Russian supplies Iran with air defence system ‘better than American version’

Russia is to supply Iran with a new and lethal anti-aircraft system capable of shooting down American or Israeli fighter jets in the event of any strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Iran yesterday confirmed that Russia had agreed to deliver the S-300 air defence system, a move that is likely to irk the Bush administration and gives further proof of Russia and Iran’s deepening strategic partnership.

Iran’s defence minister, Mostafa Mohammad Najjar, told Iranian TV that the deal had been agreed under a previous “contract”. He did not say when the system would be shipped to Iran.

Russian defence experts yesterday acknowledged that the missile system, originally designed in the 1970s, would significantly enhance Iran’s ability to shoot down enemy aircraft.

The S-300 had a range far superior to that of the US Patriot system, experts said. It could also shoot down cruise and ballistic missiles, they added.

“It’s a formidable system. It really gives a new dimension to Iran’s anti-aircraft defences,” said one Russian defence expert, who declined to be named.

“It’s purely a defensive system. But it’s very effective. It’s much better than the US system. It has good radar. It can shoot down low-flying cruise missiles, though with some difficulty.”

The sale follows Russian president Vladimir Putin’s visit to Iran in October to attend a meeting of Caspian Sea nations, the first trip by a Russian head of state to Tehran since Stalin attended a 1943 summit with Churchill and Roosevelt.

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