Syria Missile Milestones – 1972-2005

1972: Syria obtains FROG-7 missiles, launchers and reload vehicles from the Soviet Union.

1973: Syria launches FROG-7 missiles at Israeli airbases during the October war, with little success.

1976: The Soviet Union supplies Syria with a dozen Scud-B launchers.

1983: The Soviet Union supplies Syria with the 120-kilometer range, single-stage SS-21 Scarab missile.

1988: Syria attempts to import the Soviet-made SS-23 missile, which the Soviets designed to replace the aging Scud-B, but the Soviets deny the request.

1991: China reportedly agrees to sell Syria medium-range M-9 missiles, while North Korea reportedly ships two dozen Scud missiles and 20 mobile launchers to Syria.

1991: Syria’s chief of staff reportedly visits Teheran to conclude negotiations between the two countries on building a factory in Syria for joint development and production of surface-to-surface missiles.

1992: China reportedly ships 30 tons of ammonium perchlorate, used to make solid-fuel rocket propellant, to Syria.

1992: A second shipment of North Korean Scud-C missiles and missile components are delivered to Syria via Iran.

1992: Israeli intelligence reports that Syria tested two North Korean Scud-C missiles.

1992: U.S. State Department sanctions two North Korean and two Syrian entities, including the Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches Scientifiques (CERS) for engaging in “missile technology proliferation activities.”

1993: U.S. officials confirm that a private Russian airline company transported special truck chassis that are frequently used as mobile missile launchers from North Korea to Syria. The U.S. asks Moscow to stop the shipments but is rebuffed.

1994: Syria flight tests North Korean Scud-Cs.

1996: According to a CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) report, Iran’s Defense Industries Organization (DIO) sold Syria equipment to develop solid propellant rocket motors, probably for its solid-fuel missile program. Iran and Syria were also said to be cooperating on a program to convert Syrian Scud-Bs to longer range Scud-Cs; Syria reportedly tests a 600-km range upgraded version of the Scud-C.

January 1997: It is reported that U.S. Navy Aegis-equipped cruisers have monitored Scud missile test launches into the eastern Syrian desert.

April 1997: Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai reportedly claims that Syria is producing VX nerve agent with Russian assistance and is in the initial stages of preparing missile warheads for delivery.

September 1997: U.S. officials believe Syria will begin producing chemical bomblets for Scud-C ballistic missiles “within months.” It is also believed that the Centre d’Etudes et de Recherche Scientifique (CERS) is close to completing an underground facility, modified with Russian assistance, to build Scud missiles.

April 1999: The United States imposes sanctions on three Russian companies – Tula Design Bureau, Volsk Mechanical Plant, and Tsniitochmash – for supplying anti-tank weapons to Syria. The Russian government was also determined to have been involved, but was not sanctioned.

October 1999: The Syrian military reportedly conducts a live chemical weapon bombing test, possibly demonstrating that Syria can use chemical munitions on both aircraft bombs and ballistic missiles.

May 2000: According to the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, Syria has received Scud-D missiles from North Korea. The missile has a range of 400 miles, which would enable Syria to target Israel from deep inside Syrian territory.

June 2000: Ha’aretz reports that China is helping Syria and Iran build a factory to make missile engines, guidance systems and solid propellant.

September 2000: The Israeli media reports that Syria successfully test-fired a Scud-D missile.

December 2001: The U.S. National Intelligence Council reports that Syria has achieved Scud-type missile production using locally manufactured components and has developed chemical warheads to arm these missiles.

June 2002: Syria is preparing to begin serial production of an extended-range version of the Scud-C short-range ballistic missile, according to a media report citing U.S. and Israeli defense officials. The report cites Israeli defense officials as saying that Syria could produce as many as 30 new extended range missiles per year.

October 2002: Israel’s Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, announces before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Russia has halted plans to sell Igla (SA-18) surface-to-air missile systems to Syria “at Israel’s request.” He says that Israel voiced concerns to Russia that the missiles might be obtained by Hezbollah militants.

July 2003: An Israeli defense official claims that Syria has at least 100 long-range ballistic missiles equipped with VX nerve gas aimed at Israel, according to Ha’aretz.

September 2003: U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, John R. Bolton, testifies that Syria has several hundred Scud-type and SS-21 short-range ballistic missiles and is “believed” to have chemical warheads. He states that Syria is pursuing both solid- and liquid-propellant missile programs and that North Korea and Iran have been “prominent” in supplying Syria’s “recent” ballistic missile efforts. He also states that Syria can deliver the nerve agent sarin by ballistic missile.

January 2004: Syrian planes flying humanitarian aid to earthquake-stricken Iran returned to Damascus with missiles and other weapons destined for the Lebanese group Hezbollah, according to unidentified Israeli sources.

November 2004: The CIA releases its semi-annual report on arms proliferation, which states that Syria continues to depend on North Korean entities to help its liquid-propellant missile program and continues to manufacture liquid-propelled Scuds. The report also notes that Syria is developing longer-range missiles with assistance from North Korea and Iran.

January 2005: The Russian periodical Kommersant reports that Russia has plans to sell Syria the Iskander-E tactical missile system, which has a striking accuracy of “an order of magnitude less” than the 2 m accuracy of the Iskander-M. The solid-fuel 280 km-range, 480 kg-payload Iskander-E missile is equipped with autonomous inertial guidance and an optical seeker and can deliver cluster, blast fragmentation, and penetration warheads, according to its manufacturer KB Mashynostroyeniya.

January 2005: Syrian President Bashar Assad denies reports that Russia intends to sell Syria Iskander-E and SA-18 missiles.

January 2005: Following Syrian President Bashar Assad’s visit to Moscow, Russia forgives 73% of Syria’s debt, reducing the amount owed to $3.616 billion, and enters into a military cooperation agreement.

March 2005: It is reported that Russia has agreed to sell Syria Igla (SA-18) surface-to-air missiles in the vehicle-mounted Strelets configuration.

April 2005: Russian President Vladimir Putin is quoted in a translation of the Russian periodical Itar-Tass as saying that “Our military intended to supply Syria with the Iskander missiles with the range of over 900 km. I banned deliveries of these missiles.” He also emphasizes that Russian short-range missiles sold to Syria “will not fall into terrorist hands.”

May 2005: Israeli officials reveal that Syria has test-fired three Scud-type missiles, one of which broke up over Turkey. Israelis suggest that the missile tests were part of a program using North Korean technology and designed to deliver air-burst chemical weapons.