Before the civil war in the Syrian Arab Republic (ATS), this country had a fairly strong air defense system built on Soviet patterns. It relied on a network of surveillance radar stations (RLS) with a continuous radar field over the entire territory of the country. The tasks of hitting air targets and protecting strategically important targets were assigned to the fighter Aviation and anti-aircraft missile troops. The air defense of the Syrian ground forces was provided by numerous mobile anti-aircraft missile systems (SAM), anti-aircraft self-propelled guns (ZSU), as well as batteries of towed anti-aircraft guns. The units of the Syrian army were characterized by a high saturation of man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), which increased the combat stability of the troops and made low-altitude flights of Israeli aviation a very risky task.
In the 21 century, the Syrian air force had mainly obsolete aircraft fleet, most of the Syrian fighters were built in the USSR in the 70-80-e years. As of 2012, air defense tasks could carry out approximately 180 combat aircraft. At the same time, the combat value of heavily worn, not upgraded MiG-21bis, MiG-23МФ / MLD and MiG-25П fighters was low. These old machines could no longer conduct air combat on equal terms with the Israeli Air Force. The MiG-29 fighter jets, the deliveries of which began in the 1987 year, have the greatest potential in carrying out tasks for the destruction of air targets. In total, the Syrian air force has about 40 capable MiG-29. Unlike other types of combat aircraft, the twenty-ninths suffered the least casualties. The command of the Syrian air force has kept them, since only these relatively modern fighters have the greatest potential for air combat. Previously, the media published information on the modernization of part of the Syrian MiG-29, but there is reason to believe that the modernization disguised the delivery of MiG-29М, ordered by Damascus back in 2000.
Syrian MiG-23 over Aleppo
After the beginning of the civil war, which quickly covered almost the entire territory of the country, from 2012, the combat aircraft of the Syrian Air Force began to be actively involved in attacking the positions of the rebels. In four years, about 50% of Syrian military aircraft was lost. However, the number of shot down during the fighting does not exceed 10-15% of the total number of fighters lost. A number of technically armed but fully exhausted MiG-21 and MiG-23 were captured and destroyed by the insurgents at the airfields. The main reduction of the Syrian air force fleet was due to the lack of spare parts, repairs and wear and tear. Many aircraft were subjected to "cannibalism" - that is, went for parts for other winged cars. Due to poor-quality service, many fighters died in flight accidents.
Google Earth snapshot: Syrian MiG-29 fighters at Damascus airfield
Nevertheless, the Syrian air force, under very difficult conditions, continue to fight. Practically all the fighters capable of carrying out combat missions were concentrated in the central and western part of the country, on airfields in the Damascus region, Homs, near Palmyra, Aleppo, Deir-ez-Zor and Lattakia.
At the beginning of the 2000-s, the Syrian leadership planned to upgrade its air force with the help of Russia - in particular, the Syrian military was interested in heavy fighters of the Su-27 / Su-30 family. But, unfortunately, due to the difficult financial situation and the internal armed conflict that began in the SAR, these plans did not materialize. In the near future, the Syrian air force fleet will be further reduced due to the cancellation of most of the extremely worn-out fighters. Expected delivery of training aircraft Yak-130 and fighter MiG-29M. But this will not significantly increase the capacity to intercept air targets, and Syria will not be able to protect its air borders with the help of the Air Force in the near future.
Prior to 2011, in terms of the number of medium-range and long-range air defense missile launchers, the Syrian air defense forces in the Middle East region could not be compared. But mostly they were complexes made back in the Soviet Union, whose age overcame the 25 summer milestone. Realizing the importance of defenses against air attack, the Syrian leadership, despite its modest financial resources, allocated resources to improve and maintain the proper level of combat readiness of air defense forces. Thanks to the maintenance and repair base created with the help of the USSR, the Syrian anti-aircraft systems, despite their advanced age, were maintained in good technical condition and in a fairly high degree of combat readiness. In Syria, repair and restoration enterprises and control and check points operated without interruption until 2011. On this infrastructure, technical measures of “minor modernization” and reconditioning of the hardware of the complexes were regularly carried out, anti-aircraft missiles were serviced in specially created arsenals.
