The Syrian government is claiming its air force has destroyed two out of the three Soviet-built MiG fighters captured by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). However, the claim, which was posted on the Syrian Arab Army Facebook page, could not be independently verified.
“SyAF [Syrian Arab Air Force] took out two of ISIS captured jets at al-Jarah airbase,” the Syrian military statement reads. “An SyAF Sukhoi attack bomber took off from T4 airbase and destroyed the ISIS captured jets inside al-Jarah Airbase in Aleppo.”
The statement did not specify what Sukhoi model aircraft was used in the attack, but the Soviet Union supplied the Syrian government with Su-22 Fitter and Su-24 Fencer attack aircraft. The Syrian government said that they struck the ISIS base more than two days ago.
The opposition Syrian Observatory on Human Rights (SOHR) had reported that ISIS was operating three Mikoyan MiG-21 and MiG-23 fighters, but U.S. officials were immediately skeptical about the terrorist group’s ability to operate the warplanes. The ISIS group also showed off purported footage of some L-39 training and light attack jets that they were allegedly flying.
The SOHR had reported that former Iraqi Air Force fighter pilots were operating the jets and training new militants to fly the jets. U.S. Air Force officials said that the veteran Iraqi pilots themselves lack proficiency and training rookie terrorists to fly would be a long process and difficult in the best of times.
In conditions ISIS is operating in, it is likely a near impossibility that the group could train new pilots to operate a combat aircraft like a MiG-21 and especially the MiG-23.