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Expert: IS air defense missiles and guns posing no threat to Russian aircraft in Syria

October 09, 2015, 11:58 UTC+3 MOSCOW
What the militants have is mostly old MANPADS (man-portable air defense missiles) that cannot hit anything higher than 4,000 m, while Russian aircraft operate at higher altitude, an expert believes
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© AP Photo Archive/B.K. Bangash

MOSCOW, October 9. /TASS/. The man-portable air defense missiles (MANPADS) and antiaircraft guns available to the militants of the Islamic State (IS), which is banned in Russia, do not pose a credible threat to the Russian warplanes operating in Syria, Ivan Konovalov, director of Strategic Conjuncture Center, believes.

"First off, the militants lack advanced formidable air defense systems. What they have is mostly old MANPADS — old [US-made] Stingers or Russian-made Strelas [NATO reporting name SA-7 Grail] that cannot hit anything higher than 4,000 m, while our aircraft operate at higher altitude," Konovalov told TASS on Friday.

In addition, infrared decoys capable of duping such missiles protect the Russian aircraft. "For instance, the Su-24 [NATO reporting name Fencer] carries 50 decoys like that," the expert specified.

"Now, our planes operating in Syria are faced with the minimal risk, because they operate in such a manner that Su-24M and Su-34 bombers mostly release their bombs and missiles from outside of the reach of MANPADS," he emphasized, reminding that the Russian pilots have been employing standoff weapons, e.g. Kh-29L missiles and KAB-500 smart bombs, that outrange MANPADS.

Only helicopters and Su-25SM ground attack aircraft are vulnerable to MANPADS, because their speed and service ceiling are limited, Konovalov said.

"However, Su-25SMs have been used on a limited scale, i.e. only where the risk of encountering MANPADS and AAA is minimal," he stressed.

"The helicopters are not used for attacking IS positions altogether," he reminded. According to Konovalov, it is deducible from Russian Defense Ministry briefs that they have been used only for defending the perimeter of Hmeimim air base, where the Russian air task force is deployed.

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