Scud launcher used for training purposes
Scud launcher used for training purposesIsrael news photo: US Navy

NATO submarines have been watching the Syrian coastline and searching for ships suspected of smuggling weapons to terrorist organizations – among them, Hizbullah in Lebanon.

As part of the body's Active Endeavor anti-terrorist operation, the Spanish submarine Sirocco S-72 snapped a photo of a ship sailing from the Syrian port of Tartus on March 2, bearing dozens of military vehicles. The ship's flag, and its destination, were deemed classified information, and are not available to the media.

However, the Defence Forum of India noted that it took less than a month for Israel's President Shimon Peres to announce to reporters that Syria had transferred Scud missiles to Hizbullah.

That message, noted the report, was quickly followed up by one from King Abdullah II of Jordan, who began to talk of the “high risk” of a looming conflict in the region.

Last month the British newspaper The Times claimed to have access to satellite images showing a Hizbullah complex near the Syrian town of Adra, northwest of Damascus. The images allegedly revealed shelters, weapons and a fleet of trucks, presumably to be used for transfer.

Israeli intelligence sources have maintained for more than a year that Hizbullah has rearmed its weapons stockpile to levels significantly higher than the group possessed prior to the 2006 Second Lebanon War. The weapons allegedly are being sent to the group from Iran, through Syria, and are also being supplied by Damascus as well.

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) warned from the outset, when the Second Lebanese War ceasefire Resolution 1703 was signed, that it could not enforce the document, which calls for the disarmament of Hizbullah and any other “foreign armed force” in Lebanon. The document also stipulated that UNIFIL was to ensure that no arms were smuggled in to Hizbullah.

Syria has repeatedly denied that it has transferred weapons to the terrorist organization – but Israeli military intelligence has continued to emphasize the group is receiving Scud missiles and Syrian-made M-600 mid-range missiles from Damascus.

The M-600 is an improved version of the Iranian Fatah-110 missile, carrying a 1,000-pound warhead. It is fitted with a GPS-aided inertial navigation, upgrading it from a simple terrorist weapon to an outright military threat. Moreover, because it is solid-fueled, it can be fired without preparation, as opposed to the Scud missile, which must be protected from air strikes during fueling because it requires liquid fuel.

According to an article published in the May 17 issue of Aviation Week, the latest Syrian variant of the Scud missile is equipped with a 500-meter CEP (complex event processing) system – meaning that the missile can identify and proceed to the most meaningful target among thousands of possible options within a 500-meter range. The same article noted that the CEP of the M-600 was approximately 200 meters – nearly Scud class.

The ranges of both reportedly extend to at least 600 kilometers, enabling them to reach beyond Tel Aviv or Jerusalem from southern Lebanon.

Up to this point, Syria has operated the Hwasong-6 upgrade to the Scud-B. According to Jane's, the Hwasong-6, also known as the Scud-C, was developed by North Korea in 1984 as an improvement of the R-17 SS-1 Scud-B missile, which it had received from Egypt. Among the changes made by the North Koreans was an expansion of the missile's range from its original 300 kilometers to 500 kilometers.

A quiet discussion spotted recently between defense and military personnel on an Internet military aviation forum posed the question, “Has anyone even considered what it would take for Hizbullah to manage and launch such weapons?”

The writer went on to note that even though the terrorist group had “used that cruise missile a while back.... still, does anyone really think a third-world terrorist group has sufficiently trained personnel to handle such weapons? Methinks one will find more than a few Syrians, Iranians and North Koreans among the service personnel. And if that is true, why isn't a bigger fuss being raised over such support of terrorism?”