Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
May 14, 2016

MANPAD Used By PKK Against Turkish Helicopter May Have Come From Turkey Via "Rebels" In Syria

A Turkish helicopter was shut down by the Kurdish PKK with the help of a modern handheld air defense system. A possible source of this system may be an earlier delivery of such systems from Turkey to "rebels" in Syria.

July 31 2012 - Reuters Syrian rebels acquire surface-to-air missiles: report

Rebels fighting to depose Syrian president Bashar al Assad have for the first time acquired a small supply of surface-to-air missiles, according to a news report that a Western official did not dispute.

NBC News reported Tuesday night that the rebel Free Syrian Army had obtained nearly two dozen of the weapons, which were delivered to them via neighboring Turkey, whose moderate Islamist government has been demanding Assad's departure with increasing vehemence.
Precisely what kind of MANPADs have been delivered to Syrian rebels is unclear and NBC News did not provide details. Such weapons range from the primitive to highly sophisticated.

What anti-air missiles the "rebels" acquired became obvious in November 2012 when the "rebels" posted pictures of themselves posing with such weapons:

In photographs recently posted online, two fighters were shown holding modern variants of heat-seeking, shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles.
So this development, the apparent capture of complete SA-16 and SA-24 systems, will bear watching. If these weapons are turned toward Syrian military aircraft, then supporters of the uprising will have reason to hail them, and Syrian military pilots will have new grounds for worry on their next sorties. But if these are sold — and weapons of this sort are often said to fetch four- and five-figure dollar sums on black markets — and fired at commercial aircraft, then the consequences and regional security implications of the war in Syria will have become much worse.

From known losses of the Syrian air-force it appears that at least some of the systems the "rebels" were given in 2012 were probably never used. They may indeed have been sold off.

Now they may have reappeared.

AP reported yesterday: Turkey: 8 soldiers dead in clash with PKK, helicopter crash

Clashes broke out early Friday with rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, near the town of Cukurca, in Hakkari province, killing six soldiers, a military statement said. Eight other soldiers were wounded.

A military helicopter sent to the area to support the soldiers later crashed, killing its two pilots, the military said, adding that the crash was due to a technical fault.

The PKK today published a video (alternative source) which shows that the claimed "technical fault" was a complete separation of the tail rotor section from the Turkish AH-1W SUPER COBRA attack helicopter due to direct hit by a SA-18 MANPAD.

While Russia might work with Kurdish elements in Syria it is extremely doubtful that it trusts any Kurdish group enough to provide it with modern MANPAD system just to anger Turkey. A possible source of the shown system is the older Turkish shipment to the "rebels" in Syria who might have "lost" or sold off some to whoever offered a decent amount.

What goes around comes around.

Independent of where the system revealed now came from, the hit on the Turkish helicopter will likely end any further talk of providing anti-air systems to the "rebels" in Syria. The battlefield there is too confusing to guarantee that any delivered system really ends up where it is supposed to go and not in the behind of its provider.

Turkey will likely have to reduce its use of attack helicopters against in own citizens in east Turkey. While some countermeasures can defeat older MANPAD systems none is really reliable. They are difficult to defeat especially in the mountainous east of Turkey. All Turkish air assets will now be vulnerable unless they fly very high.

Posted by b on May 14, 2016 at 17:52 UTC | Permalink


Is he counting, just before he fires the MANPADS? I got the impression he was trained. So if he bought it on the black market, he also somehow got some information or training on how to use it.

Erdogan is really ramping up his talk about marching the Turkish army across the border. I wonder if this kind of thing would discourage him.

Posted by: Joanne Leon | May 14 2016 18:11 utc | 1

From youtube they also shot down a Chinook as well.

There is loss of like so I feel sorry. But this is the payback for Turkey supporting the terrorists in Syria. If I was Putin there would be so much more of this.

Posted by: eric bloodaxe | May 14 2016 18:26 utc | 2

@2 Cossack Patrol? Who came up with that one?

Posted by: dh | May 14 2016 18:39 utc | 3

"Turkey will likely have to reduce its use of attack helicopters against in own citizens in east Turkey." --The story of Turkey's military campaign against its Kurdish population gets close to zero coverage in U.S. papers.

