Air Defense: Russians Returning To Cuba


November 3,2008: Russia has offered to send technical experts to Cuba, to help optimize Cuban air defenses. Currently, the Cuban air defenses are largely ineffective. The main anti-aircraft weapons are some SAM-6 (self-propelled system that fires 1200 pound missiles with a range of 24 kilometers), SAM-8 (self-propelled system that fires 360 pound missiles with a range of 15 kilometers) and several shorter range (4-8 kilometers) missiles, either portable or self-propelled. Most of these are inoperable, as Cuba has had little money for spare parts and maintenance since Russian aid was ended in the early 1990s. There are only about two dozen warplanes in working condition, but these can be quickly eliminated by a smaller number of more modern aircraft. The most effective anti-aircraft weapons are thousands of heavy (14.5mm) machine-guns and automatic cannon (mostly 23mm).

What the Cubans need is $20-30 million worth of spare parts, and several hundred new missiles. The Russians are apparently not willing to be that generous. The Russian offer does include training some Cuban air-defense officers. All this appears to be what you could call a "friendly gesture," and not something really meaningful. But it's a start, and perhaps the Russians are thinking of reopening their electronic listening operation. The Chinese have replaced them in that department, but Cuba would welcome the Russians back, for the right price.


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