The Syrian air force is in bad shape, despite Russian help

A massive supply of spare parts and ammunition helped the Syrian air force play a major role in the campaign the Assad regime launched two years ago against the rebels.

“The shape of the Syrian air force was very bad, and without massive urgent Russian help it could not use its old inventory to attack the rebel strongholds,” said Yiftah Shapir, head of the Middle East strategic balance project at the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies.

The ongoing war and losses the Syrian air force suffered led to its inventory being halved.

Of the 350 operational fixed-wing warplanes the Syrian air force had two years ago, about half are now out of action because of combat losses or overuse that even spare part supplies from Russia cannot fix.

Shapir said the most advanced fighters the Syrians have are the MiG-29s that were supplied in the 1980s.

These are designed mainly for air superiority and have limited ground attack capabilities.

The two other types – the MiG-23BN and MiG-27 – are very old, and have suffered badly from a lack of spare parts and poor maintenance.

It is not likely that Russia will supply advanced fighter jets to Syria before the civil war is over.

“The Syrian air force is hitting the rebels in very primitive ways, but it cannot pose any threat to air forces in the region like the Israeli air force,” Shapir said.

Despite this, the Israeli air force is on high alert in the north – especially because Syria allegedly has ballistic missiles armed with chemical warfare agents.

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