Country Listing

Syria Table of Contents



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 (see table 11, Major Army Equipment, 1986, Appendix).

Data as of April 1987