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The Syrian Army

Frujin Assen

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Syrian Arab Army

The Mandate volunteer force formed in 1920 was established with the threat of Syrian-Arab nationalism in mind. Although the unit's officers were originally all French, it was, in effect, the first indigenous modern Syrian army. In 1925 the unit was designated the Levantine Special Forces (Troupes Spéciales du Levant). In 1941, the force participated in a futile resistance to the British and Free French invasion that ousted the Vichy French from Syria. After the Allied takeover, the army came under the control of the Free French and was designated the Levantine Forces (Troupes du Levant).

French Mandate authorities maintained a gendarmerie to police Syria's vast rural areas. This paramilitary force was used to combat criminals and political foes of the Mandate government. As with the Levantine Special Forces, French officers held the top posts, but as Syrian independence approached, the ranks below major were gradually filled by Syrian officers who had graduated from the Military Academy at Homs, which had been established by the French during the 1930s. In 1938 the Troupes Spéciales numbered around 10,000 men and 306 officers (of whom 88 were French, mainly in the higher ranks). A majority of the Syrian troops were of rural background and minority ethnic origin (mainly Alawis, Druzes, Kurds, and Circassians). By the end of 1945, the army numbered about 5,000 and the gendarmerie some 3,500. In April 1946, the last French officers left Syria; the Levantine Forces then became the regular armed forces of the newly independent state and grew rapidly to about 12,000 by the time of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the first of four Arab-Israeli wars between 1948 and 1986 (not counting the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon).

The vast majority of manpower for the armed forces came from male conscription, which has been compulsory and universal (only the small Jewish community is exempted) since 1946 and was officially reaffirmed by the Service of the Flag Law in 1953. Females are not required to serve, although some do; however, they play more a public relations than a military role. Males must register for the draft at 18; each year around 125,000 reach 19, which is when the 30-month conscription period begins. In 1985 it was estimated that of the country's population of over 10 million, 1.25 million were males fit for military service.

Before the rise to power of the Baath Party in 1963, middle and upper class youths, who have rarely been attracted to military service, were often exempted from conscription on payment of a fee. Since then, this practice has been eliminated, although youths living abroad in Arab countries continued to be exempted on payment of a fee set by law. University students were exempted, but many attended military training camps during the summer, and all were obligated to do military service upon completion of their studies. Observers stated that those conscripted in the mid-1980s represented a broad cross section of society.

Conscripts faced a series of options in the Syrian Army. After completion of his period of conscription, a man could enlist for five years in the regular service or, if he chose not to enlist, he would serve as a reservist for eighteen years. If he enlisted and became a noncommissioned officer during his fiveyear service, he could become a professional noncommissioned officer. A volunteer who did not attain noncommissioned officer status could reenlist but was automatically discharged after fifteen years of service or upon reaching age forty. A professional noncommissioned officer was retired at age fortyfive or, at his own request, after twenty years of service.

Conscripts and enlisted men generally lacked mechanical and technical skills, although beginning in the 1970s the number of conscripts who had completed the six years of primary school increased dramatically, as did the number of secondary and vocational school graduates. The rugged rural origin of most conscripts has conditioned them to endure hardship and accept strict discipline. Military service has given most recruits the opportunity to improve their health and, because they receive technical training during most of their active duty, to leave the service with a marketable skill.

Officers have tended to be less representative of the general society than conscripts, primarily because of the high degree of politicization of the officer corps. Although officers were not required to join the Baath Party, membership was a crucial factor for advancement to flag rank.

In addition to political loyalty, the officer corps was characterized by the dominance of the Alawi and Druze minorities, a condition dating from the French Mandate policy of recruiting these and other minority groups into the colonial military forces. Although many of the officers were Sunni Muslim, most of the key senior posts were held by Alawis.

In 1987, the army was overwhelmingly the dominant service. In addition to its control of the seniormost posts in the armed forces' establishment, the army had the largest manpower, approximately 80 percent of the combined services. In 1985 army regulars were estimated at 396,000, with an additional 300,000 reserves. The army had nine divisional formations. The major development in force organization was establishment of an additional divisional framework based on the special forces and organization of ground formations into two corps. The army's active manpower served in two all-arms army corps, five armored divisions (with one independent armored brigade), three mechanized divisions, one infantry-special forces division, and ten airborne-special forces independent brigades.

