Originally appeared at MoonOfAlabama
A Turkish helicopter was shot down by the Kurdish PKK with the help of a modern handheld air defense system. A possible source of this system may be an earlier delivery of such systems from Turkey to “rebels” in Syria.
July 31 2012 – Reuters Syrian rebels acquire surface-to-air missiles: report
Rebels fighting to depose Syrian president Bashar al Assad have for the first time acquired a small supply of surface-to-air missiles, according to a news report that a Western official did not dispute.NBC News reported Tuesday night that the rebel Free Syrian Army had obtained nearly two dozen of the weapons, which were delivered to them via neighboring Turkey, whose moderate Islamist government has been demanding Assad’s departure with increasing vehemence.
Precisely what kind of MANPADs have been delivered to Syrian rebels is unclear and NBC News did not provide details. Such weapons range from the primitive to highly sophisticated.
What anti-air missiles the “rebels” acquired became obvious in November 2012 when the “rebels” posted pictures of themselves posing with such weapons:
In photographs recently posted online, two fighters were shown holding modern variants of heat-seeking, shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles.
So this development, the apparent capture of complete SA-16 and SA-24 systems, will bear watching. If these weapons are turned toward Syrian military aircraft, then supporters of the uprising will have reason to hail them, and Syrian military pilots will have new grounds for worry on their next sorties. But if these are sold — and weapons of this sort are often said to fetch four- and five-figure dollar sums on black markets — and fired at commercial aircraft, then the consequences and regional security implications of the war in Syria will have become much worse.
From known losses of the Syrian air-force it appears that at least some of the systems the “rebels” were given in 2012 were probably never used. They may indeed have been sold off.
Now they may have reappeared.
AP reported yesterday: Turkey: 8 soldiers dead in clash with PKK, helicopter crash
Clashes broke out early Friday with rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, near the town of Cukurca, in Hakkari province, killing six soldiers, a military statement said. Eight other soldiers were wounded.A military helicopter sent to the area to support the soldiers later crashed, killing its two pilots, the military said, adding thatthe crash was due to a technical fault.
The PKK today published a video (alternative source) which shows that the claimed “technical fault” was a complete separation of the tail rotor section from the Turkish AH-1W SUPER COBRA attack helicopter due to direct hit by a SA-18 MANPAD.
While Russia might work with Kurdish elements in Syria it is extremely doubtful that it trusts any Kurdish group enough to provide it with modern MANPAD system just to anger Turkey. A possible source of the shown system is the older Turkish shipment to the “rebels” in Syria who might have “lost” or sold off some to whoever offered a decent amount.
What goes around comes around.
Independent of where the system revealed now came from, the hit on the Turkish helicopter will likely end any further talk of providing anti-air systems to the “rebels” in Syria. The battlefield there is too confusing to guarantee that any delivered system really ends up where it is supposed to go and not in the behind of its provider.
Turkey will likely have to reduce its use of attack helicopters against in own citizens in east Turkey. While some countermeasures can defeat older MANPAD systems none is really reliable. They are difficult to defeat especially in the mountainous east of Turkey. All Turkish air assets will now be vulnerable unless they fly very high.