News / Middle East

Syrian Air Defenses Are First Targets if No-Fly Zone Established

A Syrian Air Force fighter jet launches missiles at El Edaa district in Syria's northwestern city of Aleppo, September 1, 2012.A Syrian Air Force fighter jet launches missiles at El Edaa district in Syria's northwestern city of Aleppo, September 1, 2012.
x
A Syrian Air Force fighter jet launches missiles at El Edaa district in Syria's northwestern city of Aleppo, September 1, 2012.
A Syrian Air Force fighter jet launches missiles at El Edaa district in Syria's northwestern city of Aleppo, September 1, 2012.
Rebels fighting Syrian government forces have been urging the West to establish a no-fly zone over the country, but are getting little international support.

Western defense experts see difficulties in a no-fly mission, including troubles securing the skies over Syria, as Syrian air defenses must first be destroyed.

A no-fly zone is defined as airspace in which certain aircraft, especially military ones - such as warplanes and helicopter gunships - are forbidden to fly.

During the past 20 years, international coalitions have imposed and enforced no-fly zones over Bosnia for two years in the mid-1990s, and over northern and southern Iraq spanning the years 1991 to 2003. And just last year, NATO was involved for seven months in an air campaign that supported rebels fighting to oust Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Now rebels fighting the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are calling for the establishment of a no-fly zone over Syria, but are getting scant global backing.

Syrian air defenses

Analysts said a difficult first step in implementing a no-fly zone would be to destroy the Syrian government’s air defense systems.

Retired Navy Captain Ben Renda, who flew aircraft patrolling the no-fly zone over northern Iraq in the late 1990s, said there are questions about the effectiveness of those Syrian defenses.

“There is a discussion about how robust Syrian IADs really are - the integrated air defenses,” he said. “How good the radars are? How good the surface-to-air missiles are and the anti-aircraft artillery systems? Are they integrated into the radars for detection and tracking? But in any case, regardless of what those fine points are, Syria is obviously much more capable than Libya,” said Renda.

Analysts said the bulk of Syria’s air defenses are either older Soviet models or more modern Russian systems. Moscow has been selling weapons to Damascus for decades.

Sean O’Connor, a military expert who writes for the British defense publication Jane’s, said many of Syria’s air defenses are fixed installations.

“Their main strength is simply the fact they have a lot of individual positions all over the country - mostly in the western half of the country,” he said, “because that is where most of the population is and that’s obviously where most of the threat to them would come from, be it from Israel in the south, Turkey in the north or from anyone trying to approach from the Mediterranean.”

Paul Smyth, a British defense expert and a former Royal Air Force navigator in a squadron that patrolled the no-fly zone in southern Iraq in the 1990s, said Syria also has more adaptable air defense weapons.

“The more modern, post-Soviet era, but still built in Russia, things like the SA-10, you are looking at mobile weapons, which are pretty capable and therefore a real concern because they have that combination of being able to move around the battlefield, and so pose a very direct threat to friendly air operations,” he said.

Syrian air power upgraded

Smyth also said over the years, Syria has upgraded its air defense systems, learning from its mistakes.

“You look at 2003 and again in 2007, the Israelis mounted surprise raids - one near Damascus in 2003 and another against an alleged nuclear facility in 2007. They did the raids ‘in and out’ without loss,” he said. “And no doubt that would have encouraged the Syrian air defense system to become a little bit better at what they do. And of course, although we may get mixed reports as to how good they are in reality, we can’t ignore the fact that only a couple of months ago, they shot down a Turkish air force jet, obviously off the coast,” said Smyth.

Defense analysts said concerns about the ability of the Syrian military in general and the air defense system in particular are one of the reasons why the international community has not fully supported the Syrian opposition groups.

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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
September 13, 2012 10:27 AM
/\ About your comment above...
You state:
"If the wet wants to go alone, then its an illegal war"
How can it be an illegal war when a previous dictator is killing his own people deliberately and destroying his own country, and should be hung for atrocities? That's not a war against a country, that is simply considered taking out a murderer who deserves a death sentence for crimes against his own people. Not a war against civillians, civillians want him remove by any way possible.


by: musawi melake from: ,
September 12, 2012 8:18 PM
IN those olden days, there was something called UN-backing for such undermining of sovereignty of a nation-state, so everything was easy including the twisting of resolution text to include what the west want, but in the present case, a UN-mandate will never be there, unless of course there major powers of the East are prevented from vetoing any resolution. If the wet wants to go alone, then its an illegal war and any measures can be taken by the Syrians. Even after getting elp to get rid of Assad, there's no way to secure American diplomats there in the future.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid