysts also offered other explanations, including the system’s radar may have been turned off to avoid anti-radiation missiles or that the Syrians operating the Pantsir-S1 simply weren’t up to the task.
See video of the Pantsir-S1 being hit here