Iran vows revenge for Soleimani killing if Trump not put on trial


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This is actually a problem with how the Tor/SA-15 system is designed to be deployed.

There was a reasonable expectation that the US would retaliate further for the missile strikes on US bases in Iraq, so Iranian air defense units were put on alert.

The problem though is the SA-15 is designed to work in an integrated air defense system that extends out for hundreds of kilometers. This allows the SA-15 to only turn on its radar when needed, relying on data links from other long-range radars and systems to view the threat area, and this is good because turning on your radar makes you a very visible target.

So Iranian doctrine (and the doctrine of a lot of customers of Soviet/Russian air defense systems that do not buy the full setup) is to periodically turn on your radar and scan for targets, then shut off, and most likely displace from your current location shortly after. The SA-15 is great for this because it is a fully integrated air defense vehicle. It has search, targeting, and fire control radar integrated into the tracked launch vehicle.

The problem is that because they are not integrated into a larger air defense network they can not use other radars to see the situation around them before turning on their radar, so any contact needs to be immediately identified, and if needed engaged, because they will most likely be the first thing a missile is fired at.

Iran attempted to mitigate this by distributing a list of flights in and out of the airport to air defense crews. So when the missile crews turned on their radars they could go "ok this flight is expected to be here" and give them the confidence to identify it fully before engaging.

The Ukrainian flight that was shot down, unfortunately, was delayed though, and so when it took off it was outside the window for when a flight was expected. The SA-15 crew turned on their radar, saw a contact that wasn't supposed to be there, close, and they engaged almost immediately. Not to mention these crews are most likely not super experienced, to begin with, so they almost certainly panicked when they saw the contact and thought it was a US airstrike or cruise missile.

This is the problem with unintegrated air defense systems, it's a bunch of blind actors, operating on potentially old or confusing information.

We've seen the same thing in Syria, with the S-300 and Tor also performing poorly, but none of those systems are integrated together in the Syrian military and so are much less effective.

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