Monday, September 20, 2010

Yakhont missiles could protect Russian naval base in Syria - analyst

Russian-made mobile anti-ship missile systems sold to Syria could be used to protect a Russian naval supply and maintenance site near Syria's Mediterranean port of Tartus, a Russian arms trade expert said on Monday.

Russia earlier announced it would honor a 2007 contract on the delivery of several Bastion anti-ship missile systems armed with SS-N-26 Yakhont supersonic cruise missiles to Syria, despite U.S. and Israel security concerns.

Syria needs to shield a 600-km stretch of its coastline from potential amphibious assaults.

"One of the purposes of the deployment of Bastion missile systems in Syria is to ensure the protection of the Russian naval site in Tartus," said Igor Korotchenko, head of a Moscow-based think tank on the international arms trade.

The Yakhont missile has a range of 300 kilometers, the capacity to carry a 200-kilogram warhead and the unique ability of being able to cruise several meters above the water surface, making it difficult to detect and intercept.

According to Korotchenko, none of the world's existing warships could thwart a Yakhont missile attack.

The Soviet-era naval maintenance site near Tartus is Russia's only military foothold in the Mediterranean. Russia plans to modernize the facility to accommodate large warships, including missile cruisers and even aircraft carriers after 2012.


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