The location and affected areas of the Syrian air defense systems "Square", C-125М / С-125М1А, С-75М / М3 and С-200ВЭ as of 2010 year
According to the data provided by the Military Balance, there were 25 brigades and two separate air defense regiments in Syria. Both anti-aircraft missile regiments are armed with long-range air defense systems C-200VE. Of the 25, the 11 anti-aircraft missile brigades are mixed; they are armed with the C-75М / М3 and С-125М / М1А / 2М stationary air defense missile systems. The 11 brigades are still armed with self-propelled Kvadrat and Buk-MXNUME anti-aircraft complexes. Three more brigades are armed with self-propelled short-range air defense systems "Osa-AKM" and air defense systems "Pantsir-C2".
From 1974 to 1987, the 52 C-75М and С-75М3 and 1918 ЗУР В-755 / В-759 were delivered to the CAP. Despite its advanced age, until the outbreak of the civil war, the seventy-fifty was operated approximately in the 30 anti-aircraft missile divisions (sdn).
Google Earth snapshot: C-75 air defense system position in the vicinity of Tartus
In the first half of the 80-x for compensation of losses incurred during the next conflict with Israel, and giving the Syrian air defense great opportunities from the USSR were delivered long-range air defense systems C-200В. Initially, long-range complexes were serviced and controlled by Soviet calculations. After approaching radars (ROCs) began to take in the approaching Israeli planes, the activity of the Israeli air force in the area dropped sharply.
Google Earth snapshot: C-200 position in the vicinity of Tartus
From 1984 to 1988, Syria received the 8 complexes C-200VE and 144 ZUR V-880E. These air defense missile systems were deployed in positions around Damascus, Homs and Tartus. All the Syrian C-200BE before 2011, were in a technically good condition and were involved in combat duty.
SPU Syrian air defense missile system С-125-2М “Pechora-2М”
Before the collapse of the USSR, in the framework of military-technical cooperation, the Syrian air defense forces received 47 air defense missile systems С-125М / С-125М1А and 1820 В-601ПД missiles. A few years ago, a part of the most recent low-altitude complexes went through modernization in Russia to the C-125-2М “Pechora-2М” level, which made it possible to extend the resource and significantly increase the combat potential. 17 March 2015 of the American UAV MQ-1 was shot down in Syrian airspace by a C-125 missile.
As of 2010 year in the armed forces of the SAR operated about 160 mobile launcher of the Kvadrat. This complex, which is the export version of the Soviet troop ZUB "Kub", very well manifested itself during the Arab-Israeli war "Doomsday" in 1973 and in the fighting in the Bekaa Valley in 1982. At the end of the 80-x Syrian "Squares" have been upgraded, in particular, in addition to improvements aimed at improving the reliability, it was possible to increase the noise immunity. But with all its past achievements and merits, at the moment, the Kvadrat air defense system is certainly outdated.
Taking into account the fact that the complex included one self-propelled installation of intelligence and guidance (SURN) and four self-propelled launchers (SPU), only in Syria, until recently, there were 40 batteries of the Kvadrat SAM system. The presence of such a number of capable and serviceable complexes, given the fact that the production of this type of air defense system was completed in the 1983 year, raises great doubts. At the same time, according to information provided by SIPRI, in Syria as of 2012, there were 27 Kvadrat anti-aircraft missile batteries. Perhaps the remaining 13 batteries are air defense missiles, which have developed their own life and transferred to “storage”.
At the beginning of 2016, information appeared in the media about the capture by IG fighters in the vicinity of Dair-ez-Zor SURN 1С91 and SPU 2П25 with ZUR 3М9. In this regard, there were concerns that if they fell into the hands of terrorists, the air defense system could be a danger to military aircraft of the Russian Federation Air Force, operating in the SAR. However, to work on any air defense system requires trained specialists, of whom there are not many Islamists. Subsequently, the Russian military aviation actively worked in this area and, most likely, elements of the captured air defense system were destroyed or disabled. In any case, more photos of the captured anti-aircraft complex in the network has not been published.
