Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Free Syria’s Nascent Navy


Whilst the world’s eyes focus on the fighting in Aleppo, the questionable security of Syria’s large WMD inventory, and Assad’s staying power, a group of rebels have formed a maritime force* to oppose the regime at sea. Like the Free Syrian Army writ large, the exact composition of the FSN is sketchy, but appears to be a combination of defected naval personnel and interested rebels with boats. Of note, last August, a Syrian Naval Colonel defected publically. Besides a social media campaign, the FSN appears to be developing several lines of operation:

Logistics support: FSN is urging participants to catch fish which will be used to supply hungry FSA fighters. Likely other missions will include coastal smuggling of weapons and fighters for the FSA.  This sort of maritime facilitation occured during Libya's revolution last year and is a key component of practically every insurgent movement in coastal areas.

Maritime Interdiction: The FSN wants to equip fishing and other small craft with armor plating and heavy weapons to take on Syrian patrol boats and stop incoming weapons shipments.  Boldly, the FSA has established some naval infantry composed of Syrian navy defectors, with intentions to threaten Russia's Naval presence at Tartus. "Many of our men used to work in the port of Tartous and they know it well," said Captain Walid, a former officer in the Syrian Navy."

Amphibious Operations: The FSN wants a fleet to support a “unified strike on Latakia to drive regime troops away from Aleppo.” Last August Assad's navy indiscriminately shelled Latakia, killing dozens.  Also interestingly, on 7 October, 1973, the seas off Latakia were the site of the world's first surface-to-surface naval missile exchanges during the Yom Kippur War.

As a point of reference, Syria’s naval order of battle is comprised of older Soviet-era fast attack and patrol craft, minesweepers, and some more modern ASCM’s, based at Latakia, Minat al-Baida, and Tartus.  In a possible attempt towards deterring against NATO intervention, earlier in July Assad's Navy publicized naval and coastal defense exercises (or at least some stock video of their weapons launches).
For those interested in irregular warfare at sea, the FSN should be an interesting case study. Stay tuned.

*Note, I have no idea if the linked blog is actually representative of the FSN, or made up from some guy wanting to fill out his paypal account, so would-be donors, beware.

The opinions and views expressed in this post are those of the author alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense, the US Navy, or any other agency.

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