Syrian Air Defense Force

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Syrian Arab Air Defence Force
Arabic: قوات الدفاع الجوي العربي السوري
Emblem of the SyADF
Founded1969; 55 years ago (1969)[a]
Country Syria
TypeAir defense
RoleAerial warfare
Size21,000 (active)[1]
15,000 (reserve)[2]
Part of Syrian Armed Forces
HeadquartersDamascus, Syria
Motto(s)Homeland, Honour, Sincerity! (Military)
Unity, Freedom, Socialism! (National)
ColoursBlue, Green
Anniversaries16 October
Commander-in-ChiefMarshal Bashar al-Assad
Minister of DefenceLieutenant General Ali Mahmoud Abbas
Chief of Air Defence StaffMajor General Ali Tawfiq Samra
InsigniaMilitary ranks of Syria
Flag of the Syrian Air Defence Force

The Syrian Air Defence Force (SyADF or SADF), officially the Syrian Arab Air Defence Force (SyAADF or SAADF; Arabic: قوات الدفاع الجوي العربي السوري) is an independent command within the Syrian Armed Forces. It is responsible for protecting the Syrian airspace against any hostile air attacks. [3][4] The SyADF is one of the most powerful and combat-tested Air Defence forces in the region.[3]

It has been merged into and then separated from both the Syrian Arab Army and the Syrian Arab Air Force. The Syrian Air Defence Force controls four Air Defence corps, eleven Air Defence divisions and thirty-six Air Defence brigades, each with six surface-to-air missile battalions.[5] Since 2017, it has been linked to a joint Russian-Syrian command.[3]

Soviet officers of the 231st Anti-Aircraft Missile Regiment at the Syrian S-200VE Vega-E complex, circa 1983

It is equipped with 650 static S-75 Dvina, S-125 Neva/Pechora and S-200 launchers, 300 mobile 2K12 Kub, Pantsir S-1 and Buk launchers and over 4,000 anti-aircraft guns ranging from 23mm to 100mm in calibre (e.g. ZSU-23-4 Shilka).[6] There are also two independent 9K33 Osa SAM regiments, each with four batteries of 48 mobile SAMs. An unknown number of S-300 system were delivered to Syria in 2018.[7]

A large number of Iranian Air Defence systems were delivered to the country in 2021: Mersad, Khordad-3, Bavar-373 and Khordad-15 systems.[8][9]

The Syrian early warning system comprises Long Track; P-12 Spoon Rest; P-14 Tall King; H-15 Flat Face; P-18 Spoon Rest; P-19; P-30 Big Mesh; P-35 Bar Lock; P-80 Back Net; YLC-6 Radar; JY-27; JYL-1; PRV-13; PRV-16 Thin Skin; Alborz[10] mobile and static radar sites throughout Syria.[11][12]

Current structure and organization[edit]

Part of a Syrian 2K12 Kub ground-to-air missile site built near the Beirut-Damascus highway and overlooking the Bekaa Valley, in early 1982 during the 1982 Lebanon War.
  • Including:[13]
  • Self-propelled
    • 62 batteries:
      • 11 teams - 27 batteries - SA-6 Gainful (PU SAM 2K12 Square);
      • 14 Battery - SA-8 Gecko (PU SAM 9K33 Osa);
      • 12 Battery - SA-22 Greyhound (96K6 Pantsyr S1E);
      • 9 Battery - Buk-M2
  • Towed
    • 11 teams - 60 batteries with SA-2 Guideline (CP-75 Dvina / S-75M Volga) and SA-3 Goa (S-125 Neva / S-125M Pechora) (Being upgraded);
  • Two SAM regiments with SA-5 Gammon(in each brigade to 2 divisions for 2 batteries each).
    • Four SAM battalions
      • Eight Static/Shelter SAM batteries
  • Two independent SAM Regiments
    • Four SAM batteries with SA-8


Towed and self-propelled air defence systems[edit]

