US intelligence is concerned about a series of cargo flights from Iran into Syria, which likely carry weapons systems into Syria for use by the Bashar al-Assad’s regime or Iranian forces positioned in Syria, CNN reported Wednesday.
Earlier this week, CivMilAir, a social media site tracking “rare and interesting aircraft” around the world, recorded at least two flights by Syrian Air Force IL-76 cargo jets between Iran and Syria. A US official told CNN the Pentagon has tracked at least one Iranian cargo jet on the same route.
Airborne from Tehran, Iran – 33,000ft over Iraq
— CivMilAir ✈ (@CivMilAir) April 23, 2018
Another social media site did the math: one S-300 missile is 22.5 feet long and weighs 3,960 pounds. The IL-76 has a payload of roughly 40 tons, meaning one cargo plane could transfer 20 S-300 systems. To find out how many S-300s could be shipped over the past week or so, use your calculators.
All of which explains why the US and Israeli intelligence services are “concerned,” and just how concerned they must be.
In February, an IAF F-16 fighter jet was shot down by a barrage of Syrian ground-to-air missiles during an Israeli attack on an Iranian drone facility at the Syrian T-4 airbase.
In July 2017, the Tasnim News Agency announced that Iran’s new Russian imports, the S-300PMU-2 “Favorit” surface-to-air missile battalions have been placed on combat duty. The commander of the Khatam al-Anbia Air Defense Base, Brigadier General Farzad Esmaili, stated at the time that “the S-300s have assumed combat duty and are operational.”
In related news, on Wednesday, TASS reported that Russian air defense systems deployed at the Hmeymim airbase in Syria had shot down small aerial targets of unknown origin.
“After dusk on April 24, airspace control means of the Russian airbase at Hmeymim spotted small aerial targets of unknown origin at a distance from the aerodrome. All the targets were shot down by the air defense systems deployed at the base,” a spokesman for the Russian base said, adding, “No one was hurt, no material damage was done. The Russia airbase at Hmeymin is operating routinely.”
According to TASS, the Russian airbase had been attacked by a number of rebel drones carrying grenades. Which may explain why they need so many S-300 systems in Syria – to take down those drones.
An earlier TASS reported suggested the yet-to-be signed Russian deal to deliver S-300s to Syria is pro bono, because Assad is too broke to afford these things.