Rebel forces opposed to the Syrian regime run by President Bashar al-Assad claimed to have shot down a Syrian forces helicopter on November 27 using man-portable Russian-built SA-16 Gimlet ground-to-air missile(s). Video footage purports to show a helicopter being hit from the side in the engine just below the main rotors. If so, the missiles could have been captured from the recently attacked Syrian Forces Base 46, although the possibility remains that missiles could also be supplied from international sources sympathetic to the rebel movement.
The Syrian forces helicopter inventory is believed to still include operational Russian Mi-8, Mi-17, Mi-24 and SA 342 Gazelles. The SA-16 has an infrared (IR) guidance system with a range up to 5km and up to 3,500m. This would mark an increase in capability if true, as the rebels have to date had only small arms and heavy machine guns to engage and shoot down opposition aircraft.
There have been unconfirmed reports that the Syrian government requested permission for replacement helicopters from Russia to be flown to Syria through Iraqi airspace due to the Turkish government’s decision to close its airspace to Syrian aircraft.
Related: Military News