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on Israeli and Jewish Affairs

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Center for Strategic and International Studies

Israeli-Syrian Air and SAM Strength Analysis:
Working Estimates of Force Numbers and Locations


By Anthony Cordesman and Abdullah Toukan
November 25, 2008

The relative balance of Israeli and Syria air combat capabilities has long been a key factor shaping both the level of deterrence in the Arab-Israel conflict and the outcome of any conflict. It is easy to address this balance in purely quantitative terms, and such comparisons are part of a broader comparison of the Israeli-Syrian military balance entitled THE ISRAELI AND SYRIAN CONVENTIONAL MILITARY BALANCE: An Overview, which is available on the CSIS web site at:

http://www.csis.org/media/csis/pubs/081125_arab-israeli-syrian_conv_mil_bal.pdf

It is far more difficult to make qualitative comparisons, either through static or dynamic analysis. The Burke Chair has developed a draft analysis of Israeli-Syrian air and air defense capabilities that addresses these issues through a first order operational analysis level to project air force and air defense warfighting capabilities. The paper is written by Abdullah Toukan and Anthony H. Cordesman, is entitled Israeli-Syrian Air and SAM Strength Analysis: Working Estimates of Force Numbers and Location. It is available on the CSIS web site at:

http://www.csis.org/media/csis/pubs/081125_is_syria_air_sam.pdf

The study looks at the overall integrated air defense capabilities of each country, and focuses on the Ground Based Air Defense Systems and Surface to Air Missiles, Command Control Communicati ons Computations and Intelligence (C4I), Air force Air Defense Operational Readiness and Air Intercept Capability, and the role of Electronic Warfare.

The analysis reflects fundamental changes in the nature of war combat in the region. The development of precision guided weapons, standoff missile and guided bomb attack ranges, a high speed, secure data transfer, and advanced electronic self-protection systems have changes the theater of operations. It has become one in which coordinated air and ground operations involving the accomplishment of several missions or tasks over a specified period of time are essential and critical in controlling the combat and electromagnetic arena of modern air warfare,

These are a requirement that Israeli military forces have proven to have mastered and Israel is continuously developing and upgrading its military force and Industry to support such capabilities in future battlefield. In contrast, Syria changed its strategy during the late 80\'s, from one of seeking "parity" based largely on force numbers to one of using smaller amounts of the same kind of forces to a strategy of "deterrence" designed largely to discourage Israeli attacks.

Syria still maintains a force equipped with many obsolete military weapon systems, with low operational readiness, and over-centralized battle management. Accordingly, the new study examines a possible modernization of the Syrian Air force and Air Defense that would result in a complete overall of all the weapon systems presently deployed. The end result further highlights the overall superiority of Israeli air Forces.

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