The Syrian Air Force was established in 1948 upon the graduation of the first class of Syrian pilots from British flight schools. It is tasked with military air operations and ground-based air defense.
The Air Force, which was independent of Army Command, consisted of about 100,000 regular and 37,500 reserve officers and men. In 1985 its 9 fighter-ground attack squadrons and an estimated 15 interceptor squadrons totaled approximately 650 combat aircraft. Almost all combat planes were Soviet manufactured and included 50 MiG-25 and MiG-25R (Foxbat) interceptors and nearly 200 MiG-23S/U (Flogger) and Su-17 FitterK ground-attack and multirole aircraft. In 1986 there were reports that the Soviet Union had agreed to provide Syria at least two squadrons of the advanced supersonic MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter aircraft equipped with top-of-the-line avionics. The air force was equipped with approximately ninety attack helicopters of the Mi-24/Mi-25 Hind and SA-342 Gazelle types. As part of an effort to upgrade its command-and-control network, the air force was reported to have the Tu-126 (Moss) AWACS.