Israel's satellites, reconnaissance aircraft, drones spying on Syrian chemical weapons arsenal

As the Syrian air war escalates, with fixed wing aircraft joining the Syrian Arab Air Force’s gunships in the strikes against the rebels and their Free Syria Army (FSyA), Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal has become one of the main concerns of the international community.

Needless to say, Israel is one of the neighborough nations that is keeping an eye on the current situation in Syria, trying to track Damascus chemical weapons and Hezbollah attempts to get its hands on the mustard gas, Saring and VX believed to be stockpiled across the country.

According to an article published on the Jerusalem Post, Israel’s intelligence has strenghtened its surveillance activities pointing all its most advanced hardware towards Syria. And it was able to pinpoint the dangerous stuff.

“To the best of my judgment Assad has control over the stockpiles. They have increased their security around the chemical weapons and to our understanding they have not been moved into undesirable hands,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen,” IDF Chief  Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz recently said.

But how is Israel monitoring the chemical weapons and their security?

Among the tools being used there’s a constellation of five satellites equipped with either advanced cameras or radar technology providing hi-resolution imagery.

Then, there are the Super Kingair B200 Zufit flown by 100 Sqn of the Israeli Air Force from Tel Aviv: equipped with all-weather day and night long-range electro optical cameras these turboprops are capable to track land and maritime targets from several miles away.

Even if the Zufit are equipped with long range sensor that would be suitable for intelligence gathering missions flown over the Mediterranean Sea or within the Israeli airspace, they can’t provide the same accuracy of an UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) quitely and safely flying closer to the target area.

Israel operates a large fleet of drones, some of which (more or less) routinely conduct ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) missions over Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and (maybe) over Iran, to spy on Tehran nuke program.

Although Tel Aviv has never admitted the use of drones over Syria, it’s safe to believe that Israeli robots have been spying on clashes all around the country since the beginning of the uprising.

Needless to say, such UAVs can silently loiter for several hours in the vicinity of the targets, at low or high altitude (depending on the type), well outside the envelope of the known and extremely dangerous Syrian Air Defense batteries.

And, above all, they are expendable. Much more than any conventional spy on the ground performing traditional HUMINT (Human Intelligence), with or within the rebel forces.

Along with satellites, even U.S. drones are believed to be involved in reconnaissance missions over Syria.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.