Russia has sent advanced anti-ship cruise missiles to Syria, The New York Times reports.
American officials told the US-based paper that the most recent shipment from Russia contains an advanced radar system that makes them more effective.
The new antiship cruise missile weapons shipped to Syria from Russia are capable of deterring international forces from providing support to the Free Syrian Army, according to Nick Brown, editor of IHS Jane's International Defence review. Speaking to the New York Times, he said:
It enables the regime to deter foreign forces looking to supply the opposition from the sea, or from undertaking a more active role if a no-fly zone or shipping embargo were to be declared at some point. It's a real ship killer.
Following media reports that Russia was shipping advanced missiles to the Assad regime in Syria, a top US military officer condemned the move as "unfortunate", saying it could embolden Assad's forces and prolong the conflict.
General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Reuters:
It's at the very least an unfortunate decision that will embolden the regime and prolong the suffering, so it's ill-timed and very unfortunate.
Dempsey said he was referring specially to to anti-ship missiles - a more sophisticated weapon fitted with advanced radar that makes them more effective, according to officials quoted in The New York Times.