Russia has taken the initiative in their fight to keep President Bashar al-Assad in power while the five year Syrian Civil War rages on. Under direct order from President Putin, the Russian military has transferred additional surface-to-air (SAM) missile batteries into war-torn Syria that promise to shoot down U.S. and/or coalition forces that attempt to bomb al-Assad loyalist targets.   

Russia’s loyalty to al-Assad

According to the military news site, We Are the Mighty, the bold move is proof positive that Russia will do anything to strengthen their hold on the area, while propping up a dictator who has displayed a willingness to utilize chemical weapons against his own citizens.

Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman, Gen. Igor Konashenkov, made a public statement about the capabilities of the Russian designed and manufactured S-300 and S-400 missile defense batteries, saying they are quite capable of locking onto and shooting down U.S. 'invisible' aircraft—a direct reference to fifth generation stealth F-22 and F-35 fighter jets. While the U.S. is said to possess the most capable Air Force in the world, Royal Services Institute military expert, Dr. Igor Sutyagin, points out that the Pentagon should not take the Russian missile defense systems lightly and that stealth does not equate with invisibility.

Russian SAM can be 'outfoxed'

Sutyagin goes on to say however, that the Russian SAM capability is not everything it’s cracked up to be. While they are designed to intercept high flying targets at a maximum range of approximately 250 miles, they aren’t always accurate against low flying aircraft or missile ordinance.

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Also, Russian radar, while quite capable in terms of range, is known to have trouble identifying certain targets. Plus, Russian missile defense systems are mobile and operated from the backs of trucks, which means they require both time for field assembly while crews must spend additional time trying to identify potential targets. What all this means is that the F-22, the F-35, and even the B-2, have the capability of knocking out Russian SAMs even before they leave the ground. 

What’s the outcome of Russia vs. U.S. clash over Syria?

Sutyagin states that because Russia’s SAMs are long range stand-off weapons, low-flying stealth bombers and jets possess an advantage. It’s possible they will be detected, but it’s probable that by then, it will be too late. The military expert goes on to say that there is no 100% reliability in a head–to-head Russia vs. U.S. military engagement in Syria, but considering the SAM limited magazine capacity and their relative difficulty in intercepting U.S. missiles fired at low levels, the U.S. might hold the advantage. It all comes down to training on both sides, Sutyagin concludes.