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Middle East , Aircraft and Anti-Aircraft

Proliferation of Russian Arms Threatens United States' "Ability to Dominate Airspace" in the Middle East, U.S. General

March 01st - 2018

Speaking before the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, General Joseph Votel stated that the United States military faced growing challenges from the proliferation of Russian anti access area denial (A2AD) weapons in the Middle East. With the U.S. and the wider Western bloc long having relied heavily on the use of air power to gain an advantage in war, notably key to their strategies in all major military interventions since the Second World War, a threat to the West's ability to gain air superiority is a serious threat to Western dominance of the strategically critical Middle Eastern region. General Votel dressed the threat to U.S. interests posed specifically by the growing number of Russian surface to air missile systems deployed to the Middle East, which granted the United States' superpower adversary "the ability to dominate the airspace." He noted that Russia's military had gained significant experience and the opportunity to test numerous weapons systems since it first deployed its forces to the Syrian conflict. Alongside the threat posed by these advanced Russian weapons systems, the General's statement also covered defence challenges stemming from Russian influence in Central Asia, the former USSR, as well as from Iranian influence and the power of Islamist terror groups in the Middle East.

Russia has deployed some of its most advanced air defence systems to Syria, including the long range S-400 Triumf fielding sophisticated anti stealth capabilities, the S-300VM specialised in targeting cruise missiles, and several shorter range platforms such as the BUK and Pantsir - the latter which has proven particularly lethal against enemy drones. Their success in deterring Western military action, despite the Western bloc's numerous threats to deploy force against Russian interests , has led to Russian air defence platforms being sought out across the Arab world as well as by Iran and Turkey. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Sudan, Bahrain, Iraq and Syria have all show interest, placed orders for or currently operate the S-300 or S-400 systems, and these platforms are thus able to cover the entire Middle East and much of North Africa as well. The Russian military also operates its own platforms out of Syria, and these are able to cover territories well beyond the country's borders including U.S. military facilities in Turkey, Jordan and Israel and British facilities in Cyprus. Several states, most notably Turkey and Iraq, have come under significant U.S. pressure th cancel plans to purchase the S-400, though whether or not this will succeed remains to be seen. Considering the proven vulnerability of modern U.S. combat aircraft including stealth fighters to even older missiles platforms such as the S-125 and S-200, extensive deployments of more advanced systems significantly undermine the Western bloc's ability to dominate their airspace above the Middle East and thus represent an unprecedented development for the region. 

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