Iranian state television reported this Saturday that a batch of S-300 missiles supplied by Russia, is now operational and on active duty.
The missile, obtained from Russia or Belarus for an unknown sum, was given to the Air defense forces of Iran for testing and evaluation. The tests were carried out in a base in the desert. They involved intercepting and shooting down several targets, including a ballistic missile and a drone.
General Farzad Esmaili, the commander of the Air defense branch, pointed out that Iran already makes its own version of the missile complex. It is dubbed Bavar 373 and claimed to be more advanced and reliable than the S-300 version sold to Iran. “The S-300 is a system that is deadly for our enemies and which makes our skies more secure,” he claimed.
Iran has been trying to obtain S-300 from either Russia or its partner Belarus for nearly a decade. The first contract to deliver five S-300 systems was signed in 2007 by Russia and Iran. However, the deal was suspended in 2010 after the UN Security Council imposed a new series of sanctions on Iran, thus banning any arms sales and deliveries to the country.
In april 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree in order to lift the UNSC ban and conclude the deal. He explained that his decision was motivated by Iran’s drive to find a peaceful solution in negotiations over its nuclear program. But nevertheless, the sale had been halted and delayed several times due to Western and Israeli pressure to prolong the sanctions and arms embargo.
After several attempts and negotiations, Russia finally delivered the missiles in summer of 2016. Soon after, the Iranian state television made a special report about the missile complex, saying that it was installed around the Fordow nuclear site, south of Tehran.
Iran’s quest to arm itself with S-300 has been a subject of controversy ever since the first negotiations with Russia began. United States, along with its allies Israel and Saudi Arabia, condemn the purchase, and have been actively pressuring the UN Security Council to prevent the country from obtaining such a complex and advanced system. The newly elected US President, Donald Trump, maintains the same policy towards Iran. He imposed a new set of sanctions after Iran carried out a test of a medium-range ballistic missile in January 2017.
The S-300 missile system was developed by the Soviet Union in the 1970’s in order to track, intercept and shoot down American U2 spyplanes that flew over Soviet airspace on a daily basis. It was introduced in the 1980’s and has been modified a dozen time since. Although feared and described by NATO as the most lethal anti-air and anti-ballistic system in the 90’s and 2000’s, it is yet to be tested in real combat.
During the past decade, the system was heavily upgraded and modified by Russia, spawning several new versions with combat ranges up to 400 km, capable of intercepting intercontinental ballistic missiles. Ever since development of the S-400 and S-500 started, the system has been sold to several countries that Russia considers its strategic partners.