Syraq SITREP 25: IAF F35 'Adirs' vs. Syria's Russian SAMs and Hezbollah

The official story versus what Southfront claims was the real story: even 'stealth' fighters which can evade missile lock have to contend with 1980s vintage Soviet SAMs, to say nothing of later generation Russian air defense systems that the Israeli Air Force has wisely refrained from testing via direct attacks on the Russians inside Syria.

The official story versus what Southfront claims was the real story: even 'stealth' fighters which can evade missile lock have to contend with 1980s vintage Soviet SAMs, to say nothing of later generation Russian air defense systems that the Israeli Air Force has wisely refrained from testing via direct attacks on the Russians inside Syria.

The F35:  Hot (and IR Seeker Head Visible) Flying Garbage or America and Israel's Highly Lethal Weapon?

The alleged use of an obsolete S200 SAM system to chase off America and Israel's newest frontline fighter jet is of course, a blow to the prestige of U.S. made weapons systems. For years, the F35 in particular has been dogged by criticisms -- including from legendary F16 designer Pierre Sprey of its bloated cost structure and alleged piss poor dogfighting performance-- as a poster child for the failures of the U.S./NATO military industrial complex

The jet's defenders insist its combination of stealth and battlefield surveying integrated radar and other sensors would spare it close engagement with superior maneuvering Russian designed fighter jets like the widely exported Sukhoi 30-33-35-37 family or the forthcoming T50/SU57, and point to simulated battles with likely Ukrainian Air Force acquired Su27s over Nevada test ranges to prove it. However, the need to make the F35 appear invincible, primarily against its primary antagonists of modern air defenses rather than enemy fighters, is why pro-Russian outlets like Southfront claim that the Israelis are covering up the incident with the two bird strikes suffered in the same week within the same squadron cover story. 

What Really Happened in the Skies Over the Syria-Lebanese Border This Week?

In our attempt to distinguish fact from fiction we turn to Elijah J. Magnier, a respected Mideast based journalist with excellent sources in Damascus and from Beirut to Baghdad. Accoridng to Magnier the S200s did not strike the IAF's vaunted stealth jets, but the missile firing was also not a SAM battery commander's own initiative. In other words, while Moscow maintains its agreement not to engage Israeli jets provided they avoid bombing certain sensitive areas inside Syria where Russian troops are active (meaning IAF aircraft rely on guided standoff missiles fired from over Lebanon or the IDF held Golan Heights), the Syrians with their Iranian and Hezbollah allies are determined to raise the costs of Israel's routine air space violations and harassing strikes. Magnier describes the basic facts not quite disputed by either side here:

A few days ago, Israeli jets violated the Lebanese airspace (not the usual “routine recognition flight” as claimed by Israel’s official spokesperson), with the aim of bombing a Hezbollah convoy (as usual, trucks loaded with weapons) heading from Syria towards Lebanon, according to a well-informed source. The Syrian Army fired a ground to air missile, an old SA-5 (S-200) against the Israeli jets over the sky of Lebanon, to divert attention from the moving target. This Syrian act represented a direct threat – felt by the Israeli command – to the Israeli jets who managed to shoot the missile down. The Israeli Air Force ordered the jets to return to base for evaluation. One hour later, Tel Aviv ordered Israeli jets to fly over the occupied Golan Heights and target the static Syrian military position as retaliation, disregarding the Hezbollah convoy.

The Syrian Command did not decide within minutes of their presence to target the Israeli jets over Lebanon that particular day. That decision had been made during a meeting of the Syrian, Hezbollah and Iranian leadership to agree on progressive measures against Israel to make it understand the message. 10 days ago or more, Syrian anti-aircraft batteries fired upon Israeli jets violating Syrian air space. Days later, Syria shot down an Israeli drone. Last but not least, Syria launched an SA-5 (removed from service by Russia decades ago) against the Israeli jets.

The Context of Israeli Probing of Syrian Defenses:
ISIS Territorial Collapse, Joint Turkish-Iraqi Action Blocking U.S.-Israel Kurdistan Project

Before further evaluating the competing claims about the IAF's confrontation with obsolete but still apparently useful Soviet vintage Syrian air defenses, we need to present additional context. The IAF's latest attempt to target Hezbollah truck convoys carrying weapons from Lebanon to Syria happened the same day Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu was hosted by his counterpart Avigdor Lieberman in Israel.

The agenda between the two Defense Ministers was not exactly secret: Lieberman had warned prior to the visit of likely hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah across multiple fronts through Lebanon, Syria and as far south as Hamas-held Gaza. Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israeli officials have repeatedly warned that Russia isn't doing enough in their view to prevent Iran from establishing a permanent military presence in Syria. Before retiring on August 10, Israel's Air Force chief Amir Eshel (who received an undergraduate economics degree at Auburn university in Alabama) boasted to the newspaper Haaretz regarding the IAF's ability to interdict arms flows to Hezbollah at will, while respectfully nodding at the thus far successful deconfliction between his forces and the Russians in Syria. 

