Russia, Iran Signs Contract for S-300 SAM Delivery

Russia has received the green light from President Vladimir Putin to supply S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Tehran. Putin lifted the sanctions on Iran last April.

“[The presidential] decree lifts the ban on transit through Russian territory, including airlift, and the export from the Russian Federation to the Islamic Republic of Iran, and also the transfer to the Islamic Republic of Iran outside the territory of the Russian Federation, both by sea and by air, of air defense missile systems S-300,” says the information note accompanying the document, RIA Novosti reported.

The $800m contract was signed in 2007 but was frozen after new international sanctions were issued against Iran in 2010. Tehran then filled a $4 billion lawsuit against Russia’s Rosoboronexport arms dealer company to a Geneva arbitration tribunal. However, last February, Russia re-initiated the talks with Iran for the exportation of surface-to-air (SAM) and, by doing so, lifted the sanctions against Tehran.

S-300PMU2, Russia’s exportation version.

In 2007, Iran agreed to buy five S-300 squadrons in 2007 and will most likely go forward with the same numbers.

“The deal to supply the S-300 to Iran has not only been signed between the parties but it has already come into force,” said Sergei Chemezov, head of Russia’s Rostec arms firm, speaking at the Dubai Airshow-2015.”

Israel, the United Stated and Saudi Arabia have voiced concern over the contract stating that Iran would be use to protect Iranian nuclear sites from air strikes.

However, Mr. Chemezov maintained the S-300 will be deployed as defensive weapons. He also insisted that if no one attacks Iran, there is no need to feel threatened. “So if the Gulf countries are not going to attack Iran… why should they be threatened? Because this is defence equipment,” Reuters news agency quoted him as saying.”

Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s Foreign Affairs Minister, also stated the S-300 will not cause any security issues with countries in the region.

Iran has not yet specified what S-300 type they want so far. Although technical talks are continuing, Iran will most likely acquire the S-300PMU2, Russia’s exportation version. So far, Algeria, Azerbaijan and China are operating the PMU2 version. Libya is also considering buying two S-300PMU2 Favorit air defense missile systems.

The S-300PMU2, a perfect match for Iran

Russian S-300 SAM
Russian S-300 SAM

Introduced in 1997 as an upgrade to the S-300PMU1, the new system has extended its operational range between 3 and 195 km with the introduction of the 48N6E2 missile. The 48N6E2 missile can hit targets between 30 to 88,000 feet and can reach speed up to 8.43 Mach (2,800 mps).

Russian 48N6E2 missile.
Russian 48N6E2 missile.

The 48N6E2 has a Track-via-missile (TVM) system. TVM guidance requires a radar ground station and a missile with a radar receiver. As with semi-active homing missiles, the ground-based radar illuminates the target with radar energy which is then reflected off the target and detected by the missile. However, unlike a SARH missile, the missile itself does not compute interception with this information. Instead, data from the radar returns is relayed back to the ground station via a data link which also serves for passing the guidance commands to the missile.

Capable of engaging—locking on—36 aerial targets and track more than 100, the S-300PMU2 has been designed to engage aircraft, cruise missiles and theater ballistic missiles in intense clutter and jamming environments. The PMU2 version is ideal to defend static infrastructure but still can deploy and setup anywhere needed.

How a S-300 complex works.
How a S-300 complex works.

The S-300PMU2 Favorit system is comprised of:

  • 83M6E2 command post (CP)
  • up to six 90Zh6E2 air defence missile complexes
  • 48N6E2 air defence missiles
  • technical support facilities.
S-300PMU2 complex.
S-300PMU2 complex.
Russian S-300V4
Russian S-300V4

The Russian armed forces received the S-300V4 air defense system—the most advance S-300 system as of today—in 2014. S-300V4 missiles have a range of 400 km at Mach 7.5 or a range of 350 km at Mach 9 and can destroy maneuvering targets even at very high altitudes. Iran should consider this version but for what it will be used for, the S-300PMU2 is a great alternative at a cheaper price.


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Jonathan Wade, CD

Jonathan Wade is the director of the ‘The Sentinel Analytical Group’ and a decorated veteran of the Canadian Forces. Specialized in tactical, strategic, intelligence and geopolitics analysis, Jonathan has a fondness for technical details. His military experience brought him valuable insight on the realities of conflicts and war. A combat veteran of Afghanistan, Jonathan brings in in-theatre experience. Jonathan writes about Russia, Canada and Arctic.