Posted by: Mike Maloney | May 14 2016 18:54 utc | 4

With ATGMs and Manpads being quite cheap, highly portable, long range and easy to handle, armoured vehicles just as helicopters and even some fighter jets are becoming moving coffins. Judging from Syria rebel videos they seem to drown in ATGMs as they use them already at assemblies of 2 soldiers not to mention shooting them at fortified positions, artillery pieces and enemy ATGMs.

ATGMs with tandem warheads destroy even most of the sophisticated defense systems, and ATGM shooters seem to have a very high ratio of succesful hits. A weapon of several Mio. USD value (tank) is easily destroyed by a weapon worth few thousand USDs.

As long as armies still rely on tanks and APCs to move they will have frustratingly high casuaties unless they have perfect aerial surveillance with drones, which at best some Nato countries can afford.

Posted by: KerKaraje | May 14 2016 19:05 utc | 5

From Wikipedia: Igla-S (SA-24)

Current operators
  • Libya: Photo evidence of the truck mounted twin version in service with the Libyan Army emerged during the 2011 Libyan Revolution starting from March 2011. 482 Igla-S missiles were imported from Russia in 2004. Some of them were unaccounted at the end of the war and they could have ended up in Iranian inventory.[41][42][43] Israeli officials say that Igla-S were looted from Libyan warehouses in 2011 and transported by Iranians through Sudan and turned over to militants in Gaza and Lebanon.[44]

  • Syria: Photo evidence of SA-24 MANPADS (man-portable) in the possession of Syrian rebels was first reported on November 13, 2012. "As far as I know, this is the first SA-24 Manpads ever photographed outside of state control," said one expert.[45]

Posted by: Petri Krohn | May 14 2016 19:28 utc | 6

If Hamas or Hezbollah had any Manpads they would have shotdown Israeli aircraft. This has not happened in the last 20 years at least.

Posted by: KerKaraje | May 14 2016 19:47 utc | 7

Turkey will do like the Russians do and fire from heigher in the air, or Turks will use artillery for even wider destruction and criminal loss of innocent life. The idea that The evil Turkish government and military elite won't go even harder in their oppression is not possible.

Posted by: tom | May 14 2016 19:50 utc | 8

Sadly, Tom in 8 is right. To stop Turkey, loss of a helicopter has to be a twice weekly event. And while I understand why Russia would never want to share MANPADs with the Kurds, some serious antitank weapons would definitely put the Turkish military in a bind, while posing no threat to civil aviation.

Posted by: Lysander | May 14 2016 20:12 utc | 9

If there is one thing about NATO members, we're not great at learning lessons.

I was paging through the link to the device itself, curious how idiot proof this type of weapon is? Seems like there's a healthy serving of technology going on in the case that the device sits in, presumably for transport. I'm wondering what type of training is required, or are those a pull the trigger and retreat for a celebratory scotch with the boys, type of technology.

Posted by: IhaveLittleToAdd | May 14 2016 21:35 utc | 10

The MADPADS will go medieval on the ass of the "air force" of everyone. Then the Sunburns will sink all the ships. Technology will not be pleasant. They will cry and wonder why?

Posted by: blues | May 14 2016 22:09 utc | 11

Sometimes one has to wonder ... just how stupid can the arms manufacturers and the governments who support them be?

Giving arms to someone who can turn around and use them against you seems, on the surface of it, to be counter productive ... unless the goal is simply to create more chaos so that profits increase. At some point there will be an accountability. And, frankly, I can't wait ...

Can you?

Posted by: rg the lg | May 14 2016 23:07 utc | 12

thanks b... i tend to agree with @8 tom / @9 lysander and think you are wrong on how turkey will respond.. under erdofanatic - he just goes more rabid.. unless he is removed from the head of turkey, i expect continued madness and ramping up of the murder and mayhem.. seems like he's on the payroll of the military contractors..

@12 rg the lg.."the goal is simply to create more chaos so that profits increase." sure looks like it which is probably why pepe was given over to calling it the 'empire of chaos'...

