Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 77

Russian arms traders had predicted that NATO’s air campaign against Yugoslavia would stimulate sales for their air defense missiles and they have apparently been proved correct. Yesterday the president of the firm which manufactures the S-300 air defense missile systems announced that Libya–a country that has been on the receiving end of U.S. air strikes several times in the past–would be his newest customer (AFP, Moscow, April 20). UN sanctions against that country were dropped earlier this month when Libya turned over the two men accused in the 1989 bombing of a Pan American jet over Lockerbie, Scotland. Yuri Rodin-Sova said that his company would propose a “unified” anti-aircraft defense system built around the S-300 PMU 1 and the S-300 PMU 2 Favorit missile systems augmented by upgrading the older systems Libya previously obtained from the Soviet Union.

The Russians consider the S-300 family of missile systems one of their most competitive foreign sales products; as they upgrade the missiles, they quickly offer the newer versions to the world market. Often enough they incur the ire of Washington and other NATO capitals in the process, as in their sale of S-300s to Cyprus. India is in line to receive the new missiles. Syria would like to buy several of them, though the United States has threatened to withhold some of its aid to Russia should Moscow sell arms to that Middle East country. The newest S-300 missiles can attack aircraft and cruise missiles out to a range of some 200 kilometers, with the Russians claiming that–like the U.S. Patriot system–it can also destroy incoming ballistic missiles. Earlier this year the Russian Air Force conducted the first tests of the follow-on S-400 missile system and credited it with a range of 300-400 kilometers (Russian media, February 12).

While NATO has shown great respect for Yugoslav air defense missiles, the Serbs have not been particularly successful in shooting down attacking aircraft. However, the fact that the single NATO loss to date was an F-117 Stealth fighter could well impress prospective customers of Russian missiles. Rodin-Sova was also careful to point out that though Yugoslavia had been offered the S-300 in the early 1990s, it had turned down the offer for financial reasons.