Rebels fighting the regime of President Bashir al-Assad in Syria claimed to have shot down a Syrian Air Force (SAF) MiG-23BN (NATO reporting name ‘Flogger’) combat aircraft on 13th August.
The claim was dismissed by the Syrian government which says that the aircraft crashed because of ‘technical reasons’.
The aircraft was lost close to the town of al-Muhassan, near the country’s border with Iraq, and was reportedly downed using Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AAA).
Should the rebels have succeeded in destroying a SAF combat aircraft, it would represent an escalation in the conflict, and demonstrate that anti-Assad forces are able to challenge the air power that the Syrian leader is increasingly relying on to fight the opposition.
On 7th August, photos circulated on the internet of Syrian rebels armed with a 9K32 Strela-2 (NATO reporting name ‘SA-7 Grail’) Man-Portable Air Defence System (MANPADS).
The origin of the weapon is unknown, although it has been alleged that some MANPADS looted from the stocks of the Libyan armed forces at the end of that country’s civil war in 2011 may have found their way into the hands of Syrian rebels.
How many MANPADS rebel forces may have in their possession, and the serviceability of these weapons, remains unknown.