By Bijan Razzaghi
With tensions high in Syria after a chemical attack in the suburb of Douma the Syrian Air Force is anticipating an attack. Syria depends heavily on surface to air missile systems to defend Pro Assad airspace, in addition the Syrian Arab Air-force along with the Russian Aerospace Force operate a number of different types of fighter aircraft that are also responsible for air defense. These aircraft regularly patrol the airspace over the Pro Assad strongholds in Syria.
Syria’s primary air defense fighter is the Mig-29. Primary designed as a shot range tactical fighter for point defense the Mig-29 is most effective in visual range engagements. The highly maneuverable AA-11 Archer missile can be fired from the bore site allowing the pilot to look and shoot instead of point the aircrafts nose at the target. In addition the Mig-29 has a high thrust to weight ratio of 1.09 and a g limit of 9 which gives the aircraft exceptional maneuverability. The Mig-29 also uses an IRST sensor that can detect heat exhaust from aircraft. This can possibly threaten stealth aircraft.
The Mig-29s weakness is lack of a strong radar and lack of the ability to detect aircraft at longer ranges. In past combat experiences Mig-29s have been lost in beyond visual range engagements over Iraq and Serbia. Syria operates 20 Mig-29s with alleged reports of 12 M2 models on order as of January 2017. There has been no evidence of delivery’s. Russia also uses the Mig-29 which is being replaced by the Su-30SM.
The Su-30SM is currently Russia’s primary multirole fighter operating in Syria out of Latakia airbase. Su-30s have 3D thrust vectoring nozzles which provides maneuverability and uses a more powerful BARs-R radar. The Su-30 can engage targets at beyond visual range with the AA-12 Adder missile which has a range of 50 miles (80 kilometers). The Su-30 has encountered US Air Force F-16s over Syria. In reported 2015 incident a Russian Su-30 locked onto the F-16.
The Su-35S is Russia’s most capable fighter in theater. Built with lighter composite materials the Su-35 is one of the more maneuverable aircraft operating in Syria currently with a thrust to weight ratio of 1.13 and 3D thrust vectoring like the Su-30SM. The Su-35 utilizes the Irbis-E radar and uses the same air to air missiles as the Su-30SM. Although the Su-35 is a multi role fighter the Russians have deployed it as an air superiority fighter along with the Su-27SM3. Su-35s would likely be the aircraft scrambled from Latikia Air Base if Russia decided to respond to an allied air attack on Pro Assad forces.