— Mark (@markito0171) August 24, 2014
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.