Israel has quietly tested ways of defeating an advanced air-defence system that Russia has deployed in the Middle East and that could limit Israel’s ability to strike in Syria or Iran, military and diplomatic sources said.
The sources said a Russian S-300 anti-aircraft system, sold to Cyprus 18 years ago but now located on the Greek island of Crete, had been activated during joint drills between the Greek and Israeli air forces in April-May this year.
The activation allowed Israel’s warplanes to test how the S-300’s lock-on system works, gathering data on its powerful tracking radar and how it might be blinded or bluffed.
One defense source in the region said Greece had done so at the request of the United States, Israel’s chief ally, on at least one occasion in the past year. It was unclear whether Israel had shared its findings with its allies.
“Part of the maneuvers involved pitting Israeli jets against Greek anti-aircraft systems,” one source said. Two other sources said the Crete S-300 was among the systems turned on.
The sources spoke to Reuters on condition they not be identified by name or nationality. The Greek and Israeli militaries declined to confirm or deny any use of the S-300 system during drills held in the Eastern Mediterranean last April-May or similar exercises in 2012 and 2010.
A senior Greek Defence Ministry official, asked whether the system was operating during Greek-Israeli military exercises, said: “At this moment the S-300 is not in operation.” He said Athens’ general policy was…