UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Missile Programs

On 12 November 2012 the Syrian government fired Scud missiles at insurgents. There was no indication the missiles carried chemical weapons. The use of Scud missiles could be seen as an escalation of the nearly two-year conflict in Syria, and it comes as more international favor has shifted toward the rebels. Turkey has long feared that an increasingly desperate Assad government may resort to striking Turkish targets with its Russian-designed missiles and warplanes, in retaliation for Ankara's hosting and support of Syrian rebels and refugees. By one estimate Syria has over 500 Scud missiles, some Scud-D with a range of up to 800 kilometers, though most are shorter range Scud-B with a range of 300 km and Scud-C with a range of 500 km.

As of 2003 Syria had a combined total of several hundred Scud and SS-21 SRBMs [short-range ballistic missiles], and is believed to have chemical warheads available for a portion of its Scud missile force. Syria's missiles are mobile and can reach much of Israel from positions near their peacetime garrisons and portions of Iraq, Jordan, and Turkey from launch sites well within the country. On 13 April 2007, citing Israeli intelligence sources, the Jerusalem Post reported that Syria had deployed 300 short-range (300-km) Scud missiles just north of the Golan Heights demilitarized zone.

Syria obtained Russian Scud-Bs, but it is unclear whether it received Russian Scud-Cs. As of 1992 it was estimated that Syria had 18 Scud-B launchers, as well as 18 of the second-generation Soviet SS-21s, a highly mobile, but shorter-range, missile capable of striking targets in northern Israel. It is widely believed that in late 1991 Syria bought 150 Scud-Cs [an extended-range versions of the Scud-Bs] from North Korea. Syrian Scuds are claimed to have a variety of warheads available, including cluster chemical, unitary VX chemical and unitary high explosive.

As of late 2000 Syria is believed to have 26 Scud launchers and 300-400 Scud Bs and Cs. The Scud B is capable of carrying a 1,000-kg warhead up to 300 kilometres and the Scud Cs a 770-kg warhead up to 500 kilometres, putting virtually all of Israel under the Syrian missile threat.

A Syrian Scud-C unit is generally thought to consist of 18 launchers and 50 missiles. Preparations for the first launch take about one-and-a-half hours, but in some cases only three to five minutes will be enough for a second launch. In early 1998 it was reported that Syria had moved two units of Scud-C missiles from the region of Aleppo in the north to the vicinity of the capital, Damascus.

Damascus is pursuing both solid- and liquid-propellant missile programs and relies extensively on foreign assistance in these endeavors. North Korean and Iranian entities have been most prominent in aiding Syria's recent ballistic missile development.

Scud D

Syria has apparently developed a longer-range missile -- the Scud D -- with assistance from North Korea. In late September 2000 Syria successfully tested its Korean Scud-D missile with a 360 mile range. The new Scud D, with a range of some 700 kilometers, gives Damascus the option of deploying missiles deeper into Syria to better protect them. In early July 2001 an Israeli radar picked up the launch of the Scud from the Haleb region, in northern Syria, and monitored its path until it landed some 300 kilometers away in the desert of southern Syria. Although the Scud D has a longer range than the Scud-C, if it were simply a Scud derivative it would have a much lighter warhead and be rather less accurate.

On 27 May 2005 Syria test-fired three Scud missiles, the first such Syrian missile tests since 2001. The missiles included one Scud B, with a range of about 300 kilometers, and a pair of Scud D's, with a range of about 700 kilometers. The missiles were launched from Minakh, north of Aleppo in northern Syria. It appears that the missile launchers would have been driven to this air base from their garrison at Al Safir south of Allepo. One flew about 400 kilometers to southernmost Syria, near the border with Jordan. One of the missiles disintegrated over Turkish territory, showering missile parts over two villages in the Turkish province of Hatay. This missile had been fired southwest toward the Mediterranean.

Israeli intelligence sources reportedly concluded that Syria successfully test-fired a Scud-D missile in the northeastern part of that country on 28 January 2007. The missile, reportedly 11-meter long with a range of 700 kilometers (440 miles), was built with the aid of North Korean technology. The English-language Jerusalem Post said "A previous test ended in failure when the missile fell apart over Turkish airspace."

Syrian regional concerns may lead Damascus to seek a longer-range ballistic missile capability such as North Korea's No Dong MRBM [medium-range ballistic missile].


  • Turkey Confirms Syrian Scud Debris Hit Turkish Soil VOA 03 Jun 2005
  • Russia: Moscow Denies Reports Of Missile Talks With Syria RFE/RL 13 Jan 2005
  • US / SYRIA / MISSILES VOA 12 Jan 2005
  • Testimony of John R. Bolton Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Before the House International Relations Committee, Subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia, September 16, 2003


  • Israeli Media Says Syria Has Tested Scud (AFP) Feb 02, 2007
  • Syria: Missile Development The Risk Report Volume 3 Number 2 (March-April 1997).

    Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

    Page last modified: 13-12-2012 13:39:27 ZULU