Syrian government forces have resorted to firing Scud ballistic missiles against rebel forces in recent weeks, according to media reports. In an email interview, Sean O’Connor, a contributor to IHS Jane’s and an expert in air defenses and strategic warfare, discussed Syria’s missile arsenal.
WPR: What is the extent of Syria's current missile arsenal, and what are its capabilities in terms of range and accuracy?
Sean O’Connor: Prior to the beginning of hostilities within its borders, Syria maintained a well-stocked, if technologically limited, missile force. Syria obtained its first Scud-B missiles from the Soviet Union in the mid-1970s. At present, Syria operates the Scud-B, Scud-C and Scud-D, in Soviet and North Korean iterations, and two more-advanced Russian weapons, the SS-21 and SS-26. The various Soviet and North Korean Scud variants in service have ranges of up to 800 kilometers, but possess circular error probables (CEPs, a measure of accuracy) of between 500 and 3,000 meters, making them useless against precision targets. The SS-21 represents a comparatively short-range weapon, useful to ranges of up to 70 km, with a CEP of 150 meters, a significant increase over the older Scuds.