Posted by: james | May 15 2016 0:42 utc | 13

eric bloodaxe@2
You said, "There is loss of like so I feel sorry." Why would you possibly feel sorry? Statistically, two people on earth die every second. It's sort of a natural result of being born. Do you feel sorry every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every year throughout your life? I doubt it.

What about "thrilled", as in "Military aggressors who were hurling death down from the sky on innocents as well as on combatants suffered loss of life so I feel thrilled."

It's the American disease to say they're sorry when in fact they really aren't. But it sounds so humane. Had you thought to show sorrow for the unnamed innocents whom the Turkish military had perhaps killed that day? I thought not.

Did you feel sorry for the 120 persons who died on earth while you spent a minute reading my post? Again, I thought not.

I'm sorry I wrote you such a harsh reply. . . . No I'm not! I won't be sorry until you track me down and beat me to death with a lead pipe. But I'm sure that after the deed is done, you'll be sorry for the loss of life.

Posted by: Macon Richardson | May 15 2016 5:06 utc | 14

Just went over Bellingcat last night to see what they were claiming. Nothing yet. But they did have an article that said an "activist"/terrorist claiming that the Iranians were supplying MANPADs to the Syrian government and that the terrorists had captured some. I pointed out how ridiculous this was as the Syrian government has no need of them now that the Russians have installed S-400 in range of where the claim came from and that the Syrian government already had the far more advanced and capable SA-24. Also, the only people who would benefit from access to MANPADs were the terrorists if they captured them and used them t shoot down Syrian or Russian aircraft.
Looked this morning to see if the comment had been replied to or deleted to find that the whole article had been deleted. So Bellingcat deletes its failures. Not the most honest thing to do and makes you wonder if they'll use the same source again in future. Must preserve the myth that they are always right.

Posted by: blowback | May 15 2016 9:00 utc | 15

Don't be suprised if Erdogan throttles back a little because of incidents like what we see here. The image of US aircraft spiraling to the ground in flames can hurt sales. By the same token, the image of someone's older, cheaper weapon system functioning perfectly well can help the sales of a competitor.

The contractor driven policy empire marches on.

Posted by: wwwinsti | May 15 2016 9:01 utc | 16

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Media reported earlier in October that Syrian rebels asked Washington for Stinger missiles to use them against Russia’s military jets.
“Absolutely… Absolutely I would,” McCain said when asked whether he would support the delivery of Stinger missiles to the opposition in Syria.
“We certainly did that in Afghanistan. After the Russians invaded Afghanistan, we provided them with surface-to-air capability. It’d be nice to give people that we train and equip and send them to fight the ability to defend themselves. That’s one of the fundamental principles of warfare as I understand it,” McCain said.
Ben Gurion airport is not far from where these manpads will be bartered and sold to the highest bidder, This airport is the life blood of the Israeli economy, tourism and trade, a couple of manpads could shut down this airport and with it the Israeli economy. I wonder if McCain has thought of that?

Posted by: harrylaw | May 15 2016 9:02 utc | 17

IhaveLittleToAdd@10 - The Russian units are not that different than the American Redeye (60's vintage) or the Stinger. Assuming you had a properly assembled unit - missile/tube, battery/coolant unit and grip stock - in good working order, I could teach you enough to take down a relatively slow-moving aircraft in range in daylight with reasonable proficiency (50/50 chance) in maybe 10 minutes.

These are not terribly complicated to use. There's a lot more to know about engagement envelopes, atmospheric conditions and aircraft that would take a few hours to cover that would get you a lot closer to the weapon's maximum probability of a hit in more challenging circumstances.

Most head-choppers with these weapons in Syria probably just got the ten minute point-and-shoot version. If you just got a shipment of 100 of them from Benghazi (courtesy of the U.S. State Department and CIA), then 50/50 is probably close enough. There are still tens-of-thousands of these unaccounted for from Libya even after counting the ones the CIA was able to round up, and counting the few thousand that went to other questionable U.S.-backed rebel groups in Africa. And if that isn't bad enough, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are suspected of shipping some of their enormous stockpiles to their head-chopper pals running around Turkey, Syria and Iraq.

