The Syrian Arab Air Forces have to reduce the number of operational sorties due to the appearance of a new type of man-portable air defense systems in the hands of the militants.
During the last ten days, the Syrian Arab Air Forces and the Russian Aerospace Forces lost three attack helicopters and two warplanes in Syria as a result of using of man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS or MPADS) by Islamic State militants. Official sources in the Syrian Ministry of Defense denied this information. However, eyewitnesses and experts noticed a significant increase in the activity of MANPADS of militants.
On July 14, Syrian attack helicopter Mi-25 was shot down from the ground. At the same day, militants shot down the fighter aircraft MiG-23 in Deir ez-Zor district, the pilot was killed by militants at the place of the plane crash. On July 9, Russia’s attack helicopter Mi-35 was shot down.
After these incidents, Russia’s helicopters Mi-8MTV-5 and Mi-24P without established systems of protection against MPADS do not make combat flights. In general, attack helicopters and aircraft fly higher in Syria today. Bombers Tu-22M3 that are able to hit targets from heights unreachable for any MANPADS, were also sent in the area of military operations in Syria.
In addition, the number of attacks on reconnaissance drones has also risen. On July 5, the US unmanned aerial vehicle MQ-9 Reaper was shot down. There is unconfirmed information that Russia’s reconnaissance drones were attacked in the same mode too.
Officials from the Syrian Ministry of Defense and the Russian Aerospace Forces declined to comment on the situation.