Russia recently summoned Israel’s ambassador to deliver a message: The days of launching air strikes in Syria are over.
According to a Reuters report, the Russians were hopping mad over a recent Israeli air strike in Syria they said was targeting an illegal arms shipment to Hezbollah. The Russians say the strike aided the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
The Israeli strike was also notable in that an Arrow missile shot down a Russian-built SA-5 Gammon surface-to-air missile. But what would happen if the Russians decided to challenge the Israeli Air Force?
At present, Russia has a limited number of aircraft in the region, centered around the Su-24 Fencer strike plane and versions of the Flanker (including the Su-30, Su-34, and Su-35).
The Russians may be small in numbers, but it backs up the Syrian Air Force, which has a substantial number of MiGs – mostly MiG-21 Fishbeds and MiG-23 Floggers, along with about 50 MiG-29 Fulcrums of varying models. Likewise. Russia has deployed the S-400 surface-to-air missile system, but many of the air defenses on the ground are Syrian, and older model missiles.
In essence, the Russian deployment was corseting the Syrians.
The Israeli Air Force is primarily centered on the F-16 Fighting Falcon – FlightGlobal.com reports that Israel has 77 F-16C and 48 F-16D Fighting Falcons on inventory, plus about 100 F-16I Sufa fighters.
Israel also has about 80 F-15A/B/C/D/I fighters as well, according to the Institute for National Security Studies. Many of these planes have been customized with Israeli electronics – and the engineers of Tel Aviv are masters of electronic warfare.
So, what would happen if Russia tried to stop an Israeli raid to take out some new weapons for Hezbollah? Keep in mind that the Russian deployment to Syria included a craptastic carrier and at least two splash landings.
And that’s just the follies they couldn’t keep from the press.
On the other hand, the Israelis, while they have made their mistakes in the past, are probably the best military force in the region. They also have a huge quantitative edge in modern fighters.
In essence, the early rounds would likely go the Israelis’ way. The big question would be how much Russian President Vladimir Putin would be willing to risk after the initial dogfight.
If Putin goes all-in, the Israelis could be in a world of hurt.