The other electronic gear in the case seen in this picture are mostly system components for vehicle-mounted multiple-tube launchers that are remotely aimed and operated from inside the vehicle. Nothing someone toting around a stand-alone hand-held one in the field would ever see, have or use. There are specialized test units a tech would have for interrogating the health of the missile/launcher components and sensors, but again - nothing the average soldier would ever use.

Posted by: PavewayIV | May 15 2016 9:49 utc | 18

"moderate rebels" nor IS, and A'quada have attacked Israel once since they have active in Syria.

Posted by: okie farmer | May 15 2016 10:29 utc | 19

okie farmer @19 That's true, although of the over 1000 armed groups in Syria its just possible one or two may not be enamored of Israel or the US.

Posted by: harrylaw | May 15 2016 11:41 utc | 20

harrylaw @20, That would be YPG and the rest of the Kurdish armed forces. All Sunni jihadists are Israhell's BFFs.

Nice hits BTW, hope Erdogan gets his soon...

Posted by: LXV | May 15 2016 11:49 utc | 21

@18, PW, 'There are still tens-of-thousands of these unaccounted for from Libya even after counting the ones the CIA was able to round up'

Oh ... well as long as they're in the CIA's hands there's nothing to worry about then? I view the CIA as the world's 'premiere' terrorist organization. Certainly the most independent one. The one with the deepest pockets. the least conscience, and the most immunity.

Posted by: jfl | May 15 2016 13:09 utc | 22

Take this with a grain of salt but...
I recall reading, some time ago, that modern MANPADS won't/can't shoot down "friendly" aircraft because either:
1. MANPADS can detect a "friendly" RF beacon causing them to lose interest in the target
2. When an aircrew detects an approaching missile, they can send a self-destruct signal (if its origin is the same as their own).

It struck me at the time that prudence would dictate that a Home Team advantage be built into such cheap weapons and neither safeguard would be impossible to incorporate in the design.

It's clear that the Turkish helicopter was Yankee in origin and had no workable defense system. Russia could supply a small number of MANPADS to Syria's enemies on a strictly-accounted-for "exchange" basis. I would.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | May 15 2016 14:03 utc | 23

...small number of MANPADS to Syria's enemies on a strictly-accounted-for "exchange" basis. I would.
Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | May 15, 2016 10:03:18 AM | 23

Sorry. I outsmarted myself. It should read:
...small number of MANPADS to the enemies of Syria's enemies on a strictly-accounted-for "exchange" basis. I would.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | May 15 2016 14:18 utc | 24

@ Hoarsewhisperer | May 15, 2016 10:03:18 AM | 23

Minimal salt accepted: I would need to see that from a far more credible source than you.
Frankly; I've never heard this before. Doesn't mean it's not true; just unverified by my readings...

Posted by: V. Arnold | May 15 2016 14:26 utc | 25

jfl@22 "...Oh ... well as long as they're in the CIA's hands there's nothing to worry about then?..." Sorry, but no. That's past tense - they were in the CIA's hands. In 2012, the U.S. State Department arranged for many shipments to go to U.S. backed rebels through Turkish ports. Then there were the few thousand looted from the CIA Annex by U.S.-backed Libyan jihadi rebels after that scheme went south in Benghazi. We can only guess how many the CIA/State Department was actually able to take out of circulation/destroy and how many they re-purposed elsewhere.

The following story details ONE of what surely were dozens - maybe hundreds - of arms shipments to 'moderate rebels'.

REPORT: The US Is Openly Sending Heavy Weapons From Libya To Syrian Rebels

Hoarsewhisperer@23 - The Identify Friend or Foe (IFF) features are generally provided by ancillary systems on vehicle-mounted versions. One of the gizmos in the SA-18 case picture is a Russian version of that. The newest/latest/greatest version of MANPADS of U.S. and Russian origin may have some of these features built in, and may have the self-destruct trigger you mentioned. Older systems like the stand-alone Redeye and SA-7s do not.

I would like to think the newest most sophisticated stuff isn't floating around the Middle East, but thanks to our Gulf frenemies (who always buy top-shelf stuff) there's little chance of that. They have a vested interest in getting the latest stuff to their head-chopper pals, though. It increases the chance that someone else acquiring one with the proper IFF codes can't intentionally take out a Saudi chopper or Qatari jet.

