According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Mi-24 helicopter was shot down by rebels near the village of Kafr Nabouda, north of Hama. A video has since been released which appears to show the incident, and raised speculation it was a Russian helicopter.
The Syrian military launched an offensive yesterday north of Hama, trying to recover territory held by assorted al-Qaeda-linked rebels in the area around Hama and Idlib. Helicopters were active in the offensive, and while the Mi-24 is an old Soviet model helicopter gunship, it is active in both the Syrian and Russian militaries.
It’s unclear, then, if the downed helicopter was Russian or Syrian. Either way, the rebel factions in northern Hama, many of them formerly recipients of US aid, are awash in anti-aircraft weapons, which makes the use of these helicopters a dangerous proposition.
Mi-24 helicopters are designed as gunships, and were commonly used in the Soviet war in Afghanistan, where they similarly faced US-provided anti-aircraft missiles, which led to shifts in tactics with the helicopters, firing from a larger distance to try to avoid being in the line of fire.
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