The escalating proxy war in Syria

The proxy war between Israel and Iran, Russia and the US escalated this past week after Putin delivered their fourth generation S300 Surface-to-Air-Missile (SAM) system to Syria. This move is in response to Israeli Air Force F-16I Sufas attacking Iran’s ballistic missile infrastructure in the city of Latakia, right under the nose of the Russian S400 SAM system defending their huge base at Khmeimim. The Russia air base is defended by two S400 systems. The IAF F-16I strike package attacked a storage facility the Iranians store their ballistic missiles threatening Israel. The facility was completely destroyed. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu says he will continue to attack Iranian targets in Syria and Lebanon.

Iran's missile facility east of Latakia Syria. Photo courtesy ISI

The issue with giving Syria next generation SAMs comes from the same Israeli air attack. During the actual strike, the Syrian SA-5 site in the mountains above Baniyas Syria fired at the F-16 Sufas, only to hit and destroy a Russian IL-20 COOT reconnaissance plane orbiting just off shore over the Mediterranean Ocean. All 16 crewmembers were killed by the Gammon’s 478 pound warhead, blowing the airplane to pieces.

IL-20 COOT reconnaissance plane similar to the one shot down by the Syrian SA-5 Gammon missile.

But the IL-20 COOT wasn’t the only aircraft destroyed during the air attacks. ImageSat International published pictures on their twitter page of an Iranian cargo plane destroyed at Damascus International Airport on the same night the storage facility east of Latakia was attacked. Iran created an air cargo company to move men and material to Syria and arm their terror organization Hezbollah. What was the 747 carrying the Israeli leadership felt the cargo needed to be destroyed? 

Iranian Fars Air Qeshm 747 debris strewn about the cargo ramp. Photo courtesy ISI

President Trump Administration has approved the sale of more Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to Israel after the delivery of the S300 SAM system to Syria. When those aircraft will be delivered remains to be seen. The Israeli Lightening II’s receive some sort of “upgrade” when they arrive to their units, making them unique from the US version. Bet on the Israeli Air Force using those Fifth Generation stealth fighters against the S300s and more targets in Syria and Lebanon soon.

About the author, Mark Hasara

Author of Tanker Pilot: Lessons from the Cockpit, Mark Hasara is a retired US Air Force pilot with 24 year in the KC-135 airborne tanker. He is a speaker and aviation industry consultant in campaign planning and cockpit architecture. Follow his weekly newsletter “On the Nations DIME”.