However, behind the Israelis usual bravado about the invincibility of their armed forces lies a nagging sense of having lost the Syria proxy war, and potentially, facing the exhaustion of their Arab ally Saudi Arabia in the Yemen quagmire. Certainly, Israel cannot ignore the Saudi King's recent historic visit to Moscow confirming the alignment of oil production interests between the two leading petroleum producers on the planet. Nor can the Israeli military hide from the world its embarrassing tendency not to target either the Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, now re branded as Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham(HTS), or an Islamic State training camp basically within mortar round range of IDF forces along the Golan Heights.

The Israeli government's cynical attempt to insist on its status as a bulwark against worldwide radical jihadist terrorism while Syrian Army units kept finding IDF MREs and supplies in Al-Qaeda and ISIS dumps had ceased to be a tenable position -- even with many American or Evangelical Christian supporters of Israel turning a blind eye to these distressing facts. With Russia successfully deterring direct American or Israeli strikes on its forces in Syria using its long range S350+/400 SAM and cruise missile potential, the best that could be attempted was covert spoiling attacks.

The recent deaths of a high ranking Russian general and Syrian Arab Army Druze badass Issam Jad'aan Zahreddine in Deir Ez Zor province did nothing to halt the unstoppable offensive cleansing ISIS from the Euphrates Valley. While Daesh suicide squads remain dangerous in the open desert, Russian bombs and desertions are thinning out ISIS' dwindling ranks by the day, and there are no more Daeshbags in Raqqa for U.S. backed Kurdish forces to funnel towards the SAA.

The most painful blows to Israeli hopes to keep both Syria and Iraq partitioned and out of Iran's sphere of influence came last week in Kirkuk, when Iraqi Army and Shia militias fresh from crushing ISIS rolled into the oil rich city with virtually no opposition. Reports of a few firefights were likely cover stories for the PUK faction of Iraqi Kurds abandoning the Barzani clan mafia's forces to their fate, so that many peshmergas stripped off their U.S. or German supplied fatigues in favor of civvies. 

The indefinite postponement by the Iraqis and their Iranian general advisers of the Israeli-American dream of greater Kurdistan, with the full cooperation of soon to be former NATO ally Turkey, leaves Israel in a weaker strategic position than it was prior to the Syria proxy war it lobbied Washington and the Sunni Gulf states so hard to wage. The turning of Turkey, which had prior to Erdogan been Israel's strategic ally irrespective of Israeli off and on again support for the Iraqi Kurds whose oil flowed to Haifa refineries, means Tel Aviv must offer Ankara a better bargain in terms of Leviathian gas contracts to win back some of what it easily obtained for arms and intel in the 1990s. Speaking of gas, the SDF Kurds armed and backed by U.S. special forces surrendered Syrian oil and gas fields to Russian advised SAA units this week, also without a fight. While pro-Kurdish Twitter accounts have depicted defiant youths taking to the streets to taunt Iraqi federal forces, the reality depicted on Iran's pro-Baghdad PressTV is completely different, as seen in the video below:

Of course, none of these stunning humiliations for the Americans would have been possible without the military success of the two year old Russian intervention in Syria. And Washington's Council on Foreign Relations globalists naturally blame Donald Trump, or the Russians who supposedly used their troll and bot armies to put him into the White House, or both. But Moscow of necessity must remain aloof from any direct engagement with the Israelis, while providing what intelligence and technical support it can to upgrade Syria's air defenses. The results are not yet visible as Damascus is still shooting old SA5s to ward the IAF off, but the rollout of more advanced Pantsir SAMs capable detecting and destroying low flying targets like drones or glide bombs may tilt the balance more in Damascus and Hezbollah's favor in the next war. Hence the fear we see behind overt Israeli threats from cabinet ministers to target Lebanon's civilian infrastructure, in revenge for any Hezbollah rocket attacks from Lebanese soil:

A senior Israeli minister said Wednesday Israel will wreak havoc on Lebanon if Israel is drawn into another war with Hezbollah.

Addressing a large gathering of Christian broadcasters in Jerusalem, Education Minister Naftali Bennett said Lebanon would be held accountable for any actions against Israel by Hezbollah because it had granted the Iranian-backed group legitimacy.

“If Lebanon has Hezbollah as part of its government, and it’s harboring thousands and thousands of missiles in its homes, then Lebanon is game,” Bennett said. “Its infrastructure, international airport and government facilities – it’s all game. Because if you don’t want that to happen, it doesn’t need to happen. You just dismantle this thing called Hezbollah.”

As Bennett put it, during the last war with Lebanon in 2006, the United States delivered the following message to Israel: “Hezbollah, you go get them, but don’t touch Lebanon though.”

