Get PJ Media on your Apple

The PJ Tatler

by
Rick Moran

Bio

August 24, 2014 - 3:44 pm

A bloody assault by Islamic State forces captured the Syrian government air base in Tabqa, today, acquiring “several warplane squadrons, helicopters, tanks, artillery, and ammunition bunkers.” An aviation “squadron,” according to Wkipedia, is “a unit of aircraft that consists of three or four flights with a total of 12 to 24 aircraft, depending on the type of aircraft and the air force, naval or army air service.”

Again, according to Wikipedia, the Taqba air base possessed 12 squadrons of the aging MIG-21 — both combat fighters and trainers. The base also housed about 20 Mi-8 helicopters, probably a mix of transport and gunship models.

So Islamic State possesses several dozen aging, but effective MIG-21 fighters, several helicopter gunships armed with anti-tank weapons, as well as an unknown number of tanks and a lot of ammunition.

Certainly no match for American jets.  The biggest question is, do they have the pilots to fly the machines?

Christian Science Monitor describes the battle:

The jihadis launched their long-anticipated offensive last week to seize the sprawling Tabqa facility, located some 45 kilometers (25 miles) from the extremists’ stronghold in the city of Raqqa along the Euphrates River.

After several failed efforts to breach the walls in recent days, Islamic State fighters managed to punch through and storm the air base Sunday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Government warplanes carried out waves of airstrikes to try to beat back the attack, but those ultimately proved unable to stem the assault.

“Some of the Syrian regime troops pulled out, and now the Islamic State is in full control of Tabqa,” said Observatory director Rami Abdurrahman. “This makes Raqqa province the first to fully fall out of government hands.”

Another activist group, the Local Coordination Committees, also said the extremist group was in control of Tabqa.

The SANA state news agency confirmed that the government had lost the air base, saying troops “are successfully reassembling after evacuating the airport.” It said that the military was still “striking terrorist groups, inflicting heavy losses on them.”

The government had made significant investments in both weapons and manpower to try to hold onto Tabqa, making its fall a both a symbolic and a strategic blow.

Islamic State fighters had been closing in on the base for weeks. When the fight finally came, it was bloody.

The Observatory said that at least 100 Islamic State fighters were killed and another 300 wounded in the fighting, numbers that exclude casualties from the final assault. Abdurrahman said dozens of government troops also were killed Sunday alone.

Tabqa is the latest in a string of bases to fall to the Islamic State group as it strengthens its hold over a vast swath of territory in northern and eastern Syria. Last month, the extremists overran the sprawling Division 17 military base in Raqqa, killing at least 85 soldiers. Two weeks later, they seized the nearby Brigade 93 base after days of heavy fighting.

The group’s trademark brutality was on full display after those victories. They killed army commanders and pro-government militiamen, decapitating them before putting their bodies and heads on display. The Observatory reported similar acts following the fall of Tabqa Sunday.

Since the Syrian military is going to try and take the base back, they probably haven’t destroyed many of the armaments left behind. But the capture of the base is really bad news. IS has proved itself to be resourceful. If they don’t have men who can fly the jets, they can hire people who can train them. The same goes for the helicopters.

If Islamic State now possesses an air force, it could tip the balance their way in Syria and Iraq. The nightmare just got a little blacker.

Rick Moran is PJ Media's Chicago editor and Blog editor at The American Thinker. He is also host of the"RINO Hour of Power" on Blog Talk Radio. His own blog is Right Wing Nut House.
Top Rated Comments   
Bomb it now! We have a free shot to eliminate a significant portion of a hostile Air Force based in Syria. Both sides are enemies of the US. We couldn't touch it while it was controlled by an ally of Russia, but we have a free shot now that ISIS controls it.
3 weeks ago
3 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's one thing to have planes.

It's another to have pilots.

It's yet another to have ground crews.

3 weeks ago
3 weeks ago Link To Comment
Why do armies in the Middle East even have tanks and planes? And with all their military training and doctrine they don't see to be able to confront guys in pick up trucks.

