Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Missiles of January

Moscow is confirming that it has delivered SA-15 short-range surface-to-air missiles to Iran, part of a deal that was signed more than a year ago. The SA-15 (which the Russians refer to as the TOR-M1) is designed to bolster Tehran's point defenses, offering improved protection of high-value targets, including its nuclear facilities.

We've written extensively on the TOR-M1 deal in the past. While it is a high-tech system, it is not sufficient to deter U.S. or Israeli strikes against Iran. In fact, the U.S. (and probably, Israel) have a detailed understanding of the system and its capabilities, meaning that we already have measures for dealing with it, including pre-emptive cruise missile attacks, anti-radiation missiles (than home on the system's radar emissions), jamming programs, and simple avoidance of known SA-15 positions. Deployment of the system (coupled with dedicated denial and deception measures, including frequent movement) will complicate potential strikes on Iran, but it won't prevent them.

One interesting note in the Russian announcement is Moscow's stated willingness to sell more "defensive" systems to Tehran. As we've noted before, the Iranian air defense system is full of aging equipment and has obvious gaps in coverage that can be exploited by potential foes. One partial solution to those problems is the acquisition of a state-of-the-art, long-range SAM system, such as the SA-20. There have been rumors that Moscow and Tehran have discussed an SA-20 deal before. Today's comment may be a hint that such discussions are underway again, or will resume in the near future. At roughly $300 million a battery, the SA-20 is expensive, but it would go a long way toward solving some of the coverage problems inherent in Iran's air defense system, particularly against low-altitude, low-RCS targets like cruise missiles.


Meme chose said...

Somehow I think that in the future our children will look back on this sort of practice, where we constantly telegraph the fact that we are coming months and years in advance, looking on helpfully as our enemies pick and install their counter-measures, and shake their heads.

This is like watching somebody in a boxing ring drawing diagrams for his opponent, detailing where his next swing will land. After the fight starts, just punch the guy out!

Hopefully our children will be examining our conduct from somewhere other than a prison camp or a ramshackle hovel, because we woke up and changed our behavior in time. Hopefully they won't be shaking their fists at us, denouncing us as America's greatest generation of deluded dupes and farcical wimps, who provided themselves with all the best weaponry on the planet but couldn't figure out when to use it.

eatyourbeans said...

Thanks to oil, Russia isn't hurting for money. Would they really sell their very latest weaponry to a nutfarm regime like Iran's?

Somebody in the Kremlin must be able to read a map, notice how close Iran is to their own unsettled Islamic regions, and consider that someday Russia's own airforce might have to face those state of the art SAM-20s.