I'm skeptical about the real ability of on-aircraft systems ability to reliably protect them from SAMs despite manufacturer's claims. Turkey's NATO-ized Chinook and SuperCobra didn't have much luck. They are probably effective in dropping the success rate of a SAM strike, but don't eliminate it by any means. Better than nothing, but not as good as 20,000 feet of air. Newer MANPADs like the Igla-S can distinguish and ignore most basic countermeasures like IR flares. Few aircraft systems can defeat a coordinated multi-SAM attack from different angles.

And you still have a pretty huge cost-benefit ratio when dealing with older systems like a SA-7. Can a $10 million AH-1W protect itself against 95% of attacks from them? Sure. So you just buy 20 of them and test that 5% success rate at $5,000 each. Pretty good chance of taking one out if you have a trained operator waiting for the right conditions. And note that black market price list was before U.S. stupidity over Gaddafi released many of Libya's estimated 250,000 MANPAD stockpile to various jihadis and the black markets.

Posted by: PavewayIV | May 15 2016 19:56 utc | 26

@ V. Arnold | May 15, 2016 10:26:59 AM | 25

And you are such a credible source? Really?

Posted by: blues | May 15 2016 21:39 utc | 27


Thanks for the thoughtful response. I'm fascinated by the technological component to warfare. I was curious about the implications of producing, and distributing, what you've indicated is an idiot proof battlefield changing weapon. By simplifying the device, does it insinuate that the weapon was designed to be put in the hands of "head-choppers" or other non-technically savvy analogues around the world? I find it interesting to to consider what the deployment of certain types of munitions says about the goals of the parties involved. It's the immutable "walking the walk."

Posted by: IhaveLittleToAdd | May 15 2016 21:41 utc | 28

Posted by: PavewayIV | May 15, 2016 3:56:42 PM | 26

Thanks for the response. I know I didn't make up my hazy recollections but I can't remember the context which allowed me to stumble upon it or, more importantly, the source. As I said in #23, whatever the screed I read contended, it made sense to me. I thought it was worth mentioning on the off-chance that someone better informed than I might add some substance.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | May 16 2016 0:50 utc | 29

Posted by: blues | May 15, 2016 5:39:11 PM | 27

Thanks, but I don't take implied, or stated, criticism personally. I interpret it as an exaggerated difference of opinion ;-)

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | May 16 2016 1:22 utc | 30

@26 PW, 'Sorry, but no. That's past tense - they were in the CIA's hands.'

Well, yeah. That was my point. And they pass - by definition - from the CIA's hands to the hands of the second worst terrorists in the world. The CIA must always be recognized as the worst of the worst.

Posted by: jfl | May 16 2016 13:24 utc | 31

@Paveway IV,

You know you ought to write a book - like the guy who wrote that he was an economic hitman. You sound as though you have first person experience. You wouldn't have to name names, that would probably get you killed, just add enough detail to make it clear that you were there when it went down. I was a hitman's hitman for the US mic, by Paveway IV. It would be up there with Edward Snowden's work if you could deliver the documentation.

Posted by: jfl | May 16 2016 13:33 utc | 32

We saw the same in 2006/2007. The US doled out/armed up modern weapons to the Iraqi army.
- But when Israel did a mini invasion of southern Lebanon (2006) the israelis found out that Hezbollah was using US made weapons that came from Iraq.
- In that same year turkish bankrobbers were caught by the turkish police. The turkish police discovered that those bankrobbers were using US made semi automatic weapons. That were doled out by the US in Iraq.

Posted by: Willy2 | May 17 2016 12:28 utc | 33

This is enough to completely put the airlines out of business. If I owned stock in one of them, I would sell it.

Would I climb into some tin can and be wiped out by some jerk? Not too soon.

One of the first things I really learned is that once anything of this sort gets loose, you get your ass out of the way. How much longer can we live just one stupid away from disaster? And when it happens, will we be bound to feel very bad for the victims? Or will we finally just understand that they simply went to Vegas and lost it all? Maybe we should decide now about how to cope with this insanity. Maybe handing these things out like popcorn was really not such a great plan?

Posted by: blues | May 18 2016 5:23 utc | 34

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