4 Threat Matrix: Syrian regime reportedly using wide range of tactical ballistic missiles

Written by LWJ Staff on December 29, 2012 10:24 AM to 4 Threat Matrix

Available online at: http://www.longwarjournal.org/threat-matrix/archives/2012/12/syrian_regime_reportedly_using.php

The regime of President Bashar al Assad fired at least two Iranian-made, short-range ballistic missiles earlier this week, according to two unnamed US military officials who spoke with CNN yesterday.

The missiles in question are the Iranian-made Fateh A-110 model -- a guided, short-range, surface-to-surface ballistic missile capable of traveling no more than 210 kilometers -- and are markedly more accurate than the larger, older, Scud missile variants also used by Assad's regime.

Syrian military forces reportedly fired a wide range of tactical ballistic missiles this month, with launches occurring during the first week of December, on Dec. 20, and again on Dec. 22, although a NATO spokesman was unable to confirm if or exactly when the Fateh A-110 missiles were fired.

Some of the regime's Scud missiles, which are notoriously inaccurate due to antiquated and rudimentary guidance systems, struck near the Turkish border in mid-December.

Around Dec. 20, unconfirmed reports claimed that a Scud missile fired by Syrian military forces had struck close to Marea, a town in a rebel-held area north of Aleppo near the Turkish border, but the missile apparently missed its target and there were no reports of casualties. The threat to Turkey's national security posed by Syrian short-range tactical ballistic missiles prompted the US to deploy two Patriot missile batteries and 400 personnel to Turkey. The Netherlands and Germany also offered to deploy two Patriot missile batteries each to Turkey, and now Turkish officials have announced that the six Patriot batteries will be fully operational in the southern cities of Gaziantep, Kahramanmaras, and Adana by the end of January.

Throughout most of December, Western intelligence and military officials have been sounding the alarm that "a desperate regime approaching collapse" had resorted to firing tactical short-range ballistic missiles against "its own people" -- in other words, hitting rebel-controlled areas. Most of these missile launches were thought to be targeting rebel forces in or near the besieged northern city of Aleppo. [See Threat Matrix, Al Nusrah Front on the offensive in Aleppo].

It is believed that Syrian forces were firing Scud missiles and launching airstrikes against al Qaeda-affiliated Al Nusrah Front insurgents near Aleppo.

Unconfirmed video footage shows a possible Scud missile, or Scud variant like the Hwasong-6 missile, being fired by Syrian military forces on Dec. 13.

The footage above purportedly shows a Scud missile or Scud variant, possibly a Hwasong-6, being launched from the An Nasiriyah Air Base near Damascus toward rebel-held positions in northern Syria on or around Dec. 13. At about that time, al Qaeda-affiliated Al Nusrah Front fighters were maneuvering against the Syrian regime's military-industrial complex at the Al Safira air defense base and the big chemical weapons facility thought to be located adjacent to the base. The sprawling Al Safira complex is located just south of Aleppo City. The battle for Al Safira, and apparently the firing of Scud missiles, continued through and past Dec. 21, when Al Nusrah Front insurgents had encroached dangerously close to the Al Safira complex -- apparently less than a mile from its perimeter fence.