In addition to being the largest, the army was the best equipped of the three services, with over 4,100 Soviet-built tanks (including 1,000 of the advanced T-72's) and a formidable air defense system of SAM batteries and myriad antiaircraft guns and artillery. In 1987, Syria was scheduled to receive 500 new Soviet SS-23 ballistic missiles with a range of 500 kilometers. Syria was also reported to have begun producing its own chemical weapons, including nerve gases, with the capability to use the chemical agents in missile warheads. The Air Defense Command, within the Army Command, but also composed of Air Force personnel, numbered approximately 60,000. It served in twenty air defense brigades (with approximately ninety-five SAM batteries) and two air defense regiments. The Air Defense Command had command access to interceptor aircraft and radar facilities. Air defenses included SA-5 long-range SAM batteries around Damascus and Aleppo, with additional SA-6 and SA-8 mobile SAM units deployed along Syria's side of the Lebanese border and in eastern Lebanon, and short-range SS-21 surface-to-surface missiles with conventional warheads. The 1,800-man Border Guard (sometimes designated as Desert Guard or Frontier Force) was also under Army Command and responsible for patrolling the nation's vast border areas.

The Syrian army is organized into three corps with six to seven armored divisions, three mechanized divisions, a special forces division, and one Republican Guard division. The armored divisions each have three armored brigades, one mechanized infantry brigade and one division artillery regiment comprised of four battalions. The mechanized divisions each have two armored brigades, two mechanized brigades and a division artillery regiment also comprised of four battalions.

A typical armored division numbers roughly 8,000 soldiers and a mechanized division may include 11,000 personnel.

The special forces division has three regiments. It is not clear if a formal divisional headquarters exists or if for the sake of simplicity the three regiments have just been lumped together.

The Republican Guard armored division is comprised of three armored brigades a division artillery regiment.

The Syrian Army also has a parachute division with seven brigades.

A coastal defense brigade supports naval forces in defending against threats from the sea. It is equipped with SS-C-1Bs and SSC-3 surface-to-surface missiles.

Three surface-to-surface missile brigades are each comprised of one FROG-7 battalion, a Scud-B/C battalion and a SS-21 battalion. Syria's total inventory of SSM is estimated to include some 18 FROG-7s, 18 SS-21s, and 26 Scud Bs and Cs.

Finally, there are several independent units including a tank regiment, four infantry brigades, two anti-tank brigades, two artillery brigades and ten special forces regiments.

In 2002, the Syrian army has roughly 215,000 soldiers. The generall readiness and effectiveness of the Syrian Army is fairly low despite the generally good readiness of its special forces, roughly two armored divisions, one mechanized division and the Republican Guard division. Syria has a significant quantity of armor numbering some 4,700 tanks, though 1,200 are placed in static defensive positions and another 2,000 are T-55s and T-62s. Syria does however have some 1,700 T-72/72Ms.

Virtually all of Syria armored reconnaissance vehicles (600 BRDM-2s and 125 BRDM-2 RKHs) are out-dated as is their 2,000 BMP-1s, though the 200-350 BMP-2s and BMP-3s are more modern.

Syria's artillery capability is significant, as it is armed with 122mm Type 2S1s and 152mm 2S3s. Its towed artillery is comprised mostly of 122mm, 130mm and 152mm weapons. Its multiple rocket launcher inventory consists of Type 63 107mm and BM-21 122mms. According to Anthony Cordesman Syria relies principally on static massed fires and is unable to rapidly shift fires. Accuracy beyond line of site is also lacking as their ability to maneuver and exploit counterbattery radars and targeting systems.

Syria's reserve forces include one armored division comrpised of four armored brigades, two armored regiments, 31 infantry regiments and three artillery regiments.

Syria currently has roughly 18,000 soldiers in Lebanon with units in Beirut, Metn, Bekaa Valley, Tripoli, Batrum and Kafr Kalous. These forces are comprised of one mechanized division headquarters (in Bekaa Valley), four mechanized brigades (1 in Beirut, 1 in Metn, 2 in Bekaa Valley), one armored brigade in Bekaa Valley, roughly ten special forces regiments or elements of regiments deployed to Beirut (5), Tripoli (1), Batrum (1), and Kafr Kalous (3).

