Three of the S-300 aerial defense batteries deployed in Masyaf, Syria, have been documented in an erected position in an image produced by an Israeli-made satellite, indicating that they are becoming operational.
The images, captured by ImageSat International, show three of the four launchers in an upright position and the fourth covered by a camouflage net. This is the first time that the launchers have been documented in an erected position since their arrival from Russia in October.
The erection of the launchers may be an indicator of rising tensions in the Syrian arena. If this is the first time the launchers have been erected (and not simply the first time that they have been documented by satellite images), it would seem to indicate that the Syrians have made progress in solving operational issues with the battery.
In October, satellite images showed that the S-300 batteries had been deployed; Haaretz, however, reported that the process of training Syrian soldiers to be stationed at the missile batteries was expected to take some time, and the new batteries had not yet reached operational readiness.
It is unclear why only one of the launchers is covered by a camouflage net. According to ISI, this is a rare occurrence and raises questions about the operational level of the entire battery, and specifically the launcher that remains covered.
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Russia announced that it would supply the anti-aircraft missiles after Syrian forces responding to an Israeli airstrike on September 17 mistakenly shot down a Russian military reconnaissance plane, killing all 15 people on board.
Israeli defense officials believe that the Israel Air Force can, if needed, overcome the new batteries and attack more targets in Syria.