Bellingcat

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Jets Spotted Above Aleppo Identified As Aero L-39 Albatroses, Not MiGs

I've been taking a look at the various video of fixed winged aircraft spotted above Aleppo following this report by Ian Pannell of the BBC
But it was what happened late in the afternoon that underlined the grave risk to the government of losing ground in what is Syria's largest city and its economic capital.
First came an unmistakeable sound that has so far been absent in this conflict - the roar of fighter jets.
What appeared to be Russian-made MiG planes arced through the sky. We watched as they dropped in, bombing and strafing rebel positions.
A number of videos supposedly from Aleppo showing aircraft flying through the sky, for example this one from Bambuser and this one from Youtube, and are generally pretty unclear, so making out the shape of the aircraft is difficult.  However, one video has been posted that has a great shot of the aircraft
I've blown up this screengrab to get a clear idea of the silhouette of the aircraft
Let's compare that to some of the aircraft listed as being used by the Syrian Air Force, first the various MiGs
The above two aircraft are a MiG-21 and MiG-29, both of which clear have wings that look nothing like the aircraft in the videos.  Then we have MiG-23 and Su-24, with variable geometry wings
 
To me it looks like the wings are too thin, and set too far back, plus it appears in the video there's something on the end of the wings, and what I believe we are seeing in the video is an Aero L-39 Albatros
Here's a clearer top down view which we can compare to the still from the video
So in this case it seems likely that what we're seeing in the above video is not a MiG, but a jet training aircraft being used to attack targets in Aleppo.  The question is, why?

Update - After some discussion of whether or not it could be a SU-25 (which I believe the Syrian Air Force doesn't have) Tim Robinson, editor of Aerospace International, Tweeted to say
Its a L-39. Straight wings, wingtip fuel tanks, & longer nose than Su-25.
Update - HamaEcho sent me a second clip from Aleppo that seems to clearly show an L-39


And as yet there's been no video evidence of any other fixed-wing aircraft being used.

Update - Another video showing a L-39 over Aleppo
The excellent Aviationist blog has also taken a look at this and also come to the same conclusions.

Update July 28th - Two more videos have been posted showing the L-39 flying over Aleppo in the opening stages of the Syrian Army's attack on the FSA inside the city

Update July 28th - This video appears to show a L-39 making bombing runs, although the video quality makes it difficult to be certain

Update July 31st This video shows another L-39 above Aleppo possibly firing rockets or missiles

Related Posts
Evidence Of Cluster Bombs Being Deployed In Syria
New Cluster Bomb Evidence Emerges From Syria
Evidence Of Unguided Bombs Being Deployed By The Syrian Air Force

You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at brownmoses@gmail.com

11 comments:

  1. I agree with your assessment about the identified plane. My thoughts:

    1. It is possible to adapt a jet to carry munitions.

    2. Is it certain that munitions were dropped by this filmed plane and not another?

    3. This plane may have been carrying out other functions above the area.

    My own personal opinion is that, having seen footage of fighter planes in Syria being destroyed on the ground by militants and the defection of air-force fighter pilots, the Syrians are running short of fighter-bomber aircraft and may be converting other aircraft to drop munitions or carry out other duties normally carried out by more sophisticated aircraft.

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  2. Maybe this will help with the aircraft identification. http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/policy/army/fm/44-80/fm44-80.pdf

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  3. Because trainers such as the L-39 are slower and handle better at low altitudes and lower speeds. This makes them more effective in an urban combat scenario where the threat from ground based anti-aircraft assets is negligible. Were the Syrians facing an army armed with anti-aircraft missiles and radar guided anti-aircraft-artillery, these types of aircraft would be blown out of the sky. But they are not. Types such as the MiG-23 or Su-24 are designed for fast penetration and faster egress, but this may come at the cost of accuracy, and hence are not best suited for fighting in Syria's cities.

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    1. Strongly agree. Much more useful than fighters.

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  4. The Albatros can be used for light attack and as a gunship. Presumably, Syria is short of helicopters or pilots that can fly them.

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  5. Nice detective work BM, in the video you can also just spot the shape of the tail which imo supports the idea of an albatros.

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  6. Picture is very vague, but I would say it's a Sukhoi-25 Frogfoot ground attack plane.

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  7. I was in Air Defense in US Army and the method we used to identify planes was the WEFT method. Wings, Engine, Fuselage and tail. The Sukhoi-25 Frogfoot does not have the correct wing silhouette and tail. It could also be the Galeb (Soko)of Yugoslavia which is very close to the trainer.

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  8. Aside from trainers making reasonably good counter insurgency light attack aircraft (Hawks to Indonesia, remember?), if you had concerns regarding the political reliability of your aircrew, the two-seat Albatross has one useful advantage over single seat MiG-23s and Su-22s. You can partner up your crews at random and hopefully avoid single pilots legging it to Turkey with your jets. I seem to recall reports about them doing this with Mi-25 crews, mixing Sunni and Alawite crewmen.

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  9. 'This video appears to show a L-39 making bombing runs, although the video quality makes it difficult to be certain'

    Not bombing runs in that video but cannon strafes. The ripping noise that you can hear is the distinct burp sound of the 23mm cannon that can be mounted on the L-39 Albatros.

    On the Syrian video. The first strafe is at 0:34. The ripping noise is from the cannon. The second strafe is at 01:18. The third strafe is at 01:56.The fourth strafe is at 03:07. The close-up of the L-39 shows the muzzle flashes from the cannon.


    See following video of live fire training in Switzerland.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICpxvQcXe28

    F-16 cannon strafe with 20mm.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wberKPnrWzg

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  10. Its been reported that the fsa have "20 or so, primitive SAM s"

    What type of SAMs or manpads would be neccessary to take this type of plane out?

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