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S-200 SA-5 GAMMON - Operations

After the defeat of the Syrian air defense in the Bekaa (Libya) valley, four S-200 air defense systems were deployed in Syria, deployed 40 kilometers east of Damascus and in the north-east of the country. Initially, the complexes were serviced by Soviet calculations, and in 1985 they were transferred to the Syrian Air Defense Command. According to some sources, the Syrian S-200s shot down an Israeli E-2C Hawkeye.

In 1983 and 1984, the Soviet Union increased involvement by installing SA-5, SA-6, SA-9, and SS-21 missile systems in Syria. The missile systems, which had adequate range to cover a major part of the region, were at first manned and protected by Soviet advisers and troops and have only gradually been turned over to Syrian control. The large Soviet resupply of SAM systems was interpreted by the United States, Israel, and Jordan as a Soviet response to the massive destruction of Soviet-built SAMs in the 1982 Lebanon War.

In Libya, the first S-200 complexes were delivered in 1985. In late 1985, Soviet technicians were augmented by a considerable number of specialists to install and help operate the new SA-5 missiles. Libya formed brigades consisting of two S-200 and two C-125 divisions. In 1986, S-200 battalions, serviced by Libyan calculations, participated in repelling US air strikes on Tripoli and Benghazi, during which the United States lost one F-111 fighter-bomber, and according to Libyan data, several more aircraft of deck aviation.

Three carrier task forces of the Sixth Fleet with 225 aircraft assembled off the Libyan coast for maneuvers in March 1986. On March 24, six SA-5s were launched from the new missile base at Surt against American aircraft. None was hit, however, because the SA-5, with a range of 240 kilometers, could threaten high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft over the Gulf of Sidra but was relatively ineffective against high-performance jet fighters. Subsequently, the missile site was put out of action by carrier-based A-6 Intruders firing High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missiles (HARMs), that homed in on the Libyans' radar guidance signals. A second strike followed the next day to knock out a replacement radar unit. Although Soviet technicians were believed to be present to oversee the installation and operation of the SA-5 batteries, none was reported injured in the exchanges.

The three batteries of SA-5 missile launchers, including early warning and surveillance radar, delivered toward the close of 1985 failed in their purpose of deterring maneuvers by United States naval elements in the Gulf of Sidra. Nonetheless, when Jallud visited Moscow several months later, it was officially announced that the Soviets had agreed to a new request for aid. Included were an improved version of the SA-5, new monitoring and early warning radar.

On October 4, 2001, the Tu-154, the on-board number 85693, the Siberia Airlines, carrying out flight 1812 on the route Tel-Aviv-Novosibirsk, crashed over the Black Sea. According to the Interstate Aviation Committee, the aircraft was unintentionally shot down by a Ukrainian missile fired into the air as part of military exercises conducted on the Crimean peninsula. All 66 passengers and 12 crew members were killed.

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) claimed that its warplanes targeted an anti-aircraft battery of the Syrian Air Defense Forces that had launched a missile at Israeli aircraft flying over Lebanon. Earlier, an anti-aircraft missile was launched from Syria towards IDF aircraft during a routine flight over Lebanon, the IDF Spokesperson reported on October 16, 2017. The army targeted the battery with four bombs and, according to the IDF, the battery was damaged to the extent it was no longer operational. The army said the battery targeted was the same that fired at Israeli jets last March, prompting Israel to make use of its Arrow anti-missile system for the first time, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

According to the available information, the Syrian Defense Forces used its S-200 missile against the Israeli warplane. This Soviet-made missile is the most advanced long range anti-aircraft system operated by the Syrian military. But even in this case, its old-fashioned in terms of modern warfare and advances in stealth technology. Despite this, the Syrian Defense Ministry said in its statement that government forces responded to the violation of the airspace and directly hit one of the jets, forcing to retreat - in contradiction to the Israeli claim that no hit was confirmed.

A mere few hours after the missile incident with Syria, Israeli media reported that the Israeli Air Forces F-35 stealth multirole fighter went unserviceable as a result of an alleged bird collision during a training flight. Two storks hit an F-35 fighter jet during a training flight, requiring the plane to undergo maintenance work, the army said.




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