From Akram: "The state Syrian TV announced on Tuesday that, Major General Abdullah Mahmoud al-Khalidi, a high ranking officer in the Syrian air force was assassinated in Ruken ad-Din, a northern quarter of Damascus, without giving more details. This assassination is the latest of a series of attacks that targeted personnel in the Syrian air force. Many analysts, especially who can be called the “Syrian Revolution Apologists”, may see in this assassination the direct result of the involvement of the Syrian air force in the fighting against the rebels, but this doesn’t seem enough to explain everything.
On November 25th 2011, long before any gunship helicopter or fixed wing warplane appear in the Syrian skies, a bus that was carrying pilots heading to their airbase in Homs governorate fell in an ambush of an armed group and six pilots, one technical officer and three civilians were killed. The attack was adopted, in a statement full of pride and piety, by the Farouq Brigades, an Islamist group backed by the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood (which it’s, in turn, backed by the ruling Muslim Brotherhood of Turkey) that acts mainly in Homs province but also in Aleppo and Idleb under the banner of the Free Syrian Army (Arabic). Since then, tens of the Syrian pilots and technical officers of different ranks have been assassinated while they were out of duty or killed in detention after their planes were downed.
But the story doesn’t end here. The Syrian air defense network seems to be one of the most favorite targets for the rebels. This time, the justifications presented by the “apologists” don’t work. Air defense weapons, by nature, can’t be used for purposes other than the ones they are designed for. Nevertheless, this simple fact seems absent from the minds of the fighters. Many are the videos published by the “revolutionary brigades” that show fighters celebrating the fall of air defense bases, in Rural Damascus, Ibdleb, Aleppo and other provinces, in their hands. It’s enough to type “air defense Syria” on YouTube to discover the enormity of this phenomenon and the blatant ignorance of the fighters (in one video, the commentator says: These are the missiles that Bashar al-Assad pointed at the chests of our people!!!). Throughout tens of similar operations, the armed groups succeeded in capturing many anti-aircraft machinguns (14.5 mm and 23 mm) with huge amounts of ammunition, something that is changing, dramatically, the course of the battle: in Damascus for example, the gunship helicopters disappeared in favor of fighter jets which are less effective in combating guerrillas but more immune from such weapons. However, the most serious consequence of this development is that Syria’s air cover is eroding, with an accelerated rate, in very sensitive regions such as the Syrian capital or Idleb and Aleppo provinces near the Syrian-Turkish borders. In most cases, the Syrian troops recuperate the seized bases, but only after the air defense systems being abolished by the rebels who don’t have the skills required to operate these complicated systems (the missiles, the launchers and the radars). In few cases, the Syrian air force was forced to destroy these systems to prevent them from falling in the wrong hands (one particular case was reported to me few weeks ago by an eyewitness, a civilian who works in a military engineering unit in al-Ghouta).
Taking in consideration that a military pilot needs years of training and thousands of flight hours before gaining a decent combat experience and that compensating the war losses in any air defense system requires significant technical and financial resources and years of hard work, not to mention the enormous restrictions that Syria faces in updating and extending its military capabilities, it’s hard to believe that destroying the Syrian air defense capabilities is just another chapter among many others in this dirty war. One may recall the ongoing discussions in the western circles about the difficulties that face the idea of creating a Libyan-style no-fly zone and wonder: are the Muslim Brotherhood paving the way for a coming no-fly zones?"