Russia's Sapphire missiles get on USA's and Israel's nerves

The recent announcement of Russia's decision to sell anti-ship missiles (ASM) Yakhont (Sapphire) to Syria caused considerable concern in the U.S. and Israel.

Yakhont missile systemThe estimated amount of Russian-Syrian deal is no less than $300 million. Under this deal, Syria is planning to obtain at least two missiles Bastion with anti-ship ASM Yakhont (72 units) from Russia. This weapon is purely defensive, designed to reflect possible aggression of the enemy from the sea.

Nevertheless, at a meeting with his Israeli counterpart Ehud Barak, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that it might "destabilize" the entire region. He warned Russia about arms trade with countries with which Washington has no understanding. "Russia has the right to sell weapons to other countries. But we hope that the Russian side takes into account the strategic implications of each such transaction, "he said.

Russia Today: Russia honors commitments to Syria

On September 19, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu voiced his concerns about the deal. According to him, Russia's intention to supply Syria with weapons that can change the strategic situation in the Middle East is not conducive to stability and peace.

What are American and Israeli military and politics so afraid of? AMS X-61 Yakhont is intended to counter enemy surface forces under severe fire and electronic countermeasures. Its combat radius capability is 300 km, which allows to effectively defeat the enemy at great distances and minimize the chance of own losses.

In addition, its design features (including high speed - 750 feet per second or 2700 km / h, as well as stealth technology, making it unobtrusive for modern radar) allow the rocket to carry out effective maneuvers to evade anti-aircraft enemy and greatly impede its interception. In addition, Yakhont anti-ship missile is very resistant to radio-electronic interference.

All these features make Yakhont very formidable weapon (superior to most of the parameters of foreign counterparts such as the U.S.'s Harpoon), capable of hindering the opponent's offshore operations. There are reasons for the Americans and Israelis to be worried.

Israel is planning its response to Russia. Prime Minister Netanyahu called the decision to purchase U.S. aircraft of the fifth generation F-35I a possible response. It is not clear who he decided to scare, since Yakhont missile already exists in combat form, while the F-35 is still being tested.

The newspaper Yediot Ahronot wrote about another possible answer. It said that the Russian-Syrian deal angered Israeli officials so much that they intend to abandon the obligation not to supply weapons to countries hostile to Russia. Web-portal Wy-no spread information that "Israeli officials have threatened to sell arms to areas of strategic importance for Russia." Israeli experts mean Georgia.

Let's talk about Georgia. Russia had warned long before August 2008 about the fact that its president, Mikhail Saakashvili, may order an attack on South Ossetia. It urged the international community not to arm Georgia. But the Americans have acted differently. The Caucasus received American weapons. The USA took "honorary" second place as the largest arms supplier to Georgia after the Ukraine. Should they be instructing Russia where to supply weapons?

In this regard Israel, too, does not look that innocent. In 2004-2008, it also contributed to the growth of the Georgian military might. It was Tel Aviv that supplied dozens of unmanned aircrafts and artillery systems to Tbilisi. Israeli experts have upgraded the rest of Georgian Su-25 for the August war.

And it was Israeli weapons that killed Russian peacekeepers and citizens in South Ossetia in August 2008. The Georgian-Israeli military cooperation did not cease even during the hostilities. It was only after the collapse of Saakashvili's adventure when Israel agreed to suspend the supply of weapons to the Georgian side.

And now the cooperation of Tbilisi and Tel Aviv in the military area could resume. But what if the Israelis are bluffing? One of the reasons that still hold Tel Aviv from the resumption of military-technical cooperation with Georgia is that Moscow was ready to sell Iskander missiles to Damascus capable of effectively destroying most of the objects on Israeli territory. And if someone in Tel Aviv forgot about it, Russia could again raise the issue.

Despite inconsistency of Israel and ambiguity of its actions during the events in South Ossetia, Tel Aviv's concerns about Yakhonts in Syria are understandable. Syria has always been its strategic adversary. The two countries are still arguing about the rights to Golan Heights.

But why the U.S. is so worried? Alexander Khramchikhin, deputy director of the Institute of Political and Military Analysis, answered the question for

"Americans never fought directly with Syria. And it is unlikely they will do so in the foreseeable future. First of all, they are worried about its only reliable ally in the region - Israel. With Yakhont, the Syrians could sink the entire Israeli Navy."

Sergei Balmasov

Read the original in Russian

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov