Friday 5 August 2016

Photo Report: The Syrian Arab Navy

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans


The Syrian Arab Navy is without a doubt the least well known branch of the Syrian Armed Forces, largely due to its marginal role in the Syrian Civil War. It however operates an interesting mix of ships most of which already long retired by other naval forces around the world. This photo report shows various Syrian Arab Navy vessels and units that participated in the 2012 exercise. This exercise featured all branches of the Syrian Armed Forces and was aimed at showing the outside world Syria was a force to be reckoned with.

A Syrian Arab Navy Petya III class frigate, two of which remain in service. Although the largest combat capable vessels of the navy, the Petya III class was designed almost exclusively for anti-submarine warfare. As a result, the capabilities of these ships against anything other than submarines is marginal. This is worsened by the introduction of newer types of submarines by the Israeli Navy, which already renders these ships next to useless in their original role. While still officially operational, both ships spend most of their time rusting away at their pier in the port of Tartus.

The now de-facto disbanded Syrian Naval Infantry in front of the cadet training ship 'al-Assad'. This ship has a dual role of training future naval personnel and acting as a landing ship for the Syrian Naval Infantry, which then disembark and make their way to the coast in dinghies.

A Syrian Arab Air Force (SyAAF) Ka-28 performing a flyby over Syrian Naval Infantry. Four Ka-28s were delivered to the SyAAF in the late eighties to replace its aging Ka-25s. At least two examples were overhauled in Ukraine shortly before the start of the Syrian Civil War. All four were previously based out of Hmeemeem/Bassel al-Assad IAP before diverting to a new heliport to make way for the Russian Air Force contingent arriving at Hmeemeem in September 2015.

The launching of a 4K44 Redut missile from its associated SPU-35V launcher. Syria operates several coastal defence systems (CDS), including the modern K-300P Bastion-P. These CDS present the most modern systems in the Syrian Arab Navy, which largely had to do without new acquisitions over the past decades.

The Osa class missile boats still represents the mainstay of the Syrian Arab Navy. Together with North Korea's Korean People's Army Navy, Syria is the only remaining country to operate the Osa I class missile boat. The ship below is of the more advanced Osa II class however, which can be discerned from the Osa I by its tube-shaped launchers opposed to the box-shaped launchers of the Osa I.

Syrian Arab Navy personnel standing at attention. Unsurprisingly, the average age of navy personnel is much higher than seen in other branches of the Syrian Armed Forces. This age gap is likely to only grow larger as conscripts are almost exclusively drafted into the Syrian Arab Army and National Defence Force since the start of the Civil War.

The most recent addition to the Syrian Arab Navy consists of six Iranian TIR II (IPS 18) missile boats delivered to Syria in 2006. Based on a North Korean design, these boats can be armed with two C-802s (or the Iranian-produced copy by the name of Noor) anti-ship missiles and normally operate out of Minat al-Bayda naval base located North of Lattakia.

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