Syrian Air Force the main advantage of the rebels
Warplanes and helicopters of Syrian Air Force the main advantage of al-Assad against the rebels.
Syrian warplanes have been bombing the northern cities of Homs and Raqqa, and even the outskirts of Damascus, to block advancing rebel forces, attacks that underline the critical role the air force in the Damascus regime's battle to stay in power.
"The Syrian air force is the main advantage the regime has over the rebels," the U.S. global security consultancy Stratfor observed.
But, the air force is being steadily degraded through combat losses and a dwindling supply of spares and Damascus has had to turn to its allies -- Russia and Iran -- to help keep its Soviet- and Russian-built aircraft operational.
The rebels' acquisition of surface-to-air missiles SA-7 and ZPU-1 14.5mm and ZU-23-2 23mm anti-aircraft machine guns has "forced the Syrian air force to fly at higher altitudes," Stratfor reported.
Before the civil war began March 15, 2011, the Syrian air force had 365 combat capable aircraft, the Military Balance issued by the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London stated.
These included 240 ground-attack jets, which are better suited to counterinsurgency operations than air-superiority fighter aircraft designed for dog-fighting. Among the ground-attack variants were MiG-29, MiG-23, MiG-21MF, Sukhoi Su-22 Fitter fighter-bombers and 20 Su-24 Fencers.
The Syrian air force also had 35 Russian-made Mi-25 Hind D attack helicopters.
The Syrian air force is also equipped with the latest generation of Russian-made air defence missile system. There were reports the Kremlin was possibly preparing to ship Yakovlev Yak-130 jets, training aircraft that can be armed with missiles for ground-attack missions.
Source: News - 15 March 2013
Photo: The Syrian Air Force MiG-29 Fighter Aircraft. Screen capture of video shows MiG-29 of Syrian Air Force during military training exercises in July 2012.