Monday, 8 August 2016

Photo Report: The Syrian Arab Air Defence Force

The Syrian Arab Air Defence Force, once a proud independent service of the Syrian Armed Forces, has suffered tremendously under the five-year long Civil War. While losing dozens of surface-to-air (SAM) and radar sites to the various factions fighting for control over Syria was already a serious blow to its capabilities, Syria's poor financial situation and the transfer of large numbers of personnel from the Syrian Arab Air Defence Force (SyAADF) to the Syrian Arab Army and National Defence Force effectively gave the killing blow to the SyAADF.
The following images were taken during a large-scale exercise involving all branches of the Syrian Armed Forces in 2012. This exercise was carried out amid an increasingly deteriorating security situation in Syria, leading to calls from the international world for an intervention similar to the one seen in Libya. In response, the Syrian Armed Forces launched a several day long exercise to show its strenght to the outside world.

The 9K317E Buk-M2E, which together with the Pantsir-S1 is the pride of what once was the Syrian Air Defence Force. The 9A317 transporter-erector-launcher and radar (TELAR), seen below, is capable of independent operations thanks to its 9S36 radar. Several of these systems are deployed around Damascus and Syria's coastal region. Although the arrival of highly modern air defence equipment from Russia was much anticipated after an Israeli airstrike on a suspected nuclear reactor in Deir ez-Zor in 2007, the newly arrived Buk-M2Es, Pantsir-S1s and Pechora-2Ms proved just as incapable of shooting down Israeli aircraft as the systems they replaced.

A 9M317 missile speeds off after having been launched from a 9A316 transporter-erector-launcher (TEL). The 9A316 carries four reloads instead of a radar, which means it's incapable of operating independently. Under normal circumstances, a Buk battalion consists of six TELARs and three TELs, which can be further divided into three batteries with two TELARs and one TEL each. Every battalion also included a target acquisition radar, a command vehicle and trucks carrying more reloads.

A Pantsir-S1 fires off one of its twelve 57E6 surface-to-air missiles. As with the Buk-M2E and Pechora-2M, these systems are mainly concentrated around Damascus and Syria's coastal region. In order to better blend in with their surroundings along the coast, many Pantsir-S1s have traded in their desert-environment finish for locally applied camouflage patterns.

The 2012 exercise provided the first visual confirmation of Syria operating the 9K35 Strela-10. Opposed to many other Strela-10 operators, Syria placed these systems around airbases instead of providing ground forces with a mobile SAM system. Although most 9K31 Strela-1s were placed into storage, all of Syria's 9K35 Strela-10s are still believed to be in active service.

Having never retired any SAM system, Syria continues to operate both the dual and quadruple S-125 launchers. The more modern quadruple variant is more common, and can be found located  throughout Syria. The dual launchers were mainly concentrated around Damascus, where one site was overrun by Jaish al-Islam in 2012.

In addition to operating both the dual and quadruple S-125 launchers, Syria also acquired several Pechora-2M surface-to-air missile batteries from Russia at the turn of the decade. This system combines a quadruple S-125 launcher (albeit with two missiles) on a Belarusian MZKT-8022 chassis, with greatly improved performance against enemy aircraft and cruise missiles. Several sites housing the Pechora-2M have been identified around Damascus and in Syria's coastal region, where they frequently relocate to different sites in order to keep an element of suprise.

Smoke rises as two 9M33 missiles are fired from a 9K33 Osa SAM system. While Syria already fielded the 9K33 in Lebanon during the eighties, the system was thrown into the spotlight after Jaish al-Islam captured several launchers in Eastern Ghouta in 2012. These 9K33s were then, and are still being used, to engage SyAAF helicopters flying over Jaish al-Islam held territory.

The 2K12 surface-to-air missile system gained legendary status while in service with Egypt during the 1973 October War (Yom Kippur War), which used them against the Israeli Air Force with great success. In fact, the system was so feared it quickly earned itself the nickname 'Three Fingers of Death'. The system was less successful in Syrian service however, and was completely outplayed along with the rest of the SyAADF and SyAAF during during Operation Mole Cricket 19 over Lebanon's Bekaa valley in 1982 and during Israeli Air Force raids into Syria over the past years.

