Syrian special forces have been dispatched to the area where a Russian Su-25 strike fighter was shot down over the weekend to trace the origins of the portable anti-air missile used to bring the plane down. In a special investigation, Russian military observer Vadim Saranov outlined who may have provided the jihadists with the weapons, and why.
The MANPADS, short for ‘man-portable air-defense system’, has been used by anti-government forces in Syria since virtually the start of the war in that country in 2011. The militants’ first successful attack was reported in July 2012, when they shot down an Army Mi-8 helicopter. Rumors swirled at the time about the origin of the weapons, with media speculating that their deliveries were financed by the Gulf countries, and slipped across the border into Syria through Turkey.
Whatever their origin, military journalist Vadim Saranov points out that photo and video evidence from the conflict zone up to this point has indicated that for the most part, militants are armed mostly with Soviet and Russian MANPADS designs, including various modifications of the Igla and Strela portable anti-air systems.
By the observer’s count, anti-air systems in the jihadists’ possession have allowed them to shoot down at least three Mi-8 helicopters, two Syrian Air Force MiG-21 and MiG-23 fighters, a Su-22 fighter-bomber, and an L-39 trainer/light ground-attack aircraft during the course of the conflict.