On Monday, Israeli media reported that Russian S-300 batteries fired missiles into the air while Israeli F-16s were conducting strikes against Syrian targets last Friday. From Israeli media:
“After hundreds of attacks attributed to Israel in Syria, according to foreign publications, an air defense battery operated by the Russians fired for the first time at Air Force planes. This is an attack that, according to the same foreign publications, took place last Friday, when Air Force planes attacked the Syrian military industrial infrastructure in the western part of the country with several waves.
The Syrians, as usual, fired all their missiles, and as Air Force planes began to move away from the area of attack, the Russian battery launched several missiles into the air. The missiles did not pose a threat to Air Force planes, nor was there a locking of the battery radar on the planes, but this is a precedent-setting event.”
In October of 2016, the Russian Federation placed four S-300 batteries and one S-400 battery at their naval base in Tartus and their air base Hmeimim near Latakia, Syria, respectively. The justification behind the first placement of such systems outside of Russia’s borders was to provide Russian bases with anti-ballistic missile defense.
However, Western analysts have become increasingly skeptical of the system’s capabilities since Israel has conducted hundreds of strikes against Syrian targets without even a radar lock from the advanced target acquisition and engagement radars for these systems.
This launch, while not directed at Israeli aircraft does reflect the souring of relations between the Russian Federation and Israel in light of waning Israeli neutrality to the invasion of Ukraine.
For those not familiar, without a weapons quality track from the radars associated with these batteries, a missile will not track aircraft. Most modern-day aircraft have radar warning receivers that tell the pilot that they are being tracked by radar. Those receivers are sensitive enough to tell if their aircraft is being engaged by an acquisition radar, which provides broad positional data, and an engagement radar, which actually allows a semi-active missile to follow the aircraft. These receivers can also tell the pilots if they are being tracked by an active missile that does not need target data from a radar. According to Israeli media, no such radar was emitted at the aircraft, which indicates this launch was merely symbolic as opposed to an actual Russian attempt to shoot down Israeli aircraft.