Syria's Downed MiG-21; Have Terrorists Gained Access to Anti-Aircraft Systems?

Syria's Downed MiG-21; Have Terrorists Gained Access to Anti-Aircraft Systems?
Sun Mar 13, 2016 19:04:40

Conflicting reports have emerged over whether the Syrian downed Mig-21 aircraft crashed due to a technical failure, or was downed by terrorists; Russian analysts are questioning whether the terrorists now possess anti-aircraft missiles, and whether Russian planes are safe.

That same day, a military source told Sputnik that a Syrian Air Force MiG 21US was downed by armed militants near a military airfield in western Hama province (220 km from Damascus), with one pilot able to eject and a second killed while attempting to perform an emergency landing.
"After the Syrian Air Force plane was hit, one pilot ejected and landed at the al-Migir village, which is controlled by the Army. The second pilot attempted an emergency landing at the Hama airfield. The landing failed and the pilot died," a second Syrian military source later confirmed.

However, another source speaking to the Al Masdar News outlet presented another scenario: that the plane crashed due to a technical failure upon return from pounding jihadist positions, and that the pilot who managed to eject was shot dead by militants while parachuting to the ground.

Posting unconfirmed footage of what is said to be the downed plane, Al Masdar noted that "a closer look at the footage shows no sign whatsoever that the warplane was hit by anti-aircraft weapons."

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, meanwhile, claimed that militants had fired at the jet with two heat-seeking missiles, with one missile exploding in the sky and the other hitting the plane, striking it down immediately after hitting it.

Syria's Downed MiG-21; Have Terrorists Gained Access to Anti-Aircraft Systems

Commenting on the conflicting reports, Russian journalist and military analyst Vladimir Tuchkov instantly evoked Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir's recent interview with Germany's Spiegel Magazine, where the minister announced that Riyadh was ready to send portable surface-to-air missile systems to Syria to help terrorists, pending Washington's approval.

Al-Jubeir, Tuchkov recalled, in an analysis for the Svobodnaya Pressa newspaper, "had drawn a parallel: that the surface to air missiles 'would change the balance of power in the same way they did in Afghanistan.'"

"The Saudi minister, obviously, was talking about the supply of Stingers to the Afghan mujahedeen. At that time Soviet aviation suffered serious losses to the US MANPADS [Man-portable air-defense systems]."

And if it is confirmed that the Syrian plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile, the questions that arise are: what type of missile was it, and could it pose a threat to the Russian planes operating in Syria? Commenting on the Saudi foreign minister's announcement last month, Nic R. Jenzen-Jones, the director of the technical intelligence consultancy Armament Research Services, told International Business Times UK that the systems Riyadh would provide would "likely…be legacy missile systems."

These, Jenzen-Jones noted, could "pose a notable threat [only] to Syrian government aircraft, particularly rotary-wing aircraft," (i.e. helicopters). "From a technical perspective, the types of MANPADS or other SAMs (surface-to-air-missiles Saudi Arabia would be likely to supply…are probably going to be of limited effectiveness against some of the modern Russian combat aircraft operating within Syria."

Tuchkov, for his part, explained that even if the militants were equipped with the latest SAMs US manufacturers have to offer, Russian planes and helicopters, in any case, have the countermeasures systems capable of neutralizing them; Sputnik reported.


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