Gear Country of Origin In Service Type Comments
Bavar-373 Iran Unknown Long Range Mobile SAM Sayyad-4B missile. Delivered in 2022.[8][9]
Khordad-3 Iran Unknown Mid- Range Mobile SAM Taer 2 and Sayad missile. Delivered between 2019 and 2022.[8]
Khordad-15 Iran Unknown Long Range Mobile SAM Sayyad-3 missile. Delivered between 2019 and 2021.[8][9]
Mersad Iran Unknown Short- to Mid- Range Mobile SAM Shahin missile. Delivered between 2019 and 2021.[8][9]
S-300 Missile System Russia 24[14] Long Range Mobile SAM 24 delivered in October 2018. PMU-2 Favorit variant.[15]
Buk-M2E Missile System Russia Up to 40[16][17] + 20 Buk-M1-2s.[18] Mid-Range Mobile SAM Up to 36 believed to be delivered before 2011. Additional units delivered in 2018.[19]
Buk-M1-2 Missile System USSR 20[18] Mid-Range Mobile SAM Additional delivered in 2011.[20]
Tor-M1 Missile System Russia N/A Short-Range Mobile SAM Modified Tor-M1 "Dezful" variant. Supplied by Iran in 2018.[21]
Pantsir S-1 Russia 57+[22] (+10 Pantsir S-2)[23] Short-Range Mobile SAM 40 delivered up until 2017. Additional units delivered in 2018. One unit destroyed by an Israeli airstrike in 2018. Two more destroyed in an Israeli air strike in January 2019.[24]
Tunguska USSR 6[25] Short-Range Mobile SAM Pantsir S-1 ordered in favour of additional Tunguska.
Strela-10 USSR 35[26][27] Short-Range Mobile SAM
Strela-1 USSR 20[26][28] Short-Range Mobile SAM
9K33 Osa USSR 50[26] Short-Range Mobile SAM 60 delivered. Several lost in Syria Civil War.
2K12 Kub USSR Up to 150[26] Mid-Range Mobile SAM 195 at the start of 2012. Some units out of service due to partial replacement by Buk-M2.
S-200 USSR Up to 44[26] Long-Range Static SAM Modified by CERS.[29] Destroyed an Israeli F-16 on 10 February 2018. Destroyed a Russian cargo Il-20 on 17 September 2018.
S-125 Pechora USSR
148 + 30 2M[26] Mid-Range Static SAM Additional 2M's may be delivered in 2023.
S-75 Dvina USSR
Up to 300[26] (S-75 Volga, S-75M Volga variant obr. 1995) Mid-Range Static SAM In service, mainly deployed against UAVs.[30]

Electronic warfare systems[edit]

Name Type Quantity Origin Photo Notes
Groza-S Mobile electronic countermeasure system N/A  Belarus Supplied by Belarus in 2018.[31][32]

Combat history[edit]

Syrian SA-5 Air Defence system in 1984

In October 1973, the Syrian Air Defence Force (SyADF) shot down numerous Israeli warplanes using mostly the 2K12 Kub (SA-6) SAMs.[33]

In 1982, Israel claimed that 19 of 20 batteries, consisting of five launchers per battery, each launcher carrying three SA-6 missiles, were wiped out in Operation Mole Cricket 19, and the SyADF claimed to have shot down 43 Israeli warplanes over Lebanon in the same year.[34][35]

On 22 June 2012, the Syrian Air Defence Force shot down a Turkish McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II reconnaissance jet. The jet's pilots were killed; both Turkish and Syrian forces searched for them before recovering their bodies in early July. The incident greatly escalated the tensions between Turkey and Syria.[36]

In mid-November 2013, Turkish sources claimed the SyADF targeted, for ten seconds, three Turkish F-16 fighters that were flying near Dörtyol, over southern Hatay province after deploying from the Incirlik and Merzifon airbases.[37] The incident came after a Turkish F-16 shot down a Syrian Mi-17 helicopter on September 16 after Turkey claimed it crossed into Turkish airspace in the same area.[38]

On 17 March 2015, a US MQ-1 Predator drone was shot down by a Syrian S-125 missile.[39][40]

On 13 September 2016, the Syrian Army claimed to have downed an Israeli warplane and a drone after an attack on Quneitra province. The Israel defence Forces denied any such loss.

