The following is an excerpt from an article which appeared in the 22nd October, 1996 edition of the London publication, Almashad Alsiasi:

Syria has carried out a reorganization of its surface-to-surface missile units since 1982. At the end of 1988 the Syrians had more than 36 launching systems for SS-21 missiles, 24 launchers for FROG 7, 18 launchers for SCUD-B, and launchers for the SS18 and SSC-3 missiles which are designed for coastal defense.

The Syrian surface-to-surface missile forces are organized in three surface-to-surface missile brigades and one brigade which is in the process of being formed.

Missile Brigade 96 is the most senior brigade and was formed in 1972 and was the first to receive the FROG 70 missiles, the units had 18 TEL-TRANSPORTECTOR type launchers and reloadable launchers in 1988.

The second brigade had 18 SCUD-B SS21 launchers in three battalions. The third brigade had four battalions and 36 SS21 missiles with a range of 120 kilometers.

The fourth battalion had mid range SSC-1B missiles with a range of 300 kilometers. This battalion is stationed in Latakia and Tartus.

In 1987 there were reports of the establishment of a fifth Syrian battalion of SS-23 missiles positioned outside of Damascus but it appears that these reports were incorrect.

The changes in the Syrian missile units did not include only growth in forces, because Syria sees the ground to ground missiles as a way to overcome Israeli air superiority, and as a platform for delivering weapons of mass destruction.

This strength in the missile field enables Syria to deal with Israel’s lethal weapons and can be used to attack Israel’s air force bases and mobilization centers.

The Syrian army increased the extent of their exercises in the area of battle in a nuclear, chemical and biological environment after American sources advised in 1984 that Syria was engaged in intensive activity in the field of the production and use of nerve gas and other gases since the Lebanon War of 1982.

It appears that Syria has made improvements in the Soviet ZAB shells so that they can be armed with chemical material.

It is possible that the Syrians have made improvements in the PTAB-500 cluster bomb so that is can carry a chemical warhead.

The Syrians have chemical artillery shells and apparently also Syrian SCUD and FROG missiles with chemical warheads.

In 1988 it was clear that Syria acted to produce chemical and biological weapons and when the chemical material was produced in quantities Israeli experts estimated that it included also nerve gas.

It appears that the Syrian developments worried the Soviets and Vladmir Pikalov, who was in charge of chemical warfare in the USSR army visited Syria in March 1988 in order to warn them of the dangers of chemical warfare and that the USSR would not give Syria backing if it used chemical weapons.

The SS-21 missiles which are held by Syria do not have chemical warheads and Syria will encounter many difficulties if it tries to develop chemical weapons without Russian assistance.

Syria does not have the technological capability to develop sophisticated warheads for missiles and despite the accuracy of the SS-21 missile, it will be difficult for Syria to successfully launch nerve gas against Israeli Air Force bases or against C31 command and control centers, the nuclear reactor in Dimona or mobilization centers, in a way that would significantly harm Israel’s nuclear and conventional potential.

Apparently the Syrians plan to hide some of the surface-to-surface SS-21 units in shelters located in the mountains around Damascus and in the Tudmur area, despite that in a time of emergency these missiles would be positioned at the advance lines of the front.

Syria acted to obtain long range missiles which can attack every target in Israel with accuracy in order to hurt the air force bases in the Negev and the nuclear reactor in Dimona.

Since 1984 Syria has succeeded in getting S21 and S23 missiles from the USSR and the Syrians were particularly interested in the SS-23 missile with a range of 500 kilometers which can strike targets deep within Israel, Jordan and most of the territory of Iraq.

The president of Syria and the defense minister tried to buy the intercontinental ballistic missile SS25.

Despite reports that Syria has established SS23 bases and that is has an SS23 missile battalion and received SS25 missiles, there is no verification of these reports. Apparently the Soviet Union objected to strengthening the Syrian missile units and carried out a reserved policy in the area of supplying new fighter jets to Syria.

This fact explains the Syrian plans to purchase Chinese 9-M missiles with a range of 175 – 375 miles.

American intelligence sources say that Syria tried to acquire these missiles in 1988 and they were transferred to Syria from China in 1990-1991 despite that China denies it. Syria maintains that these missiles will enable it to deal with Israeli air superiority.

Dr. Aaron Lerner,
Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
P.O.BOX 982 Kfar Sava
Tel: (+972-9) 760-4719
Fax: (+972-9) 741-1645