A History of the Syrian Air Force 1947-1967

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Shortly after gaining independence in the summer of 1945, the Syrian government set about to form the Syrian Air Force (SAF). Though devoid of personnel and aircraft and lacking experience and tradition since France, the mandatory power in Syria in 1920-45, had been reluctant to train Syrians in the art of air warfare, the nascent SAF scored some limited successes in the 1948 war but lost its momentum after a mere three months of fighting.
    A lengthy period of restructuring followed, during which Syria underwent countless military coups which profoundly destabilized the country and had a marked effect on the SAF. In tandem with the internal upheavals, the ascent of the Pan-Arab Baath party brought about a gradual severance of political and military relations with the west, particularly Britain, and a shift to the Soviet sphere of influence, something that not only ensured a massive flow of modern arms but also brought about close cooperation and coordination with the Egyptian military establishment, particularly the Egyptian Air Force (EAF), culminating in the establishment of the ill-fated United Arab Republic (UAR). With the entrenchment of the Baath’s pan-Arab ideology in Syrian political and military life, anti-Israel rhetoric and activities increased to the extent that by the early 1960s the Jewish state had become Damascus’s major security concern and bitter foe. Border skirmishes gradually reached a climax that saw Syria and Israel locked in the second full-scale war in two decades. Despite better equipment and training, the SAF failed to achieve any success, however minor.
    Drawing on a wealth of hitherto untapped archival sources, this dissertation is the first academic attempt to offer an in-depth review of the history and development of the SAF from its inception to the aftermath of the 1967 war. The work’s main insight is that the SAF’s professional decline was a direct outcome of the pervasive political intervention in military affairs, something a modern air arm, as a highly professional and technologically advanced body of people and material, cannot tolerate. As a result, it found itself in the impossible position of being expected to act as the defender of the nation while being deprived of the necessary means to confront Syria’s most formidable military foe.
    Date of Award2015
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • King's College London
    SupervisorPaul Janz (Supervisor) & Efraim Karsh (Supervisor)

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