As a war nerd of contemporary conflict I have watched the Syrian conflict with great attention to see what types of arms and armor has popped in the civil conflict there. Prior to the breakout of the war, the Syrian military was a somewhat-mysterious entity, surrounded by plenty of anecdotes, but often very little observable evidence. Over the past few months we have seen a massive outpouring of online video, giving us a real clear insight into the types of weapons the SAAF and the rebels have had access to. Lets consider them now.
As a former Soviet clientstate, the Syrian armored forces were always going to be the T-series tanks.After the fall of the USSR, however, supplies dried up, leaving Damascus with a considerably anachronistic arsenal. The regime primarilly uses three main types.
SAAF have made widespread use of the T-55 during the fighting. The venerable tank comes in numerous variations in the Syrian arsenal: including the M(pictured above) and MV series. These upgraded versions seem to be far rarer in the footage, however . According to the IISS 2010 estimate there are over 2,000 T-55s in the Syrian arsenal, although many are in storage or static positions. The tanks arms and armor are extremely dated and do not provide great protection against the amount of AT weapons floating around at the moment, but at the end of the day, its got metal and a big gun. The T-55 remains the domain of lower-tier units.
Another feature of the rebelion, the T-62 is effectively the bigger, meaner brother of the T-55. All shots I have seen of this beast have been of the older variants, although some reports point to the M version being in the TOE of the SAAF.
The T-72 remains the pinnacle of the Syrian tank forces. The fleet ranges from the old, to the extremely old, with the export version of the 'AV', aka the M1V, model being the regime's most modern. The reactive armor on the latter models has apparently functioned quite well in the conflict according to anecdotal accounts and the 125mm gun is something you really don't want to mess with. The elite republican guard units utilize the M1V in large numbers and we seem to be seeing large concentrations of them around Damascus. According to a pre-war Janes report, a number of SAAF T-72s were being overhauled and modernized to the M1M standard with new TURMs fire control systems from Italy; increased protection in the form of K5 armor plates; as well as a new ARENA APS system for shooting down incoming RPGs. So far, however, we have yet to see these beasts and they could simply be mythological.
next time we will take a look at airpower and IFVs