Pantsir-S1 intended for export to Iraq was seen in East Ukraine

Evidence suggests that the Russian army operating in eastern Ukraine has deployed Russian Pantsir-S1 mobile anti-aircraft and surface-to-surface systems, originally intended for export to Iraq. A distinct camouflage pattern on these systems, as seen in a screenshot from a video posted on the Russian Ministry of Defense’s social media channels, is noteworthy. Experts are eager to note that this pattern is synonymous with that of the Iraqi military.

A couple of plausible scenarios could explain how these units ended up within the Russian ranks. Firstly, it could either be a case of Russia withholding delivery meant for Iraq. Second, Iraq canceling an ongoing order. Though speculative chatter and data give us a sense of direction, the precise truth may only emerge in due time. We can say with a degree of certainty though, looking back at the onset of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, that Russia has a precedent of repurposing export orders for domestic use. A notable instance that comes to mind is reported by BulgarianMilitary.com.

For example, the Indian T-90 Bhishma tank, which India sent to Russia for servicing before the conflict, was later spotted in Ukraine. Indian journalist Girish Lingana raised the alarm on October 6, alleging that Russia had unauthorizedly used these tanks. This validates that Russia didn’t seek explicit permission to retain or deploy these assets in the ongoing conflict.

Russia shows the Pantsir-S1M modification at the Tula parade
Photo credit: Dzen.ru

As mentioned by Lingana, “The T-90 Bhishma, which belongs to India, is currently in Russia for modernization trials.” Nonetheless, India has officially proclaimed that there are no issues whatsoever with Russian equipment or its modernization, and the provision of its spare parts. This reassurance came directly from the office of External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, during a press meeting.

Returning to the topic of the Iraqi systems, a probable scenario suggests that they are quotas that have been disregarded. It is documented that in 2014, the Pantsir-S1 with serial number 47 went into production and was close to being camouflaged, however, delivery never took place. Open-source data suggests that Iraq took delivery of a single consignment of Pantsir-S1. According to sources, it is about 24 systems that are currently operational in the Iraqi military.

Over one decade, Baghdad had placed an order for 50 anti-aircraft systems from Moscow. In 2012, this transaction was rocked by a scandal involving corruption in Baghdad, leading to its temporary halt. However, the deal was eventually revived. 

Russian anti-aircraft missile and cannon system Pantsyr get hypersonic missile
Photo credit: TASS

“Progress is unimpeded,” Saadun Al-Dulaimi stated during a Baghdad press briefing on November 12, 2012. Earlier that day, a spokesperson for the then-acting Prime Minister, Nouri Al-Maliki, divulged that they had dismissed initial suspicions of foul play. They cited an ongoing investigation. However, Dulaimi refuted any suggestion of corruption at that time. Instead, he attributed the problem to a delay in the government delivering contract details to the anti-corruption commission.

The agreement in question originated in mid-2012. It was announced that Russia will supply Iraq with a range of 30 Mi-28 helicopters. The agreement included delivery of 50 Pantsir-S1 ground-to-air missile systems, too. This significant move represented a high point for Russian arms supply deals, positioning Russia as Iraq’s primary arms provider behind the United States.

Intricately sophisticated, the Pantsir-S1 is a Russian-developed self-propelled anti-aircraft mechanism, also known as Pantsir-S1. It’s primarily designed to protect strategic military and industrial installations, significantly enhancing the defensive abilities of long-range air defense systems. 

The Pantsir-S1 system boasts an impressive array of weaponry, including 12 surface-to-air missiles and dual 30mm automatic guns. This unique combination of weapons enables the Pantsir-S1 to efficiently counter a wide range of targets, from aircraft and helicopters to unmanned drones and precision-guided munitions.

What stands out for the Pantsir-S1 is its sophisticated radar system. Able to detect and track multiple targets simultaneously within a range of 36 kilometers, its rugged design enables this system’s radar to function consistently, regardless of weather conditions, and it’s even capable of detecting stealth aircraft.

Mobility is another hallmark of the Pantsir-S1. With top speeds reaching 100 kilometers per hour on roads, the quick deployment potential of the Pantsir-S1 has been its calling card. Its versatility across a range of terrains – from arid desert expanses to challenging mountainous terrains – is eye-catching. 

Upon evaluating the Pantsir-S1, American experts identified its versatility in handling multiple aerial threats, its agility, and the advanced technology bolstering its radar systems as pivotal strengths. However, the experts underscored a potential weakness: its reliance on radar for target identification, making it susceptible to sophisticated electronic warfare systems.

Pantsir-S1 intended for export to Iraq was seen in East Ukraine
Photo credit: MoD of Russia

Apart from the Russian Federation, many other countries also use the Pantsir-S1 system. Algeria is a case in point. This North African nation has been benefiting from the use of the Pantsir-S1 system for numerous years, having made substantial procurements from Russia.

The United Arab Emirates also uses the Pantsir-S1 system. In fact, the UAE was the inaugural export client for this system, having placed an order even before Russia officially commissioned the system for service. The nation of Syria likewise employs the Pantsir-S1. During the ongoing conflict in the region, this system has proved considerably helpful, with Russia supplying it to the Syrian government.

The country of Iran also operates the Pantsir-S1. Reports indicate that the Iranian military has leveraged the system to bolster its air defenses. Other countries using the Pantsir-S1 system include Oman, located in the Middle East, and Vietnam in Southeast Asia. The leaders within these nations have procured the system to reinforce their capabilities in defending their airspace.

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