America and its coalition partners executing air strikes in Iraq and Syria currently enjoy total dominance in the skies over the so-called Islamic State. That may soon change.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a London-based monitoring group which maintains contacts with an extensive network of sources on the ground in Iraq and Syria, contends that ISIS fighters recently took control of three MiG fighter jets. What’s more, ISIS plans on using them.
The SOHR report also claims that the group has the support of defected former Iraqi military officers which are training ISIS fighters on how to fly the jets.
“SOHR’s sources say jets have been seen flying low over Syria’s province, reports CBS News correspondent Holly Williams,” a CBS News report read. “ISIS did overrun and seize control of the al-Jarrah air base in rural Aleppo, but it isn’t clear how long ago.”
**”The people who live in the nearby areas of the airbase of al Jarrah informed SOHR activists that they saw a warplane taking off from al Jarrah airbase and flying at a low altitude over the area. It is worth mentioning that it is not the first time that the people witness an aircraft flying at a low altitude after taking off from al Jarrah airbase,” said SOHR in its online report.
The Daily Mail observed that the Islamic State has regularly deployed captured weapons platforms against local and coalition forces but, if confirmed, this is the first time that ISIS has been able to piolet warplanes. Moreover, this is the first confirmation that any military aircraft ISIS captured in the territories it has overran are in workable condition.
Israel National News has more details:
Rami Abdul Rahman, director of the monitoring group, said witnesses in northern Syria have seen the group flying the three MiG 21 or MiG 23 model jets above the al-Jarrah airbase east of Aleppo, in the first instance of ISIS going airborne, reports Reuters.
“They have trainers, Iraqi officers who were pilots before for (former Iraqi President) Saddam Hussein,” said Abdul Rahman. “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.”
ISIS has captured several fighter jets during its conquest of Syria and Iraq. In August it captured several MiGs when it took Tabqa airbase in northern Syria from President Bashar Assad’s forces.
Those jets may never make it off the ground before they are disabled by coalition forces. If they ever do make it into the air on combat missions, they are unlikely to survive for long.