The U.N. and America should declare the whole area a free sovereignty zone and invite anyone from the West who can take over to do so. Just give me a brigade of Civil War re-enactors and a few bi-planes and I'll be the next King of Al-Sham and I promise not to use the bi-planes against Western civilians and protect the oil. How the hell could we do worse letting some ex-marines take over the entire area and set themselves up as a royal empire or dynasty? Where's the East India Company when you need them?

Get to work Obama. Announce it's open season on the Middle East and provide free transport and the only rule is you can't be Muslim. In retrospect, colonialism was a pretty good idea.
3 weeks ago
3 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (31)
All Comments   (31)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
I would be more worried about the manpads, the islamists captured, afraid that they will be showing up, in attacks against civilian aviation, at airports around the world.
2 weeks ago
2 weeks ago Link To Comment
Swami is all over it, it is Fighter Squadron 12 and is no threat whatsoever. Pilots and mechanics don't grow on trees and ISIS has neither. But I suppose we could try and scrounge up a pair of old F-8 Crusaders to completely destroy Squadron 12. Toss in a couple of AH-1 Helos to mop up the Mi8's...problem solved. Sort of a time warp back to 1972.
3 weeks ago
3 weeks ago Link To Comment
A solution would be having our Tiger Woods wannabe CIC stay at the White House long enough to authorize the carpet bombing of the Tabqa airbase effectively eliminating any military value for ISIS. The problem isn't so much the aging aircraft and Soviet era helicopters as it is the possession of tanks, artillery and other heavy equipment. Add to that any weapons and munitions stored at the facility. Obama moves so slowly in his decision making process that they will more than likely have removed anything of value before he would react. Having to go though his various advisors and Czars makes any rapid response impossible for Obama. The president is reactionary rather than proactive and we get burned continually as a result of his shortcomings. The Obama government is made up of politically progressive amateurs.
3 weeks ago
3 weeks ago Link To Comment
How many weeks has Obama been considering his next move? If he had moved more quickly Foley had a good shot at living to see his next birthday. I've been hearing that Syria is being taken over by ISIS since before Obama's vacation to Martha's Vineyard. That's three weeks. With every false step Obama takes, he first meets with "his people" to "consider". This is a man so unsure of himself that he's paralyzed to do anything. Either that or he doesn't want to stop ISIS. How much consideration needs to go into bombing an air station?
3 weeks ago
3 weeks ago Link To Comment
Not "12 squadrons."

Squadron Number 12.

Like most Arab air forces, actual operable aircraft probably nowhere near "paper" strength. And the Mig-21 is a obsolete even to the Syrians- this would be their lowest priority aircraft. I would be surprised if more than 6 aircraft were flyable.
3 weeks ago
3 weeks ago Link To Comment
Agree completely. Also wince at the thought of a Kamikaze attack
on a US surface combatant; No way it could work, unless some
damn fool ordered the warship in close to the coast.
3 weeks ago
3 weeks ago Link To Comment
Let get our moneys worth out of IS! Ring fence Kurdistan and declare a Hudna with IS on the Kurdish side. Then let IS go to town on Iraq and Syria and maybe even Iran and Turkey if we are lucky! Perfect scenario with all our enemies killing each other. In the meantime FREE KURDISTAN with a HUGE US Military base where we can launch our attacks against IS in a few years!
3 weeks ago
3 weeks ago Link To Comment
If this is true, and they have any pilots; and if the U.S. government can overcome the Admin's animosity towards Israel, these jets have a life span of (beginning of executed operation to end of said operation = roughly 30 minutes). IAF has no issues removing them. Can Dempsey persuade Jarrett-Obama to 'permit' such a thing?
3 weeks ago
3 weeks ago Link To Comment
I assume ISIS has exactly one good general, and I guess he was involved here, which helps explain why he wasn't at Baghdad or Erbil.

If Syria did NOT fly out (or sabotage) all usable aircraft, then why not?
3 weeks ago
3 weeks ago Link To Comment
Reports were the Syrians flew their planes out before abandoning the base.
3 weeks ago
3 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think they used up all of their trained pilots back in September 2001.
3 weeks ago
3 weeks ago Link To Comment
1 2 3 Next View All