Редактирано от Warlord
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Syrian Arab Air Force

The Syrian Air Force was established in 1948 upon the graduation of the first class of Syrian pilots from British flight schools. It is tasked with military air operations and ground-based air defense.

The Air Force, which was independent of Army Command, consisted of about 100,000 regular and 37,500 reserve officers and men. In 1985 its 9 fighter-ground attack squadrons and an estimated 15 interceptor squadrons totaled approximately 650 combat aircraft. Almost all combat planes were Soviet manufactured and included 50 MiG-25 and MiG-25R (Foxbat) interceptors and nearly 200 MiG-23S/U (Flogger) and Su-17 FitterK ground-attack and multirole aircraft. In 1986 there were reports that the Soviet Union had agreed to provide Syria at least two squadrons of the advanced supersonic MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter aircraft equipped with top-of-the-line avionics. The air force was equipped with approximately ninety attack helicopters of the Mi-24/Mi-25 Hind and SA-342 Gazelle types. As part of an effort to upgrade its command-and-control network, the air force was reported to have the Tu-126 (Moss) AWACS.

Military airfields are located in Abu-a-Dhur, Aleppo, Blay, Damascus (international), Damascus (Al Mazzah), Dayr az Zawr, Dumayr, As Suwayda, As West, Hamah, Kamishly, Khalkhalah, Latakia, Marj Ruhayyil, Messe, An Nasiriyah, Neirab, Quasayr, Rasin el About, Shayrat, Tabqa, Tiyas, Tadmur, Sayqal, and T-4 (located on the oil pipeline).

During the Israel's Operation Peace for Galilee in 1982 Israeli aircraft struck Syrian surface-to-air missiles, resulting in the destruction of nineteen sites and the damaging of four. Israeli aerial mastery was confirmed in the skies over the Biqa Valley. At the conclusion of the first week of the war, after the participation of approximately 100 combat planes on each side, a total of 86 Syrian MiG-21, MiG-23, and Sukhoi-22 aircraft had been shot down with no Israeli losses.

When Syrian fighter aircraft scrambled to prevent Israeli aircraft flying over eastern Lebanon in November 1985, two Syrian MiG-23s were shot down in Syrian airspace. Syria responded by deploying mobile SA-6 and SA-8 SAMs into eastern Lebanon and by setting up SA-2 sites along its border with Lebanon. Thereafter, the potential for rapid escalation in Syrian-Israeli hostilities became a source of concern on both sides. Following the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, Syrian influence and control expanded to eastern Lebanon and the Biqa Valley, where Syria maintained about two divisions; about six divisions were redeployed in the Damascus-Golan Heights region.

Throughout the rest of the 1980s and into the 1990s Syria's Air Force experienced difficulties keeping its aircraft operational and providing sufficient flight hours for pilots. Syria was able to recently acquire Russian 14 Su-27Sks. The bulk of Syria's Air Force is comprised of Su-22s, MiG-23s and MiG-21s. The number of more modern aircraft is rather small, with only 20 Su-24s, possibly 14 MiG-29 SMTs, some 25 MiG-25s and 22 MiG-29s.

The Air Force is organized into ten to eleven fighter/attack squadrons, sixteen fighter squadrons, two transport squadrons, and one training group. At full strength the Air Force numbers some 60,000 personnel when all reserves are activated and only 40,000 on a regular basis.

While the Air Force's size makes it one of the largest air forces in the Middle East, from a qualitative perspective Syria's tactics used during exercises indicate poor planning with regards to close air support and interdiction.