At the beginning of the 80-x Syria received a Osa-AKM self-propelled short-range air defense systems with radio-command missiles. For the first time, Osa-AKM anti-aircraft guns took part in 1982 fighting during a confrontation with Israel in the Bekaa Valley.
Accurate data on the number of Syrian air defense systems "Osa" could not be found, in different sources, their number ranges from 60 to 80. Probably, this number includes the Strela-10 air defense missile system on the MT-LB light-armored tractor chassis with missiles equipped with thermal homing heads. Osa-AKM and Strela-10 short-range air defense missile systems, unlike Kvadrat, are capable of independently searching and firing air targets, although the range and altitude of the targets they hit is much smaller compared to Kvadrat.
According to the Military Balance, Syria acquired 18 self-propelled medium-range SAM systems Buk-M2E and 160 SAM 9М317 to replace the outdated Kvadrat air defense systems. The complexes and missiles were transferred to the Syrians in the period from 2010 to 2013.
Compared with the “Kvadrat” air defense system, in the export upgraded version of the “Buk” the area of destruction was significantly increased, the speed and number of simultaneously fired targets, as well as the possibility of combating tactical missiles. In contrast to the SPU 2P25 complex "Kvadrat" self-propelled fire installation (SOU) 9А317Е complex "Buk-М2Е" due to the presence of radar with PAR, is able to conduct independent search and destruction of air targets.
Another Russian novelty in Syria’s air defense units is the Pantsir-C1E air defense missile system. Deliveries of this complex to the Syrian army began in 2008, as part of the 2006 contract of the year. Total Syria in the period from 2008 to 2011. 36 complexes and 700 XUR 9М311 were transmitted. It is believed that the Turkish reconnaissance aircraft RF-1E was destroyed by the fire of the Syrian air defense missile system Pantsir-C22E 2012 on June 4.
To create a layered multi-level air defense system, the Syrian leadership ordered long-range air defense missiles in Russia with the C-300PMU-2 Favorit. She was supposed to work in conjunction with modern complexes "Pantsir-C1E" and "Buk-M2E" and provide effective defense on long-range borders. The upgraded “three-hundred” was intended to replace the outdated long-range air defense systems C-200VE with single-channel liquid-based missiles. However, in the 2012 year, for not quite clear reasons, the contract already concluded and executed by Russian enterprises was canceled.
In addition to fixed and mobile complexes, according to reference data, in Syria there are about 4000 MANPADS "Strela-2M", "Strela-3" and "Igla". Although the Strela-2 / 3 MANPADS no longer meet modern noise immunity requirements due to their multiplicity, they still pose a threat to low-altitude air targets. The number of heat traps on a combat aircraft or helicopter is limited and at the required time they can simply be spent, and by and large it does not matter how many years the rocket hit the modern aircraft. As is known, the Soviet weapon It has a very large margin of safety and enviable longevity. The weak point of all MANPADS is special disposable power supply elements, the shelf life of which is limited. But this is a completely solvable problem. For example, Iranian specialists were able to reanimate American Stinger MANPADS, bought out from the Afghan Mujahideen. In any case, the maintenance of Soviet portable complexes in working condition requires much less effort and cost.
In addition to air defense systems, MANPADS and air defense missiles to the beginning of the armed confrontation with the Islamists in Syria there were very significant stocks of anti-aircraft guns and shells to them. Before the outbreak of an internal armed conflict, more than 4000, 23, 37, 57 and 100-mm anti-aircraft installations were located in the Syrian army units and in warehouses.
Perhaps the biggest threat from the Syrian anti-aircraft artillery systems to air attack weapons is the Shilka anti-aircraft self-propelled gun ZSU-23-4. The Shilka uses four rapid-firing 23-mm assault rifles with forced liquid cooling as weapons, the ZSU is protected by anti-bullet armor 9-15 mm thick.
