“It’s rusting before our eyes”


Expat Yank notices that a news item mentions a Syrian T-55 tank near the Lebanese border and writes

I’m no expert, but I have to believe that if THIS T-55 is one of Syria’s mainstay battle tanks — a tank first produced by the Soviet Union in the late 1950s and 1960s, and was obsolescent by 1991, when Saddam fielded them in the FIRST Gulf War — Syria is in even worse shape than we had imagined. About what it’s best for by now is indeed intimidating crowds of unarmed democracy-demanding Lebanese young women and men.

Indeed. According to Global Security, Syria has about 4,700 tanks. 2,000 of them are T-55s, 1,000 of them are the newer but still obsolete T-62s, and about 1,700 much more capable T-72s.

Not that the T-72 is a match for the current American (or British or Israeli) main battle tanks.

But the sheer numbers would require a campaign into Syria to include more armor and be more methodical than the race to Baghdad was in the spring of 2003. Though badly outdated, the Syrian military is probably in far better shape than Saddam’s was when we toppled him. And if they haven’t been upping their training time in the past two years, they’ve not been paying attention.

Military action against Syria would afford us the opportunity to invade from Iraq in the east and from the Mediterranean in the west. Sort of like invading Iraq from Kuwait AND Turkey, except that we decide if we get permission.

Funny how we just happen to have acquired a base in the Middle East from which we can launch (or threaten to launch) military action against pretty much any belligerents left standing. It’s almost like there’s a plan or something…


  1. Like we used to say in the ERT….. it sucks to be them! LOL! As some of you may have previously noted; I’m currently working a contract in the middle east. Of course, I see a lot of middle east news, much of it is Arabic. Getting their slant provides a counter point to more western orientated broadcasts, and there’s been a shift in tone on several of the Arab news services over the last few months, as the warming in relations between the Israelis and Palestinians has developed, and the events in Iraq & Lebanon have unfolded. It’s still amusing to watch the alliance between Hezbollah and Syria. If Hezbollah was doing their Islamic thing in, and to Syria……..the secular Baathists of Assad would be doing everything they could to stamp the pesky ^%$&#s out. As it is, they’re still group hugging, and swapping cards (and bombs and bullets) at each other’s birthdays and at other special times of the year. LOL! Go figure!

  2. I doubt Syria has the refining infrastructure to keep the fueled enough to keep them moving. If they aren’t moving, they are Play-Doh for our Magic Pasta Machine in the opening air war salvo.

  3. Yeah, not likely to have much infrastructure, but still it is probable that they could knock out a few of our tanks, so I think again what is necessary is another air campaign. As far as I know they have nothing credible in the way of an air force. Don’t know about their air defences though.. anyone know?

  4. Yeah. I think lots of the Syrian armor is dug in in defensive positions. (Don’t really know–just seem to recall reading it a few places.) An air campaign would really wreak havoc on them, and that would almost certainly be how we started things out. More like 91 than 03. As for Syrian air defenses, they’ve got a bunch of Soviet stuff (who doesn’t) but the last few times Israel has gone in they’ve done SQUAT. If they aren’t shooting at the hated Jews they aren’t going to be shooting at anyone. At least not to any great effect. I think the Syrian air force consists of mostly of Hezbollah UAVs at this point…

  5. The real killing of the tanks in Iraq occurred after the air war. I think the same will be true in Syria. I think we will have a relatively short airwar, and then our tanks will roll in. The ruin they will bring to the old Russian iron will be devistating. One shot, one tank.

  6. If you can see it, you can kill it… the only way they’d survive very long would be if they were very well hidden – invisible to IR, radar, satellite, TR-1, etc. That’s pretty hard to do for a big chunk of metal that has to be in a good position to shoot at people. It’s possible they could hide enough for a decent ambush. They might get a couple of shots off before they’re destroyed. It wouldn’t change the outcome of any conflict, it would just succeed in killing some soldiers. I wouldn’t worry too much. Last time Israel and Syria fought, after Syria had several years to build up its armed forces and whip them into shape, Syria still lost badly and didn’t really succeed in inflicting much damage to the Israelis. Syria still has roughly the same equipment now it did then, whereas the US has a lot better equipment than the Israelis did then, plus the glove is on the other hand.

  7. Israel never tried to occupy Syria. Occupation is a whole new ballgame. Rolling into any nation with a combined arms task force against an ill-equipped and demoralized enemy is easy by comparison. Staying in for the long haul plays against our strengths. We don’t have the numbers, don’t have widespread expertise in counterinsurgency, don’t have the support of enough proxies in the region to enable us to mesh into the local socio-political structure readily, and it costs us far, far more to keep troops in the field than anyone else. We may win every battle, but we will end up with the problem of subjugating the non-compliant and elevating these people to a level of self-governance and pluralism they do not enjoy in their society today. We still have troops in Germany and Japan after 60 years. Think long before you want to see that sort of commitment extend beyond Afghanistan and Iraq.