DAMASCUS — Here is a breakdown of Syria’s armed forces, after President Bashar al-Assad praised troops for “foiling the enemies”, a day after security forces reportedly killed nearly 140 in a crackdown on protests.
According to the latest edition of the Military Balance, published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, the country’s defence budget in 2009 was at $1.87 billion/1.29 billion euros for a gross domestic product of $53.3 billion.
· Troops: The Syrian army consists of 325,000 troops, of which 220,000 are in the army, 5,000 in the navy, 40,000 in the air force and 60,000 in air defences.
Paramilitary forces are estimated at 108,000, of which 8,000 are in the gendarmerie, under the authority of the interior ministry, and 100,000 in the popular militia of the Baath party, which has been in power since 1963.
As regards reservists Syria’s army has 314,000 troops, while there are 4,000 in the navy, 10,000 in the air force and 20,000 in the air defences.
· Structure: The ground army has seven armoured divisions, three mechanised infantry divisions, a special forces division and a Republican Guard, created in 1976 and charged with state security.
The efficiency of the special forces and the Republican Guard is considered to be superior to that of the army in general.
· Equipment: the army is equipped with mainly Russian-made material, and includes 4,950 tanks. It has a large arsenal of missiles, whose command is based in the northern city of Aleppo.
The navy has two frigates. The air force has 555, mainly Soviet-built, fighter planes.
Even if its material is globally considered obsolete since the disappearance of the Soviet Union, its main ally and supplier, Syria’s military is one of the biggest in the Arab world.