“Shilki” have performed very well in a number of Arab-Israeli conflicts. Because of the effective 23-mm ZSU fire, Israeli combat aircraft were forced to go to a great height, where they were fired by anti-aircraft missiles. Shilka also proved to be a very effective means of fighting the Israeli Cobra AN-1 combat helicopters. As practice has shown, those caught at a distance of up to 2000 m under fire from ZSU helicopters had little chance of being saved.
Currently, “on the move” in Syria there are about 50 such anti-aircraft installations. Most of them are actively involved in hostilities, supporting infantry units with heavy fire, destroying the insurgents' manpower and fire points. To increase security on the “Shilka” in Syria, they hang up additional armor or simply put over bags and boxes filled with sand, this is due to the great vulnerability of the lightly armored anti-aircraft self-propelled gun.
ZSU-23-4 Shilka in Aleppo
The Syrian army is also armed with a twin towed 23-mm ZU-23 anti-aircraft guns. Very often, the warring parties install them on various vehicles and use them as modern wheelchairs. In the same role, albeit in smaller quantities, 37-mm anti-aircraft guns 61-K and 57-mm C-60 are used. In battles for firing at ground targets, quite rare 100-mm anti-aircraft guns of the KS-19 were noted at the moment, all of them in the 2010 year in the Syrian army had 25 units.
The civil war in Syria had a negative impact on the state of the air defense system of this country. Much of the Syrian air defense system was destroyed as a result of artillery and mortar shelling or captured by the rebels. First of all, it refers to stationary, and, therefore, the most vulnerable: С-75М / М3, С-200ВЭ and not upgraded С-125М / С-125М1А.
SAM-759, destroyed on the launcher in the area of Aleppo
As well as military aviation, the Syrian air defense forces suffered heavy losses. More than half of the anti-aircraft complexes deployed previously in stationary positions are not capable at the moment. Operation of an air defense system with liquid missiles, even in peacetime, is rather complicated. For refueling and maintenance of missiles, a special technical position and well-prepared calculations are required. Those Syrian complexes that were not captured and destroyed by militants were mostly evacuated and stored in military bases and airfields controlled by government forces.
Google Earth snapshot: position of С-125-2М in Latakia
The exceptions are the ZRK deployed in areas consistently controlled by the Syrian government forces. As of the end of 2015, the existing anti-aircraft complexes were under Damascus, in Lattakia and in Tartus. In general, the Syrian air defense forces do not control their own airspace. In addition, directly to the losses of anti-aircraft missile systems, during the civil war, the radio-technical units suffered a great deal of damage, which are, in fact, the "eyes" of anti-aircraft missile forces and fighter aircraft. Prior to the outbreak of hostilities in Syria, 50 radar and radio altimeters: 5Н84А, П-18, П-19, П-37, ПРВ-13 and ПРР-16 were involved in covering the air situation and issuing target designation to interceptors and air defense missiles. In November, 2015, of which no more than 20% acted. Those radars that were not destroyed and were not damaged, as well as the air defense system, were evacuated to safe places. In a country torn apart by internal conflict, it was quite predictable that the centralized control system was destroyed, many control centers, communication centers, radio relay and cable lines were destroyed. Syria’s air defense system at the moment, devoid of centralized control, has a pronounced limited focal character and has numerous gaps. Since 2007, the Israeli Air Force used these gaps. Syrian air borders in the north-west of the country are particularly vulnerable. 5 is known for Israeli air attacks, including against the capital Damascus. During attacks on targets located in the suburbs of Damascus, Israeli F-15I fighter-bombers used Popeye cruise missiles.
Regular Israeli air strikes continued until the arrival of the aviation group of the Russian HQs at the Hmeimim airbase. In November 2015, in the area after the destruction of our Su-24M by the Turkish Air Force, the Russian C-400 and ZRPK Pantsir-C1 were deployed. Russian military aviation operating in the SAR at the invitation of the country's legitimate leadership not only facilitated the transition of the initiative on the ground to government forces, but also strengthened the inviolability of Syrian airspace.