|ISIS propaganda video|
Just today, the Islamic State, the terrorist army currently wreaking havoc across the Middle East, shocked the world by revealing that it is in possession of at least three operational Soviet-era MIG-21 and/or MIG-23 fighter jets. Though many people have been led to believe by the Western media that these jets do not represent a major risk to the safety of Americans because their age makes them obsolete, we forget that many American jets are just as old if not older, and that the Soviets gave the world the ubiquitous AK-47, a weapon which is on the flag of some nations.
It would indeed be relatively easy for an F-35 to shoot down any Syrian MIG, but this may not be feasible in today's political climate, lest it lead to a major increase in hostilities. Though the Turks and the Israelis have in the past couple of years shot down Syrian jets, the American-led Coalition against ISIS may not be as willing to shoot down one, two, or three Syrian jets, as no one knows at which point the Syrian regime would retaliate and escalate. If one jet is shot down, Assad is likely to play it cool, but if three jets were shot down at the same time, it could be seen as the start of an outright war.
During the Libyan uprising against Muammar Gaddafi, some members of his air force defected and took their jets to Malta. At the time, it was reported: "Two Libyan fighter jet pilots landed in Malta yesterday claiming to have escaped the country after being asked to bomb protester civilians in Benghazi." The pilots arrived on Mirage F-1 planes and requested asylum.
If ISIS manages to somehow transport its jets into a place that allows easy access to the sea [MIG-23 has a range of up to 2,800km,] and to launch them under false Syrian flags into open waters, it may be very difficult for foreign forces to shoot down what is apparently one of Assad's planes. Though most experts believe that ISIS could fly its MIGs at low altitude in order to avoid radar detection, the fear is that these jets get into the Mediterranean.
We are not sure what kind of transponders ISIS has in its possession, nor is it clear to what extent they have infiltrated the Iraqi and Syrian air forces, but if foreign forces cannot distinguish between ISIS jets and Syrian jets, we may find ourselves in a situation where Syrian pilots cannot easily or successfully defect from Assad's claws.
Worse, we may create a situation where trigger-happy pilots may shoot down any MIG that fails to identify itself in time, leading to a full-blown war between Syria and the West. If ISIS is lucky enough to carry out an operation not just above one of its cities, but also in open waters, then there is a very real probability that a lucky shot could lead to a ship being sunk, potentially plunging the region into a deeper war by inviting a bigger international response.