Russia is deploying an S-300 anti-aircraft missile system to protect its Navy’s logistic facility in Tartus and Russian ships off Syria’s shore.
"It is true that one battery of the S-300 air defence systems has been delivered to Syria. It is to provide protection for the naval logistics facility in Tartus and the Russian Navy’s task force," Konashenkov said.
According to Igor Konashenkov, Russia’s Defence Ministry spokesman, the deployment of an S-300 missile system is causing commotion in the West. That said, the missile system is solely used to defend against aircraft and cruise missiles.
"Let me remind you that S-300 is an exceptionally defensive system and it poses no threat to anybody. Moreover, a ship-born equivalent of that system - called Fort was present in the region before. The Black Sea Fleet’s guided missile cruiser The Moskva is armed with it," Konashenkov said.
Russia is deploying its S-300V4 “Antey-2500” version armed with 9M82M missile capable of reaching targets up to 400 km. The Antey-2500 has been in service since 2013 and is being manufactured by Almaz-Antey.
Having S-300V4 in Tartus could also mean Russia intends to deploy ground troops in Southern Syria. Operating from the naval base, Russian marines could be employed to secure villages and strategic emplacements in Southern Syria — mostly roads leading to Lebanon where Islamic State has been fighting the Lebanese army.
Another possible reason for the deployment of the anti-aircraft missile system would be due to the deployment of the French aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle and its groups to the Eastern Meditteranean Sea. A few days ago, French Rafale fighter jets launched from the Charles De Gaulle to destroy Islamic State targets in Mosul.
Having a Western coalition carrier group sailing near Syria could've motivated Russia to deploy a S-300V4 system to defend its installation in Tartus and to send a clear signal that they would intercept — and destroy — any missiles aimed at Syrian soldiers and Assad's installations.
Tartus to Enhance Russia’s Operability in the Mediterranean
The deployment of anti-aircraft missile systems to protect the Tartus naval facility could very well be a sign of Russia’s willingness to bring a large amount of supplies by sea. As a matter of fact, the Tartus naval base could very well be modernized and used to keep Russian warships in the Mediterranean for a longer period of time.
Russia has been increasing joint military training with Egypt, and the Tartus naval base will enhance logistical support in the Mediterranean. Geopolitically speaking, Tartus enables Russian ships to refuel and refit without crossing Turkey’s Bosphorus Strait, a NATO member heavily engaged in Syria against the Kurds.
Jonathan Wade served 14 years in the Canadian Forces and is a combat veteran of Afghanistan. Specialized in military and foreign affairs, his military experience brought him valuable insight on the realities of conflicts and war, and has a fondness for technical details. Jonathan is fully bilingual in French and English, and is currently studying Russian at the Laval University in Quebec, Canada.