Iran's Russian Anti-Aircraft Missile Now Operational, U.S. Says
(Bloomberg) -- Iran tested and deployed a Russian-made anti-aircraft missile system last year that has long worried U.S. and Israeli military officials because it gives the Islamic Republic a “generational improvement in capabilities,” the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency disclosed.
Russia delivered the SA-20c SAM system in 2016, providing Iran with its most advanced air-defense system. Now, Iran has “the flexibility of a highly mobile, long-range, strategic surface-to-air missile,” Lieutenant General Robert Ashley, the DIA director, said in written testimony submitted Tuesday to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who’s visiting Washington this week, is pushing the Trump administration to take stronger action to counter Iran’s role in the war in Syria and its provision of increasingly sophisticated weapons to its allies in the Lebanese militia Hezbollah. While Trump has vowed to stem Iran’s growing power in the region, the U.S. has maintained that America’s combat role in Syria is limited to preventing a revival of Islamic State terrorists.
Strait of Hormuz
The fielding of the SA-20 showed that Iran “continues to improve its conventional capabilities to deter adversaries, defend its homeland, and control avenues of approach --including the Strait of Hormuz -- in the event of a military conflict,” Ashley said in his submission to the Senate panel. “We expect Iran’s modernization priorities to remain its ballistic missile, naval, and air defense forces, with new emphasis on the need for more robust combat air capabilities.”
The deployment of the SA-20 underscores the value of Israel’s purchase of Lockheed Martin Corp.’s stealthy F-35 jet. It also caps a decade of objections by the U.S. and Israel against Russia selling Iran the weapons system.
In 2008, General Michael Moseley, who was Air Force chief of staff, told reporters
that Iran’s capability to defend itself against air strikes would take a “quantum leap” when it deployed the advanced Russian anti-aircraft system.
“The SA-20 is a big deal,” Moseley said at the time. “It is a quantum leap. If you put an SA-20 up against the Washington Monument, you’ve got about a 100-mile range with that thing -- you can engage aircraft as far as” Philadelphia, he said.
In 2010, Army General David Petraeus, who was head of U.S. Central Command at the time, said the weapons were among enhancements Iran sought to its “anti-access” capabilities designed to prevent the U.S., Europe and Gulf nations from entering the Strait of Hormuz in a crisis.
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