Κυριακή, 10 Μαΐου 2009

Russia 'losing to China on Iran S-300 quest'

In its quest for an advanced air defense system, Iran has reportedly shifted its hopes from Russia to China which owns a replica of the controversial Russian S-300. As Iran's quest for the advanced Russian-made S-300 air defense system is believed to have hit rock bottom, a report by RIA Novosti said Tehran is eying a Chinese-made HQ-9 surface-to-air missile under the name FD-2000 -- recently put on the export market. The HongQi-9/FD-2000 reportedly combines elements "borrowed" from Russia's S-300 and America's MIM-104 Patriot. It uses elements of the Russian system's "solid rocket, aerodynamic layout, gas-dynamic spoilers, and launcher technologies, as well as some search and guidance systems." The missile has a range of 7-125 kilometers for airborne targets -- a range much lower than the 150-kilometer range of the Russian S-300 PMU1. The Chinese system's range for missile targets, or air-to-ground missiles, is 7-50 kilometers, with a firing altitude of 1-18 kilometers. Its range for cruise missiles is 7-15 kilometers, at a firing altitude of 0.025 kilometers. The range for ballistic missiles is 7-25 kilometers at a firing altitude of 2-15 kilometers. Iran has been negotiating a deal with Russia to obtain the sophisticated defense system since 2007. However, neither side has so far issued an official confirmation on the delivery of the S-300 to Iran. Later media reports claimed that Russia's plan to turn a "new page" in its ties with the United States is likely to prompt Moscow to shelve the delivery of the S-300 system to Iran. Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Mahdi Safari, however, said in April that the contract to buy Russia's S-300 advance missile system is still effective. "There are no problems with this [S-300] contract," RIA Novosti quoted Safari as saying at the end of his visit to Moscow. "After all, these are purely defensive weapons, and any country has the right to buy them. I believe this could only worry those states that have plans to attack others," he said. Following an escalation in Israeli rhetoric, Iran has moved to upgrade its defenses and has reportedly opted to acquire the S-300 system -- which, according to Western experts, would rule out the possibility of an Israeli airstrike on Iranian nuclear sites. "If Tehran obtained the S-300, it would be a game-changer in military thinking for tackling Iran," says long-time Pentagon advisor Dan Goure. The S-300 surface-to-air missile system, which can track targets and fire at aircraft 120 km (75 miles) away, features high jamming immunity and is able to simultaneously engage up to 100 targets. Iran's move to equip itself with the Chinese air defense system comes as an earlier report by the Jerusalem Post revealed that Israeli missile operators have begun weekly drills to hone their skills for a war on Iran. According to the report, Israeli Air Force (IAF) reservists who operate the ballistic missile destroyer, the Arrow, and the surface-to-air missile, Patriot, have been called up by the Defense Ministry to spend one day a week on duty to prepare for a possible conflict with Iran. The weekly military drills come on top of another report revealing that Israel is set to mobilize its army to hold the largest military exercise in its history on June 2. One of the missions of the nationwide military drill is to psych up the public for the breaking out of war and to convince the people that in the event of a war the entire country could "become a front without warning".

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