The Syrian government seems to be deploying Pantsir-S1 air defense systems to Libya to assist forces of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar in their battle against the Turkish-controlled Government of National Accord.
An unusual Pantisr-S1 air defense system was for the first time spotted in Libya last week, when local activists released a video of a Libyan National Army convoy moving towards the port city of Sirte besieged by Turkish-led forces.
A spokesman for the GNA forces in the region, Brig. Abdul Hadi Draa, also said that the Pantsir-S1 systems and other weapons were deployed at the Sirte airport on July 11. One of the convoys moving towards the airport included the Pantsir-S1 system on the unusual KAMAZ-6560 8×8 chassis. Previously, all the Pantsir-S1 systems operated by the LNA were based on the German MAN SX 45 8×8 chassis. This variant was supplied by Russia to the UAE, which later supplied systems to the LNA.
Other discriminant marks of the filmed Pantsir-S1 were a desert yellow paint and the older passive electronically scanned array search radar. The only country in the Middle East that operates Pantsir-S1 systems with such specifications and supports the Libyan National Army is Syria.
Earlier in 2020, Syria officially established diplomatic ties with the House of Representatives, a democratically elected body that supports the Libyan National Army and manages the daily social and economic life in the territories controlled by it.
Damascus also sees the Libyan National Army and the House of Representatives as a natural ally because they also fight against the occupation of their country by Turkey.
In the last few weeks, Syrian Il-76 cargo planes made several unusual flights between Damascus International Airport and the al-Khadim Air Base in northeast Libya. The base is known to be hosting service members of the UAE that are involved in the assist and advice mission to support Haftar’s forces.
The Pantsir-S1 system spotted on the road to Sirte may have been shipped from Syria to Libya during one of these flights.
At the same time, the Syrian government currently have good relations with Egypt, the UAE – the main backers of the Libyan National Army, and obviously with Russia – the producer of Pantsir-S1 systems and the country that provides background diplomatic support to the UAE-Egypt bloc in the conflict.
The Syrian Air Defense Forces operate dozens of Pantsir-S1 systems. Most of the Syrian systems are equipped with the advanced active electronically scanned array search radar. Therefore, Damascus may have opted to sell a part of its older systems to Haftar.
If this is confirmed, this move will likely allow Syria to improve its relations with the Libyan National Army, the UAE and Egypt, complicate Turkish plans to capture Srite, and last but not least strengthen the Syrian regional positions, which were significantly undermined by the ongoing war inside the country.