Serbia receives Russian air-defence equipment
The rapid-fire system is designed to defend against cruise missiles, drones and aircraft.
“Each Panstir system is capable of guiding up to four missiles at a time,” reported Air Force Technology.
The delivery derives from a 2019 agreement. The equipment comes with target detection and designation radar, target and missile-tracking radar and electro-optical sensor systems.
Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic said Russian President Vladimir Putin told him to buy the defence system.
He said Putin told him: “Buy Pantsir, it showed its best efficiency in Syria.”
Vucic added: “This anti-aircraft system is very efficient for targeting drones which are becoming crucial in modern warfare.”
The populist president has strengthened political and military ties with Russia while in office.
“Serbia strengthened its defensive and deterrent capabilities,” the Serbian defence ministry stated.
“In this way, our ability to remain militarily neutral is further strengthened, which is a fundamental security commitment,” it added.
The defence equipment contains radar, ground-to-air missiles and a 30mm cannon to target an altitude of up to 15,000 metres and a range of 20km.
Russian defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, visited Belgrade last week and said bilateral military relations had reached a “fundamentally” deeper level and were on an “upward trend”.
Serbia has increased defence spending every year since 2016 and last year spent US$906 million or 28.7 per cent more on defence than in 2018, the International Institute of Strategic Studies reported.
Serbia is an ally of Russia despite its European Union candidacy. Serbia says it will not join Nato and has not imposed sanctions on Russia over the conflict in Ukraine and the 2014 seizure of Crimea.
Since 2017 Serbia has bought five Russian Mi-17V-5 helicopters, four Mi-35M fighter helicopters and has been given six MiG-29 fighter jets.
Serbia received 30 armoured vehicles from Russia during 2019 and 30 ageing T-72 tanks.
Serbia hosted joint air exercises with Russia in October 2019. The S-400 and Pantsir-S systems were deployed for the first time in military drills outside Russia, according to Russia’s defence ministry.
The US has suggested imposing sanctions on Serbia if Russia imports more weapons that could jeopardise the security of neighbouring Nato members.
Vucic said he hoped there would be no sanctions, which he said were focused on the possible purchase of the infamous S-400 anti-aircraft equipment that has a much longer range and more offensive weapons.
Pantsir S1. Picture credit: Wikimedia