After the United States pulled out of the Iran nuclear agreement, tensions in the Middle-East erupted. Iran began firing missiles from Syria into Israel. In retaliation, Israel began bombing Iranian targets in Syria, and also fired missiles. Footage from one of those missile strikes has since gone viral, and it has the Russians making some excuses.
The footage is of a direct hit on a Russian-made Pantsir-S1 missile defense system. The mobile unit was clearly visible in the footage being taken by the incoming missile. The unit was attacked, according to Israeli accounts, after it fired on Israeli jets.
So why didn’t the Russian missile defense system put up a better fight?
Aytech Bizhev, a former deputy commander-in-chief of Russia’s air force, had some guesses. “One is that it had already used up its ammunition reserve,” he told the Russian state-run news. “The other is that it was simply turned off; it wasn’t battle ready.”
The images seem to show a group of men standing beside the unit. When the missile is close enough to be either seen or hear, one man bolts toward the unit.
“Israel, which released footage of the Pantsir-S1 system being hit, said it launched the attack after Iranian forces fired 20 rockets toward the Golan Heights on Wednesday, some of which were shot down,” Business Insider writes.
The day before, though, Israel is believed to have also targeted Iranian troops in Syria. Those strikes occurred near the capital, Damascus.
The Pantsir platform is a popular Russian export. There are numerous configurations of the system. The one in the video is believed to be an SA-22.
When pressed for a third option explaining the way the defenseless missile defense system failed, Bizhev was defiant and said there “can be no third option, as it wouldn’t have let itself to be destroyed. When it’s battle ready, it performs constant surveillance of enemy aircraft and has a very fast reaction time. It would’ve brought down those cruise missiles with either its cannons or own missiles.”
But the poor thing was just out of ammo.
Mikhail Khodorenok, a retired Russian colonel, also made excuses for the Pantsir. He noted that it was sitting out in the open, exposed. That, he said, meant it “wasn’t ready for engagement.”
Plus, Bizhev added, the Israeli jets had an advantage. The fired “without entering the [Syrian] air defense area. They approached at low altitudes, then bounced from behind the Golan Heights, carried out the attack, and left.”