News / Middle East

    Syrian Air Force One of Middle East's Largest

    A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency on December 20, 2011 shows aircraft take part in military maneuvers by the Syrian army in an undisclosed location in Syria.A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency on December 20, 2011 shows aircraft take part in military maneuvers by the Syrian army in an undisclosed location in Syria.
    x
    A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency on December 20, 2011 shows aircraft take part in military maneuvers by the Syrian army in an undisclosed location in Syria.
    A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency on December 20, 2011 shows aircraft take part in military maneuvers by the Syrian army in an undisclosed location in Syria.
    The Syrian air force is one of the largest in the Middle East, with 30,000 members and composed of aircraft provided first by the Soviet Union and, later, by Russia.

    They include MiG-21 interceptors, MiG-23 ground assault aircraft and the more modern MiG-29 combat aircraft. They also have a fleet of Sukhoi fighter jets.

    Pieter Wezeman, arms transfer expert with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, says that last December - while the Syrian government was fighting an insurgency - Damascus ordered from Moscow 36 additional planes known as the Yak-130.

    “It’s a training plane," said Wezeman. "It’s a light plane, a lighter plane which can be used for training but also has a very clear combat function. It can be armed with bombs and missiles and is typically the kind of aircraft which would be, let’s say, very suitable for the Syrian regime in the current conflict,” he said.

    The Russian government has consistently denied providing weaponry to Syria that could be used to fight the rebels. What the Russians have provided the Syrian air force for many years - in addition to aircraft - is maintenance for its planes and training for its pilots.
    Syrian Air and Naval Forces

    • 70,000 Air Force personnel
    • 5,000 Navy personnel
    • 300 fighter-ground attack planes
    • 48 intelligence/surveillance planes
    • 22 heavy transport planes
    • 36 attack helicopters
    • 100 reconnaissance/transport helicopters

    Aram Nerguizian, a Syria expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says that training was useful during the wars with Israel in the 1970s and 1980s.

    “That being said, you have very little real-world combat experience in the last two to three decades, in large part because, despite all the rhetoric of combating Israel, the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad has been a fairly consistent - I don’t want to say ally - but a fairly consistent player in terms of honoring some kind of a Cold War or Cold Peace with Israel,” Nerguizian said.

    Experts, including Pieter Wezeman, say Syria has dramatically improved its military posture in the last few years by investing in modern Russian air defense systems.

    “Which was very necessary because in 2007, Israel had attacked a Syrian site [suspected nuclear reactor] without basically any effort from the Syrian side to stop it," Wezeman points out. "It just didn’t have the equipment in place to stop an attack by modern aircraft such as Israel did in that year. And after that, we see that Syria is modernizing its air defense systems.”

    Analysts say if Western nations decide to intervene militarily in the conflict in Syria, its air defenses will be far more challenging than those of Libya.

    While the Syrian air force is a substantial body, its navy is modest. With about 5,000 personnel, the navy consists mainly of several frigates, gunboats, missile attack craft and patrol boats.

    But many experts, including Aram Nerguizian, say the important factor is the presence of a Russian port in Tartus, on Syria’s Mediterranean coast.

    “In the 1980s and 1990s, there was talk about the Russians trying to build up Tartus - very little happened in terms of really trying to capitalize [modernize] the naval facility," he said.  "But there is every indication that if you are going to have a Russian naval presence in the Mediterranean, it is going to have to be in a friendly port. And right now, the only one that is viable, given you don’t have options in Libya any more, would be Tartus. So you have a [Russian] military presence there, you have technical advisers, and that’s one of the core interests of Russian foreign policy in the Middle East and the Mediterranean.”

    Russian news reports have indicated that Moscow is planning to modernize the facility in the next few years to accommodate large warships, including missile cruisers and even aircraft carriers.

    Andre de Nesnera

    Andre de Nesnera is senior analyst at the Voice of America, where he has reported on international affairs for more than three decades. Now serving in Washington D.C., he was previously senior European correspondent based in London, established VOA’s Geneva bureau in 1984 and in 1989 was the first VOA correspondent permanently accredited in the Soviet Union.

    You May Like

    Former US Envoys Urge Obama to Delay Troop Cuts in Afghanistan

    Keeping troop levels up during conflict with both Taliban and Islamic State is necessary to support Kabul government, they say

    First Lady to Visit Africa to Promote Girls' Education

    Michele Obama will be joined by daughters and actresses Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto

    Video NYSE Analyst: Brexit Will Continue to Place Pressure on Markets

    Despite orderly pricing and execution strategy at the New York Stock Exchange, analyst explains added pressure on world financial markets is likely

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Ahmed Kamel from: Jordan
    June 20, 2012 2:44 PM
    You have to be kidding me, most of these aircraft are obsolete from the late 1960s and 1970s, the last major dogfight with Israel resulted in 84 Syrian fighterjets shot to ZERO Israeli. An army of 10000 with bows and arrows will be wiped out by a modern 2012 army of 100!!
    In Response

    by: Musa M.F.Kouma-Deito Krom from: Liberia
    June 21, 2012 1:35 PM
    With all of the obselete weapons according to Ahmed Kamel that Syria have , can lethal in killing so many people unlike Libya ,Syria will be a hard-Iron Cake to cut by brother.It will be more damaging than Iraq-Libya demage all put together ,and perhaps without the removing of Al Saad completely thus polarizing the entire region and giving rise to extremist islamists . Therefore as Putin said , " it is better to have peaceful resolution that the use of force to provide the settlement. LetAlSaad be removed by peaceful means than by force or else you may end-up iraqizing Syria or providing Somalihood as a settlement.
    By brother, this is the sour-milk of all revolutions .

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora