Below are the first high quality photos of the launchers in Syria ever released.
Experts from ISI say that the launchers are hidden under camouflage nets the majority of the time, but the heavy rains seen across the region over the past several weeks forced the Russians to move the launchers out from underneath the nets, thus exposing them to the satellite.
Two other vehicles were seen in the area, and it seems as if they are also part of the SS-26 Iskander system.
The Iskander ground to ground missiles are able to be shot 400-500 kilometers. They are accurate to within 5 meters, and can carry a warhead weighing half a ton. Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa are all within range of these missiles.
The Russians used the SS-26 during their conflict with Georgia in 2008, and their effectiveness was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.
The Assad regime and the Iranians have both asked the Russians to sell them the missile systems, but have thus far refused their requests at Israel’s insistence. However, this request hasn’t kept the Russians from using the missiles themselves against ISIS and Fatah Jabhat al-Sham (formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra).
Israel is worried that some of the missiles might be stolen from the Russians in Syria and given to Hezbollah. Meanwhile, the West is worried about the missiles’ presence in Syria in general, mainly due to the heavy warhead they carry.
It seems as if the Russians have put the missiles in western Syria as a deterrence to the West, especially in light of European nations increasing spending on anti-ballistic missile systems, along with Western nations carrying out war games in Baltic countries bordering Russia.
Interestingly, Russia announced on Friday its intention to bring back its aircraft carrier, and to draw down its troop presence in Syria. The aircraft carrier and the various advanced missiles the Russians brought with them to Syria were believed to be used as deterrence against Western intervention.
A high ranking IDF official said that Syria has the best non-Western air defense in the world, including S-400, SA-3, and SA-17 surface to air missiles. Foreign sources have reported that these advanced surface to air systems have made their way to Hezbollah, and that some were allegedly blown up by Israel while the missile were en route to the Lebanese terror group.
The Russians are still worried that the US will try to attack their Syrian ally, specifically because of US President Barack Obama’s repeated claims that the Syrian regime fights using chemical weapons.
However, with the election of Donald Trump to the Whitehouse, the Russians may believe that there is less of a chance of US military intervention, and are therefore more willing to draw down their troop presence.