WASHINGTON (Jan. 10)
The Soviet Union infused massive arms supplies to Syria by air and by sea weeks before the outbreak of the latest air clashes with Israel, according to diplomatic sources here. During Nov. and Dec. 40 medium and long-range Soviet transport planes were delivered in Russia’s biggest arms airlift to Syria.
The airlift included Antonov-22 planes, each capable of carrying 220,000 pound pay loads-it was reported here. Western sources reportedly speculated that the latest delivery might also have included some low altitude SAM-3 missiles for defense against major Israeli strikes.
Last month Soviet cargo ships delivered 16 MIG-21 jet fighters to Syria. The MIG-21s are considered the best interceptors which Russia provides to its allies. The latest cargo shipment brings to 35 the number of MIG-21s the Soviets have sent to Syria since last year. A Soviet airlift in Sept. and Oct. provided Syria with 150 new Soviet advisors and an estimated 20 medium-range Antonov-12 transport planes, according to U.S. intelligence sources.