Israel Fears What Hezbollah Has Learned Fighting Alongside Spetsnaz in Syria

Russia has announced that it has updated the Syrian air defence system. The message reaches Israel that this system may come into use at any time, at Syrian discretion. Russia also stressed that it was not interfering in any Syrian-Israeli war and therefore (with a subtle mixed message!) would not mind if Damascus used Russian missiles to defend itself, in the same way Israel does against Syria and Hezbollah under the title of “self-defence and national security.”

As for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, he is confident of the effect of the Russian presence to preserve the unity of Syria, and trusts that Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards who have stood with him during the war will help him recover the entire Syrian territory. Assad eagerly awaits the moment he will stand by the “axis of the resistance”(which he is part of) if threatened. What Assad did in 2006 by opening his weapon stores to Hezbollah can now be seen as a small gesture belonging to the past: in the next battle with Israel, Assad will engage the entire Syrian army as part of the battle, to fight the war side by side with Hezbollah (Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah).

As for Israel, it will continue to try to keep to the algorithm of “open skies” and try to eliminate the very existence of separate Lebanese airspace. Syria will maintain in readiness its decision to strike Israeli jets (when these are within the reach of the Syrian air defence system), and will engage with these jets even if the likelihood of shooting them down is weak.

The decision has been taken: if it comes to war, Syria and Lebanon will wage full-scale, all-out war against Israel. This is a political and military decision arising from the Syrian leadership and its allies. This decision reflects Damascus’s unwillingness to give the left cheek to Israel (as it has done in the past) whenever it breaches the security of Syria and makes its land and its air space vulnerable, including the Lebanese air space that is now part of the balance. Israel, for its part, considers that any future war against Hezbollah will include the entire Lebanon and Syria with all its allied forces operating in the Levant. But Syria is in a good state not seen for more than six years and therefore can realistically and explicitly consider any threat to Lebanon to be a threat against Damascus.

This is why the Israelis have been engaged for many months in intense negotiations, directly between Vladimir Putin and Benjamin Netanyahu and through their defense ministers who converse in Soviet-born Russian, to preclude any advanced Russian weapons being provided to Hezbollah. The IDF has not forgotten the sting of new Kornet anti-tank missiles from Assad's depots devastating Israeli Merkava armor in 2006, and needs no similar nasty surprises in the seemingly inevitable next round. But as Magnier writes, the die is cast in such a way that even if not a single Russian soldier, pilot or SAM commander takes part in the next war, Hezbollah will be using Iranian knockoffs of Russian weaponry together with Russian artillery tactics acquired in combat with jihadists against the IDF.

What Israel's Air Force is Doing with Their 'Bird Struck' F35s:
Testing Out New Customized Electronics Not from the Lockheed Martin Factory

It is these facts, that Hezbollah will be capable of using sophisticated tactics ranging from baiting IDF special forces into 'pop up' from tunnel ambushes to using drones for mortar or rocket fire and even limited electronic jamming of Israeli GPS or radios, which have in this Russia Analyst's opinion forestalled 'preventive' war. While the Israeli military presents itself as extremely confident in its capabilities, the sting of its 2006 defeat in Lebanon lingers and small provocations (along with Moscow talking with Tehran after the Israelis present their pleas to the Russians) seem to keep chained the most vicious dogs of war...for now. Bringing this article back full circle, what do the 'bird strikes' mean for the Israeli Air Force's F35 contingent?

It means that the IAF is bargaining with Lockheed Martin to put their own suped-up electronics into their latest jets, something the American mega defense contractor had resisted. Whether it's the fear that an exasperated Kremlin could order the Krasukha 4 jammers turned on to disrupt IAF missile strikes on Syrian soil, or more likely additional layers of detection and countermeasures against newer SAMs in the Iranian arsenal, Israel is looking for technological assurance of its 'edge'. Meaning no shoot downs of stealth jets which would embarrass not only the Israelis, but also their American patrons, who represent the big dog so often wagged by the southeastern Mediterranean tail.

Furthermore, as absurd as it may sound, the IAF had to preclude a scenario wherein its commanders or political masters would need to phone Lockheed Martin for the manufacturer/legal licenser's permission to crack open its electronics for immediate, battlefield upgrades at make shift shelters in the Negev or Jordanian desert after the main Israeli bases came under long range Hezbollah missile attack.

In other words, for the i-gadget loving Millennials and GenZ crowd, Israel's F35s need to be completely 'factory unlocked'. The F35 preparations therefore fit in with a larger picture of Israeli threats (some would say chest thumpings) of its willingness to take devastating action against the civilian infrastructure and population as well as states in which Hezbollah operates. In this context, the billionaire patrons of the Trump campaign, led by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, are unlikely to take 'no' for an answer to seemingly unanimous American support for an Israeli escalation once a sufficient (false flag?) provocation happens.