Since it made its first appearance on-line in the night of Jul. 24, I’ve been asked to identify the “mysterious” aircraft spotted over Aleppo earlier on the same day.
Depicted in a BBC report as one of more “Russian-made MiG planes [that] arced through the sky. We watched as they dropped in, bombing and strafing rebel positions” the combat plane is a Syrian Arab Air Force L-39, a combat trainer.
The aircraft can (at least theoretically) be equipped with an under fuselage gun pod and external stores (bombs, rockets and missiles) carried on the four underwing hardpoints (up to 1,000 kg of stores).
Unfortunately, the quality of the following video, that is the best I’ve seen so far, does not give the possibility to see whether the plane is carrying any weapon.
Even if, based on reports, the L-39 (or other “Migs” that are not visible in the footage) was used to drop bombs on rebel position, it could also be used for reconnaissance purposes only (without any armament).
The Syrian Arab Air Force gunships, “only” used to fire rockets against the Free Syrian Army (FSyA) so far, have started to drop bombs on Homs and Damascus.
The following video is the last of series recently uploaded to Youtube, showing a Syrian Mil Mi-25 releasing what seems to be a Soviet FAB-250 general purpose bomb on Talbiseh, a small city in northwestern Syria, just 10 km Homs.
Recently, footage officially released by the regime showed Mig-21s, Mig-23s and also, Mig-29s and Su-24s firing rockets and dropping bombs, along with Mi-25s, Mi-17s and Gazelle operating at low altitude and firing at mock targets during what looked like a large exercise in the desert.
Most probably to prevent the enforcement of a No Fly Zone (as well as defections by experienced pilots), the only combat planes to be spotted in the Syrian sky over disputed towns, since the beginning of the uprising last year, have been some Mig-21 fighter jets.
Indeed, even if they were not used much since the beginning of the uprising last year, most probably to prevent the enforcement of a No Fly Zone (as well as defections by experienced pilots), aircraft of all types belonging to the Syrian Arab Air Force put in place an authentic show of force during recent drills that included live firing activity.
Footages of the Syrian planes at work are quite rare, as the secrecy maintained by the Syrian regime in regard to its military is very high.
That’s why the following video showing Mig-21s, Mig-23s and also, Mig-29s and Su-24s firing rockets and dropping bombs in the desert, along with Mi-25s, Mi-17s and Gazelle operating at low altitude and firing at mock targets is particularly interesting.
Although the footage does not help to judge the actual strength of the Syrian Air Force, it shows that Assad’s armed forces are still alive and kicking, and most probably capable to pose a threat to the surrounding nations.
This is more or less what emerges from the latest news released by the Turkish Armed Forces.
According to the report by the Presidency of the Gendarmerie Criminal Department, the remains of the aircraft collected on the water surface did not provide evidence of any organic or inorganic explosive residues, any fire initiator or accelerator substances which are derivatives of petroleum, and there is no sign of an ammunition remnant.
To make it simple: it was neither a missile nor gun fire. Therefore, it could have been a technical malfunction or a sudden emergency that did not give the crew the time to radio the alert.
But it is quite unlikely. After experiencing the failure, the pilot headed towards Syria. A decision that proves that the two on board had the time to react to situation, no matter which one it was.
Also a bit confusing are the claims by Ankara.
On Jun. 22, Turkey said that one of their planes had been gunned down by Syrian armed forces even though they later claimed it was hit by a SAM missile. Today the latest Turkish official release states that “the plane which was gunned down by the Syrian armed forces, according to the Syrian official authorities” [highlight mine].
The saga continues.
An F-4E flying at night. Image credit: Turkish Air Force
After announcing that the remains of the two missing aircrews were recovered from sea (that proved that the aircraft was not a drone), the Turkish Armed Forces released the first images of the debris of the RF-4E Phantom downed by Syria on Jun. 22, recovered by the NAUTILUS research vessel at a depth of 1,260 meters.
As a result of the research campaign launched in the aftermath of the incident, several items considered to belong to the missing plane were either recovered or filmed including the flight helmets of the pilot and WSO (Weapon System Officer), the boots (among the item collected on the sea surface), some cockpit instruments, ejection seat parts (cushions, handle), landing gear parts, engine and so on.
Noteworthy, a lot of parts are still missing (or at least, the images were not released yet): I’m curious to see whether there are some showing holes that would indicate that the plane was really gunned down as Syria and the U.S. (whose RC-135 spyplane was noted in the region at the time of the shooting) affirm, or there debris with signs of fire proving that it was hit by a surface to air missile, as claimed by Ankara.
Someone found it curious that some parts, as the flight helmets or the boots, were floating on the sea surface. However, this is probably due to the fact that the flight helmets are made of kevlar, hence not heavy enough to sink.
Here’s the map showing the locations were the parts were recovered: