Russia has deployed an advanced anti-missile system to Syria for the first time, reports Fox News, the latest indication that Moscow continues to ramp up its military operations in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad.
It comes after Russia's actions led to the collapse of a cease-fire and the cut-off of direct talks with the US. While Moscow’s motives are not certain, officials say the new weapon system could potentially counter any American cruise missile attack in Syria.
Components of the SA-23 Gladiator anti-missile and anti-aircraft system, which has a range of roughly 150 miles, arrived over the weekend “on the docks” of a Russian naval base along Syria’s Mediterranean coastal city of Tartus, the report said.
It is the first time Russia has deployed the SA-23 system outside its borders. Apparently, the missiles and associated components are still in their crates and are not yet operational.
The US intelligence community has been observing the shipment of the SA-23 inside Russia in recent weeks, according to one official.
The SA-23 can fire two different types of missiles. A smaller missile is used against aircraft and cruise missiles and is known by NATO as Gladiator. The larger missile is used against intermediate-range ballistic missiles and jamming aircraft and is known as Giant. Both missiles use the same type of warhead containing over 300 pounds of explosives, according to military-today.com.
Top US officials have recently accused Russia and the Syrian regime of indiscriminant bombing in Syria using incendiary and bunker busting bombs on civilians. Two weeks ago, a UN aid convoy was bombed, killing dozens of aid workers attempting to deliver critical supplies to the more than 200,000 Aleppo residents trapped inside the eastern portion of the city, once Syria’s most populated. In the past week, hundreds of civilians, including children, have been killed, according to local reports.