Russia to sell advanced air defense systems to Iran
26/12/2007 18:01 (Adds Russian official's quote, details on Tor-M1 crew training in paras 13-14)
TEHRAN, December 26 (RIA Novosti) - Iran signed a contract with Russia on Tuesday for the delivery of advanced S-300 air defense missile systems to the Islamic Republic, an Iranian news agency reported on Wednesday.
An advanced version of the S-300 missile system, called S-300PMU1 (SA-20 Gargoyle), has a range of over 150 kilometers (about 100 miles) and can intercept ballistic missiles and aircraft at low and high altitudes, making this system an effective tool for warding off possible air strikes on Iran.
"S-300 air defense systems will be delivered to Iran under an earlier contract signed with Russia," the Fars news agency quoted Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar as saying.
The minister provided no contract details or a schedule for future deliveries, Fars said.
The signing of the deal follows last week's session of the Russian-Iranian commission on military-technical cooperation in Tehran, where the sides reviewed existing agreements and discussed future steps to extend cooperation in the military sphere.
The closest western equivalent of the S-300 is the U.S. MIM-104 Patriot system or the U.S. Navy RIM-66 Standard Missile 2 (SM-2).
U.S. authorities have repeatedly called on Russia to stop arms deliveries to countries whose political regimes Washington disapproves of, including Iran.
However, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in October that Russia would not take into consideration attempts to impose arms deal restrictions "based on unilateral and politicized assessments".
He also said deliveries of Russian weapons were aimed exclusively at increasing the defense capability of the countries receiving them, and at maintaining their stability.
Russia earlier supplied Iran with 29 Tor-M1 air defense systems under a $700-million contract signed in late 2005.
In February, Tehran successfully tested Tor-M1s during a military exercise by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in southern Iran.
The Iranian defense minister said on Wednesday that during last week's meeting Russian and Iranian officials discussed the possibility of using Russian experts to train the crews of Iranian Tor-M1 systems in the Islamic Republic.
Meanwhile, a senior Russian military official said that dozens of Iranian Tor-M1 specialists, including radar operators and crew commanders had already completed training in Russia in 2006 and 2007.
"They [the Iranians] have successfully completed the training program and returned home," said Colonel General Nikolai Frolov, commander of the Ground Forces' air defense.
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