On 17 March 2017, the Syrian Armed Forces claimed to have downed an Israeli warplane after an attack on military site near Palmyra.[41] The Israel defence Forces denied any such loss.[42]

On February 10, 2018, Israel launched air strikes against targets in Syria with eight fighter aircraft as retaliation for a UAV incursion into the airspace of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights earlier in the day. Syrian Air Defences succeeded in shooting down one of the Israeli jets, an F-16I Sufa, with an S-200 missile.[43] The jet crashed in the Jezreel Valley, near Harduf.[44] Both the pilot and the navigator managed to eject.[45][46]

On April 14, 2018, the Syrian Air Defences claimed to repel massive US, British and French missile strike on Syrian military facilities. Three civilians were injured, among civilians and military none.[47] The SyADF used 112 anti-aircraft missiles, hitting 71 targets out of 103 (according to the Russian MoD). To repel the attack, the following complexes were used: S-125, S-200, Buk, Kub, Osa, Strela-10 and Pantsir S-1.[48][49]

On the night of May 10, 2018, Israel launched a large scale air attack on multiple, alleged Iranian targets in Syria. After being engaged by the SyADF, the Israeli aircraft attacked and destroyed a Pantsir-S1 launcher, as well as several other anti-aircraft systems (SA5, SA2, SA22, SA17) .[50]

On September 17, 2018, four Israeli F-16s engaged targets in the Syrian port city of Latakia, to which Syrian Air Defences responded. During the Israeli attack, a Russian Il-20 aircraft was mistakenly destroyed by an S-200 missile launched by the SyADF. All fifteen crewmembers of the Il-20 died as a result.[51][52] Russian military claimed, Israeli Air Force pilots took shelter behind the IL-20, this exposing the Russian aircraft to the Syrian missile attack.[53]

In February and March 2020, Turkey Air force F-16 fighters and combat UAVs launched airstrikes on Syrian Army positions in Greater Idlib region in retaliation for the Balyun Airstrike. Syrian Air Defence Forces stated they succeeded in shooting down 13 Turkish combat UAVs, including 7 Bayraktar TB2 and 6 TAI Anka.[54]

On July 19, 2021, four F-16 fighter jets of the Israeli Air Force entered Syria’s airspace via the US-controlled al-Tanf zone and fired eight guided missiles at an area southeast of Syria’s Aleppo. Vadim Kulit, deputy chief of the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the Opposing Parties in Syria, claimed that seven missiles were downed by the Russian-made Pantsir-S and Buk-M2 systems of the Syrian Air Defence Forces.[55]

In the evening of 27 July 2021, a drone was launched by militants from the Kafer-Khattar community in the Idlib Province. The militant drone was downed over the Hama Province by the Syrian Air Defence who used a Russia-produced Pantsir-S missile system, Kulit claimed the next day.[56] Syrian Air Defence forces shot down 22 missiles fired by Israel into Syria using Russian-made Buk-M2E and Pantsir-S systems, Rear Adm. Vadim Kulit said on 20 August 2021.

Syrian Air Defence forces shot down twenty-one out of twenty-four missiles fired by Israel into Syria using Russian-made Buk-M2E and Pantsir-S systems, Rear Adm. Vadim Kulit said on September 3, 2021.[57] Syrian Air Defence forces shot down 8 out of 12 missiles fired by Israel in Syria using Russian-made Pantsir-S systems, Rear Adm. Vadim Kulit said on 08.10.2021.[58] Syrian Air Defence forces shot down ten out of twelve missiles fired by Israel into Syria using Russian-made Buk-M2E and Pantsir-S systems, Rear Adm. Vadim Kulit said on November 24, 2021.[59]

On 13 May 2022, the Israeli Air Force launched attacks on SAA positions on Masyaf killing 5 people including one civilian,[60] the attack destroyed one Pantsir-S1 system.[61] On 25 August and 17 September 2022, new attacks were reportedly partly repelled by Syrian Pantsir-S1, Buk-M2E and S-75 systems.[62][63]

On December 25, 2023, the Israeli Air Force carried out an airstrike in the Sayyida Zeinab area, southeast of Damascus, resulting in the killing of Sayyid Razi Mousavi, the Iranian commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Syria. The Syrian Air Defence Force was unsuccessful in intercepting the missile.[64][65]


  1. ^ Reorganised in 1971


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Further reading[edit]

  • Kenneth M. Pollack, Arabs at War: Military Effectiveness 1948-91, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London, 2002, and Pollack's book reviewed in International Security, Vol. 28, No.2.