A Jordan F-16, bought from surplus Belgium inventory. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

“Jordanian F-16 downed by ISIS, pilot captured”

A Royal Jordanian Air Force F-16 fighter jet crashed in an area of Northern Syria controlled by the so-called Islamic State forces on Wednesday 24 December 2014. The pilot was captured by ISIS / ISIL troops, that claimed to have shot down the aircraft. If true, it would mark the first time ISIS/ISIL succeeded in shooting down a jet aircraft.

According to a human rights watch group the aircraft came down near Raqqa. Initial speculation about the downed jet being a Royal Jordan Air Force F-16 was later confirmed by ISIS, Jordanian and US sources. A picture of the canopy of the aircraft appeared quickly on social media. The pilot was later shown in a ISIS video surrounded by armed men of a rebel group, and Jordan has confirmed it is missing one of its pilots without going into further details.

Despite claims of ISIS that it shot down the RJAF F-16, there is no conclusive evidence the airplane was indeed shot down; it may well have crashed due to other reasons. However, Islamic State force earlier succeeded in shooting down an Iraqi Air Force EC635 helicopter over Iraq – killing its crew – but never before a fighter aircraft. If they did, that may point to the ISIS/ISIL-forces are getting their hands on more advanced weaponry. However,

The international coalition fighting ISIS/ISIL forces includes F-16s from several countries, with both the Belgian Air Component and the Royal Netherlands Air Force operating F-16s out of Jordan. But they focus on Iraq and sources were quickly to indicate the captured pilot spoke Arabic. A US Air Force F-16 was lost in an accident over Jordan on Sunday 30 November 2014, killing its pilot. The aircraft was involved in operations against ISIS / ISIL, but was not engaged in any combat action at that time.

The downing / crash of the RJAF F-16 in hostile area raises questions on how realistic and effective combat search and rescue (CSAR) missions are in the area. The thought of a CSAR mission package going into the area to retrieve a downed pilot in a environment this hostile and unpredictable, seems daunting. How well organised the international CSAR assets in the area are, is unknown. But the US did move A-10s from Afghanistan into Kuwait earlier, partly to support a possible future CSAR scenario.

© 2014 Airheadsfly.com editors Elmer van Hest and Marcel Burger

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A Jordan F-16, bought from surplus Belgium inventory. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A Jordan F-16, bought from surplus Belgium inventory. (Image © Elmer van Hest)