ISIS now appears to have grabbed SA-24 state-of-the-art antiaircraft missiles

The photo above allegedly shows an ISIS fighter inside the newly captured Tabqa military airbase outside Raqa in Syria. He appears to be holding a Russian SA-24 manpad (man-portable air defense system) containing a missile. This is a state-of-the-art antiaircraft missile system — not a leftover from the Soviet era.

C.J. Chivers writes:

It can be fired effectively at aircraft head-on, from the side, or from the rear, and has features to overcome the countermeasures on modern military aircraft designed to confuse and thwart heat-seeking missiles. It also has a longer range, a proximity fuse and a larger warhead. It is, in short, one of the graver threats in the manpads class.

In their rush to evacuate the air base, the Syrian air force also appears to have left lots of fighter aircraft behind.

No doubt it’s widely assumed that ISIS does not possess trained pilots in its ranks, but at this point we should probably stop making assumptions.

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2 thoughts on “ISIS now appears to have grabbed SA-24 state-of-the-art antiaircraft missiles

  1. hquain

    ISIS continues to amaze, as do its opponents. Could none of the weapons left behind (incl. aircraft) have been used to defend the airbase?

  2. Paul Woodward

    Since ISIS had already defeated the remaining regime forces in the rest of Raqqa province, I expect the soldiers under siege in the Tabqa airbase were not focused on how they could continue defending their positions. More likely, they were wondering whether they would get rescued or decapitated.

    As the analysis by Col Gary Anderson that I posted yesterday makes clear, there is a great deal of method to what ISIS is doing.

    I saw The Intercept’s Murtaza Hussain tweet: “I’m convinced they’re not competent at anything but torturing people and bombing schoolyards.” Maybe he was being facetious, but if not, his view represents the problem that so often arises when we view something with contempt: we underestimate its strengths.

    ISIS deserves contempt but it also deserves respect when assessing its capabilities.

    Some observers insist that an organization this brutal is not sustainable — it’s bound to self-destruct by alienating those on whose support it depends. Maybe that will ultimately be true, but what happens between now and then? Just because tyrannical power is inherently unstable doesn’t mean it can’t flourish.

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