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Air Defense: Syria Goes Deep
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November 10, 2009: For the last five years, satellite photos have shown continuing constructing of an underground bunker complex north of Damascus, Syria, This is believed to be the control center for the national air defense system. Progress has been slow because Syria is broke and unable to pay for the new missile systems that that the people in this underground complex would control.

Earlier this year, Russia suspended its program to upgrade Syria's MiG-31 fighters. In 2007, Russia and Syria signed an agreement by which Russia would provide the country with seven MiG-31 aircraft, as well as equipment and services to upgrade Syria's aging fleet of combat aircraft. The total value of the deal was estimated at $400-500 million. The problem, as usual, revolved around money. Syria simply does not have the cash to pay for the program. This is despite the fact that Russia forgave 70 percent of Syria's debt to them back in 2005. The Syrians had owed over $13 billion.  

Syria has long been indebted to the Russians for years, much of it coming from arms and equipment purchased from the Soviet Union during the Cold War. During 1970s and '80s, Syria received large amounts of sophisticated weaponry from the Russians, and on excellent financial terms. This was due to the fact that the Soviets were more interested in maintaining political influence in the region and counterbalancing American influence. Obtaining and keeping allies was paramount. These days, making money is the number one priority for the Russians and the country needs customers who can actually pay. Also, Russia's interest in maintaining their sphere of influence is far less global than during the Cold War, with the Russian Federation almost entirely concerned with maintaining hegemony over the countries that border it. Preoccupied with their own defense reforms and the need to raise more cash quickly, the Russians simply can't afford to be as generous with giving away equipment as they used to be. Iran has been Syria's patron for over two decades, but has its own cash flow problems, which have resulted in Syria not being able to pay for several year old Russian arms deals.

Thus, the enormous expense involved in upgrading and obtaining even seven new combat aircraft would potentially take a crippling chunk out of Syria's already pitiful military budget, without a large "gift" from Iran. Syria can only afford to spend around a billion dollars, sometimes less, on its military annually and the since the deal demanded that the country pay out at least $400 million for the new planes and upgrades, this would potentially cut into the budget so much that it could even endanger the Syrian' ability to maintain any kind of forces at all, even if the money were paid out over a long period of time. The Syrians want to rebuild their armed forces back to the state they were during the 1973 and '82 wars with Israel, when they were largely equipped with up-to-date weapons and managed to maintain some professionalism. As it stands, the Syrians can barely afford to keep the equipment they do have running, much less pay out of pocket for new gear. The Syrians simply don't have the money and the Russians are less generous than in the past. So the new air-defense system is on hold.

Syria has put considerable effort into burying key defense assets. For example, Syria has underground storage and launch facilities for its arsenal of over a thousand SCUD missiles. North Korean and Iranian engineers have been seen in Syria for over a decade, apparently assisting in the construction of these underground facilities. The North Koreans expect to be paid, up front, in cash. But they are expert in the construction of underground bunkers.


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reefdiver       11/10/2009 10:34:10 AM
A question? What happens when today's ultra-precise weapons slam into and around the entrances of an underground weapons bunker or even a communications center? Can it at least disable the use of the bunker for some period of time?
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warpig       11/10/2009 11:14:22 AM

A question? What happens when today's ultra-precise weapons slam into and around the entrances of an underground weapons bunker or even a communications center? Can it at least disable the use of the bunker for some period of time?

Of course that is in fact the preferred way of dealing with an IADS, and Israel is most certainly capable of doing exactly that to Syria.  It goes without saying that we are easily and quickly capable of doing so, as well.  If readers will recall, our hard target fuzes for the penetrator versions of our bombs can count floors as they penetrate down through such a bunker, so as to detonate at the pre-programmed depth--not just inside the bunker, but at the desired level within that bunker.
"1st floor:  Men's wear, sporting goods, and shoes"
"2nd floor:  Women's intimate apparel, jewelry, and formal wear"
"3rd floor:  National integrated air defense network command and control cente..."  *Ka-BOOM*!!!
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Tamerlane    How long does it take to invade syria?   11/10/2009 1:11:49 PM
A:  Three: one to invade it and two to stop laughing.
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Spiky    warpig   11/10/2009 3:08:39 PM
Hahaha, funniest post I have read in a long time. And true.
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Photon       11/11/2009 1:30:26 AM
It can become rather claustrophobic to bury increasing number of one's  own strategic assets, unless one happens to be a gnome or a dark elf.  (These two creatures should be familiar to those who used to play D&D." align="absmiddle" border="0" alt="" />)
I think Syria's statehood as a client of Iran is more of a curse than a blessing in the long run.  A moribund regime can keep on going almost indefinitely as long as there is a big brother or similarly moribund regime out there somewhere who has some cash to spare.  As the powers-that-be, this would probably be the ideal situation, since you have already attained the career ceiling as the head of a moribund regime.  In short, there is almost no incentive to discard things that are simply not working and try to find other things that actually work.  North Korea would be Syria's evolutionarily more advanced counterpart.  Do you not think so, Damascus?!?
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mabie       11/11/2009 2:06:24 AM
Nothing a MOP can't handle quite easily.. I wonder if the USAF would mind lending the Israelis a B1 or B2 for a few hours work?
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flyingarty    Well thats the whole rub with attacking Iran   11/11/2009 7:58:28 AM
Well thats the whole rub with attacking Iran, Israel doesnot have any planes that can carry conventional MOP. They do have nuc's however....Flyingarty
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