Report: Islamic State Training Pilots On Captured Syrian Jets

Reuters is reporting that groups monitoring the war in Syria are saying that former members of the Iraqi military who have defected to the Islamic State are training pilots using jets captured from the Syrian military:

(Reuters) – Iraqi pilots who have joined Islamic State in Syria are training members of the group to fly in three captured fighter jets, a group monitoring the war said on Friday, saying it was the first time that the militant group had taken to the air.

The group has been flying the planes over the captured al-Jarrah Syrian military airport east of Aleppo, said Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, citing witnesses in Syria’s northern Aleppo province.

“They have trainers, Iraqi officers who were pilots before for (former Iraqi president) Saddam Hussein,” he said.

“People saw the flights, they went up many times from the airport and they are flying in the skies outside the airport and coming back.”

It was not clear whether the jets were equipped with weaponry or whether the pilots could fly longer distances in the planes, which witnesses said appeared to be MiG 21 or MiG 23 models captured from the Syrian military.

The Islamic State/ISIS forces don’t seem to have access to any air power outside of the planes mentioned here, and its unclear what kind of access they have to weaponry, spare parts, or jet fuel. Even with these resources, three jets that may only be capable of training missions isn’t necessarily a huge threat. Nonetheless, if this is true it shows that the forces of the Islamic State are far from the ragtag band of terrorists that has been described in the media, although that should be eminently clear given the swaths of territory that they have managed to hold on to in both Syria and Iraq. Additionally, of course, the possibility that one of these gets could be turned into a suicide weapon against a target in the region is one worth considering as well.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Mark Ivey says:

    ISIS flight school? Can’t wait to see the Twitter pics and videos of that,,,,

  2. Butch Bracknell says:

    For US pilots, this will be like Top Gun vs Special Olympics Top Gun. The principal challenge will be in shooting down the aircraft in a place where the parts won’t fall on civilians.

  3. michael reynolds says:

    @Butch Bracknell:

    Well, Doug’s right, these could be suicide weapons; in fact if they go up against the USAF they’ll definitely be suicides weapons.

  4. michael reynolds says:

    By the way, the IS is stopped at Kobani and the Kurds are pushing them out. So once again, IS fails to be ten feet tall. Once again, I repeat that they are in a box, and this is before we even start arming the opposition groups so regularly dismissed by defeatists. Islamic State has done nothing but lose lately.

  5. Dave Schuler says:

    They should be fully trained for combat right about the same time the FSA brigades we’re training in Turkey and the KSA are.

  6. Rafer Janders says:

    Additionally, of course, the possibility that one of these gets could be turned into a suicide weapon against a target in the region is one worth considering as well.

    Well, that’s true of any plane. And in fact, a military jet would be a much worse suicide weapon than, say, a simple cargo transport plane which could be packed full of fuel and cause a spectacular detonation. A fighter jet just isn’t that big and wouldn’t do that much damage by crashing.

  7. Ron Beasley says:

    I wonder how long before they crash them up. Those Iraqi trainers have not flown for decades.

  8. michael reynolds says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    Exactly. We can wait for them to kill themselves, or we can send a drone over to blow them up on the ground.

    Or we could be Fox News and freak out.

  9. anjin-san says:

    OMFG! WE ARE DOOMED! I BLAME OBAMA!

  10. sam says:

    Headquarters CENTCOM record of encounter USAF fighters and ISIS fighters. Intercepted transmissions ISIS:

    Akbar 1: Akbar 2 respond
    Akbar 2: Akbar 2 Copy
    Akbar 1: Incoming bogies our 135. 50 miles. Initiate engagement protocol Al Bouggi.
    Akbar 2: Roger that. Turning to 315. Descending to 10 feet. Full AB.
    Akbar 1: 2, your turn is too slow.
    Akbar 2: 1, I’m having trouble.
    Akbar 1: Trouble? Nav, Mech?
    Akbar 2: Al Shat. My eyes are watering so much I can’t see.
    Akbar 1. Oh. Well, tighten your turn.
    Akbar 2. Roger.
    Akbar 1. I’ve lost visual on you 2.
    Akbar 2. I’ve lost visual period.
    Akbar 1: I think you’re under me 2, I …

    Transmission ends.

  11. Barry says:

    @Butch Bracknell: “For US pilots, this will be like Top Gun vs Special Olympics Top Gun. The principal challenge will be in shooting down the aircraft in a place where the parts won’t fall on civilians.”

    That was my first reaction; a whole bunch of USAF/Navy pilots sat up and said ‘I gonna be an ace!’.