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1 Squadron [MiG-25]

5 Squadron [MiG-25]

7 Squadron [MiG-25]

8 Squadron [MiG-21]

10 Squadron [MiG-21]

12 Squadron [MiG-21]

54 Squadron [MiG-23]

77 Squadron [MiG-23]

565 Squadron [Yak-40]

575 Squadron [Das Fal 20]

585 Squadron [Tu-134]

675 Squadron [MiG-23]

677 Squadron [su-22]

678 Squadron [MiG-23]

679 Squadron [MiG-21]

680 Squadron [MiG-21]

685 Squadron [su-22]

695 Squadron [MiG-23]

697 Squadron [MiG-23]

698 Squadron [MiG-23]

699 Squadron [MiG-29]

819 Squadron [su-24]

825 Squadron [MiG-21]

826 Squadron [su-27]

827 Squadron [su-22]

945 Squadron [MiG-21]

946 Squadron [MiG-21]

4 FTS [Mi-8]

253 Squadron [Mi-8]

255 Squadron [Mi-8]

525 Squadron [Mi-8]

532 Squadron [Mi-8]

537 Squadron [Mi-2/Mi-8]

765 Squadron [Mi-24]

766 Squadron [Mi-24]

767 Squadron [Mi-24]

909 Squadron [Mi-8]

976 Squadron [sA-34]

977 Squadron [sA-34]

2 Squadron [L-39]

3 FTS [L-39]

522 Squadron [An-24/An-26/Il-76]

618 Squadron [Navy

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Syrian Arab Navy

In 1950 the Syrian Navy was established following the procurement of a few naval craft from France. The initial personnel consisted of army soldiers who had been sent tp French academies of naval training.

In 1985 the navy consisted of approximately 4,000 regular and 2,500 reserve officers and men. The navy, lacking parity with the other services, was under the army's Latakia regional command. The fleet was based in the ports of Latakia, Baniyas, Minat al Bayda, and Tartus. Among the 41 vessel fleet were 2 or 3 Soviet submarines (including 2 Romeo-type diesel-electric submarines, transferred by the Soviet Navy in 1985), 22 missile attack craft (including 10 advanced Osa II missile boats), 2 submarine chasers, 4 mine warfare vessels, 8 gunboats, 6 patrol craft, 4 missile corvettes (on order), 3 landing craft (on order), 1 torpedo recovery vessel and, as part of its coastal defense system, Sepal shore-to-sea missiles with a range of 300 kilometers.

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Syrian Airfields

Name ICAO Type Latitude Longitude Runway ft. Elevation ft.

ABU AD DUHOR / ABU A-DHUR OS MIL 36.400 38.200

AFIS OS MIL 35.900 36.800

AL QUSAYR OS CIV / MIL 34.569 36.573 10000 1768

ALEPPO INTL / NAYRAB-ALEPPO OSAP CIV / MIL 36.181 37.224 9547 1276

AN NASIRIYAH OS CIV / MIL 33.918 36.866 9847 2760

AS SUWAYDA WEST / ES SUWEIDAYA OS CIV / MIL 32.706 36.412 9868 2460

BASEL AL ASSAD INTL OSLK CIV 35.401 35.949 9177 157

DAMASCUS INTL OSDI CIV / MIL 33.413 36.517 11810 2020

DEIR ZZOR OSDZ CIV / MIL 35.285 40.176 11000 700

DUMAYR OS CIV / MIL 33.610 36.749 10335 2060

HAMAH OS CIV / MIL 35.118 36.711 9232 1014

JIRAH OS CIV / MIL 36.097 37.937 10180 1145

KAMISHLY OSKL CIV / MIL 37.024 41.194 9022 1480

KHALKHALAH OS CIV / MIL 33.061 36.553 9925 2310


MARJ RUHAYYIL OS CIV / MIL 33.285 36.458 9820 2190

MARJ AS SULTAN OS MIL 33.483 36.466

MEZZE / DIMASHQ-MEZZE OS CIV / MIL 33.478 36.226 8258 2407

MINAKH OS CIV / MIL 36.521 37.038 4773 1635

PALMYRA OSPR CIV 34.557 38.317 9449 1322

QABR AS SITT OS MIL 33.433 36.333

RASIN EL ABOUD OS CIV / MIL 36.187 37.583 8305 1207

SAYQAL / SAIQAL OS CIV / MIL 33.682 37.214 9820 2300

SHAYRAT OS CIV / MIL 34.492 36.910 9843 2726

TABQA OS CIV / MIL 35.755 38.567 9842 1050

TIYAS OS CIV / MIL 34.523 37.631 10410 1805


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