Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has contracted North Korean pilots, having “lost faith” in his own pilots, former president of the opposition Syrian National Council Burhan Ghalioun said on Sunday.
In a statement on his Facebook page Ghalioun said that Assad was hiring North Koreans to “lead his air offensives” against civilians.
Ghaloiun led the Syrian National Council, one of several groups in opposition to President Bashar Al Assad, from August 2011 to June 2012.
Editor of NK Leadership Watch Michael Madden told NK News that North Korea “derives financial and institutional benefits from escalating its participation in Syria” and is “likely receiving financial payments from, or are under a barter agreement with Syria, or one of the third countries which have subsidized DPRK equipment shipments and the KPA’s logistical support in the Syrian Civil War.”
“The DPRK also derives an institutional benefit in being able to directly observe how the civil war is unfolding,” Madden said. “They can assess battle plans, tactics, supply lines, C4ISR—then apply what they see to KPA strategies and doctrines in the home country in a ‘lessons-learned’ approach.”
Beyond Ghaliou’s claim there has been no independent information that North Korea has provided pilot assistance to Syria. In the current civil war media environment, it has not been uncommon for both unfounded allegations and counter-allegations to circulate between the Syrian government and rebel forces.
North Korea analyst and editor of KPA Journal Joe Bermudez told NK News that while the claims were difficult to verify, “it is not too hard to imagine that [they] could be” and that “since the 1960s there have been small KPA military delegations or groups of advisors that have travelled to Syria,” he said.
“During the current strife in Syria there have been repeated unconfirmed reports originating with opposition forces that KPA personnel have been operating with Syrian Army rocket and missile units,” he argued, “a small contingent of KPAF helicopter pilots would not be unreasonable”.
“As far as the capability of any KPAF pilots to operate Syrian Air Force helicopters that should not be a major problem with Mi-2 and Mi-8s as they are in service with both nations. The Syrian Mi-24 and SA-342 Gazelles might prove to be more problematic, but not insurmountable,” he continued.
Syria and North Korea have a long-standing relationship, with the DPRK having officially backed the government of Assad and given substantial military assistance to the Middle Eastern state.
In June NK News reported that North Korean collaboration with Damascus in the development of weapons of mass destruction was routine, and that North Korean military experts were deployed on the front lines of the war in Syria, providing key assistance to the Assad government’s chemical weapons and ballistic missile programs.
Rami Abdul Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights echoed this, telling South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper that some 11-15 North Koreans were based in Damascus that were advising the government on tactics and use of the artillery.
The North Korean military delegation “supervises artillery bombardments by the regular army,” Rahman said, and “provide logistical support and help with plans for military operations.”
The North Korean were said to have assisted Syria in building a nuclear power plant destroyed by the Israeli Defense Forces in 2007.
In the 1970s North Korean MiG pilots fought alongside a coalition of Arab Air Forces, which comprised the air forces of Egypt, Syria, Algeria, Iraq and Libya, against Israel during the Yom Kippur War.
Along with North Korean support, the Assad government receives significant military aid from Iran and Lebanese Shi’a militant group Hezbollah, whose soldiers fight alongside the soldiers of the Syrian army, as well as receiving arms from the Russian government.
Picture: Wikimedia Commons
Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has contracted North Korean pilots, having "lost faith" in his own pilots, former president of the opposition Syrian National Council Burhan Ghalioun said on Sunday.
In a statement on his Facebook page Ghalioun said that Assad was hiring North Koreans to "lead his air offensives" against civilians.