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Since September 2014, the United States has been hitting ISIS targets. During the grueling, two year fight, the terrorists have lost a significant amount of territory in Iraq and Syria. However, the Syrian city of Palmyra— which the jihadist group was driven out of last year— has fallen back into their blood-stained hands.
One of the biggest reasons alarm bells are going off is one of the weapons that the Syrian Army left behind.
Fox News reported that:
“We believe it includes some armored vehicles and various guns and other heavy weapons, possibly some air defense equipment,“ Army Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend said. ”Anything they seized poses a threat to the coalition.”
A separate U.S. defense official told Fox News ISIS was in control of an SA-3 missile system taken from the Syrian regime outside Palmyra, a development first reported by the Washington Post. It was not immediately clear whether ISIS knew how to use it.
A SA-3 missile system has a range of a little over 120 miles.
Independent Journal Review talked to James Skelton, an Afghan war veteran and Marine pilot about the development.
"The SA-3 does pose a threat to American pilots in the fight against ISIS, you bet your ass. It can shoot down fighter jets and gunships. The SA-3 GOA uses a separate mobile radar suite that is rather sophisticated and great at engaging medium range targets.
We were well-briefed on this weapon as pilots. It's unusual for non-state actors to gain a regional defense weapon like the GOA.
At the same time, you need to have properly trained operators to successfully employ the missile battery. In addition, because the system is so old it often lacks spare parts and serviceable components which can compromise its effectiveness.
It's also quite possible that ISIS has ex-Iraqi or Syrian forces on its roster who do know the system. In their hands, it's a deadly, deadly weapon."
The last time an SA-3 anti-aircraft missile shot down an American pilot was during the Kosovo War. According to the Aviationist, in March 1999, Lt. Colonel Dale Zelko was flying a F-117 Nighthawk (stealth fighter) when two surface-to-air missiles were launched at him.
The first one missed. The second one hit. Zelko survived.
In the past, ISIS was able to obtain MANPADs, which are shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles. The SA-3, however, is a definite first for the world's most vicious jihadist group.