Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said that the Russian Air Force base in Latakia is be reinforced with the deployment of S-400 SAM system
During a defense ministry meeting he confirmed that the S-400 anti-aircraft missile system would be deployed on Khmeimim airbase in Syria just 50 kilometers (30 miles) away from the border with Turkey.
The move comes as a response to Tuesdays downing of a Russian Su-24 by a Turkish F-16 fighter jet near the Turkish-Syrian border. One pilot died in the incident. The second one was rescued and is now back at the Russian airbase in Latakia.
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RT reports: Moscow maintains the jet did not violate Turkey’s airspace. It ditched on Syria’s territory four kilometers from the border.
Shortly afterwards, the MoD announced three steps to be taken following the attack on the Russian Su-24 bomber, including providing aerial cover by fighter jets for every airstrike, boosting air defense by deploying guided missile cruisers off the Latakia coast, and suspending all military-to-military contacts with Turkey.
The S-400 is Russia’s most advanced anti-aircraft defense system. It is as an upgrade of the S-300 Growler family, designed and developed by Almaz Antei. The S-400 is employed to ensure air defense using long- and medium-range missiles that can hit aerial targets at ranges up to 400 kilometers. The S-400 is capable of hitting tactical and strategic aircraft as well as ballistic and cruise missiles. The system includes a set of radars, missile launchers and command posts, and is operated solely by the Russian military.
Khmeimim airbase in Latakia, Syria, accommodates Russian Air Force squadrons of Su-27SM and Su-30 fighter jets, Su-34 and Su-24 tactical bombers, which are all taking part in airstrikes on Islamic State positions. The airbase is protected by state-of-the-art air defense systems and radars. Khmeimim also has a fully operational unit for maintaining fixed- and rotor-wing aircraft and providing logistical assistance to pilots.
The S-400 missiles are capable of striking targets within a 400-kilometer (250-mile) range with deadly precision. The military also moved the navy missile cruiser Moskva closer to the shore to help protect Russian warplanes with its long-range Fort air defense system.
“It will be ready to destroy any aerial target posing a potential danger to our aircraft,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said at a meeting with military officials.
Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, director of the German Marshall Fund in Ankara, said it is possible Russia could down a Turkish plane.
“Turkish planes violate the Syrian border daily, either for reconnaissance flights or for anti-IS operations,” he said. “In the same way that Turkey argues it has rules of engagement, Russia could also declare its own rules of engagement, saying it has the right to protect the skies of its ally.”