An article covering what remains of the Syrian Arab Air Defence Force, its equipment and organizational structure will be published on this blog at a later date.

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Friday, 5 August 2016

Photo Report: The Syrian Arab Navy

The Syrian Arab Navy is without a doubt the least well known branch of the Syrian Armed Forces, largely due to its marginal role in the Syrian Civil War. It however operates an interesting mix of ships most of which already long retired by other naval forces around the world. This photo report shows various Syrian Arab Navy vessels and units that participated in the 2012 exercise. This exercise featured all branches of the Syrian Armed Forces and was aimed at showing the outside world Syria was a force to be reckoned with.
A Syrian Arab Navy Petya III class frigate, two of which remain in service. Although the largest combat capable vessels of the navy, the Petya III class was designed almost exclusively for anti-submarine warfare. As a result, the capabilities of these ships against anything other than submarines is marginal. This is worsened by the introduction of newer types of submarines by the Israeli Navy, which already renders these ships next to useless in their original role. While still officially operational, both ships spend most of their time rusting away at their pier in the port of Tartus.

The now de-facto disbanded Syrian Naval Infantry in front of the cadet training ship 'al-Assad'. This ship has a dual role of training future naval personnel and acting as a landing ship for the Syrian Naval Infantry, which then disembark and make their way to the coast in dinghies.

A Syrian Arab Air Force (SyAAF) Ka-28 performing a flyby over Syrian Naval Infantry. Four Ka-28s were delivered to the SyAAF in the late eighties to replace its aging Ka-25s. At least two examples were overhauled in the Ukraine shortly before the start of the Syrian Civil War. All four were previously based out of Hmeemeem/Bassel al-Assad IAP before diverting to a new heliport to make way for the Russian Air Force contingent arriving at Hmeemeem in September 2015.

The launching of a 4K44 Redut missile from its associated SPU-35V launcher. Syria operates several coastal defence systems (CDS), including the modern K-300P Bastion-P. These CDS's present the most modern systems in the Syrian Arab Navy, which largely had to do without new acquisitions over the past decades.

The Osa class missile boats still represents the mainstay of the Syrian Arab Navy. Together with the Korean People's Navy, Syria is the only remaining country to operate the Osa I class missile boat. The ship below is of the more advanced Osa II class however, which can be discerned from the Osa I by its tube-shaped launchers opposed to the box-shaped launchers of the Osa I.

Syrian Arab Navy personnel standing at attention. Unsurprisingly, the average age of navy personnel is much higher than seen in other branches of the Syrian Armed Forces. This age gap is likely to only grow larger as conscripts are almost exclusively drafted into the National Defence Force and what remains of the Syrian Arab Army since the start of the Civil War.

The most recent addition to the Syrian Arab Navy consists of six Iranian TIR II (IPS 18) missile boats delivered to Syria in 2006. Based on a North Korean design, these boats can be armed with two C-802s (or the Iranian-produced copy by the name of Noor) anti-ship missiles and normally operate out of Minat al-Bayda naval base located North of Lattakia.

This photo report is to be followed by an article covering the history, inventory and current status of the Syrian Arab Navy.

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Thursday, 4 August 2016

Photo Report: Syrian Armed Forces Calendar 2015

Although many military enthusiasts and analysts spend hours scrounging social media pages for any interesting images of Syrian Arab Army, Air Force or Navy equipment, it now appears that a wealth of never-before-seen images has been uploaded to the official page of the Syrian Armed Forces. Most of these images, taken over the past six years, have gone completely unnoticed to the general public.
While you can be sure to find plenty of articles with a better balance of visual content to text on this blog, the sheer amount of images, their high quality and the fact that most of the images were never seen before allow for an exception to the rule. We can only hope that more of such photo reports will released in the future.

We'll be kicking off with the Syrian Armed Forces Calendar for 2015, which, although little under two years late, still makes for an interesting bundle of high-definition images.













Special thanks to SyrianMilitaryCap from Syrian Military Capabilities.

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