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13 May, 2019 01:48

Satellite images of 'Russian S-300 in US' spark guessing game

Satellite images of 'Russian S-300 in US' spark guessing game

Satellite photos that purport to show Soviet-made S-300PT air defense systems at a US military site have surfaced online, prompting various theories about how and why they ended up there.

The speculations began after an image of what appear to be two 5P85PT launchers on semi-trailers and a 30N6 fire control system were posted online by a military enthusiast. The installations are an integral part of the S-300PT surface-to-air missile systems.

The blogger, who says he is "geolocating all sort of military stuff" in his profile description, has since deleted the post but not before it gained traction online and attracted the attention of Russian media and the Defense Blog online magazine. 

In his original post on May 1, tamydoolittle (@border9999) did not provide any details on where the installations were deployed apart from a vague "somewhere in the USA."

Manufactured in the Soviet Union in 1975, the first S-300 air defense complexes entered service in 1979.  In the following years, the complexes were delivered to over a dozen countries, including China, Algeria, Venezuela, Iran, Vietnam, Ukraine as well as US' NATO allies Bulgaria and Slovakia.

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The fact that the complexes are believed to still be deployed by some NATO members might hold a key to the mystery as to how they landed on American soil.

According to some reports, the US has retained at least one S-300 installation since the early 1990s, which it allegedly acquired from Belarus amidst the turmoil following the Soviet Union's collapse. The New York Times reported back in 1994 that the Pentagon's chief military intelligence bought "components" of the S-300 in a secretive deal in order to study the system. The complexes reportedly came without electronics and radar equipment.

The Pentagon's interest in the Soviet-era technology has apparently not faded since. It was reported in October last year that US and Israeli military specialists made a secretive trip to Ukraine to study and test the installations there. Kiev reportedly provided Tel Aviv and Washington with technical details and some S-300s for further field tests.

While it is unclear if the "S-300" allegedly spotted in the US is a mockup or a real one, some Russian media have speculated that the US military might be conducting tests in preparation for a military operation in Venezuela, which uses the complexes for air defense.

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