A British reporter had said that “MiG” fighters were being used. We deduced that the fighters were most likely MiG-23, MiG-21, or Su-24, or Su-17 ground attack planes. These jets, which Syria has in large supplies, are ideally lethal complements to the attack helicopters the embattled Syrian government has brought to bear on its own people.
But after finally seeing a photo of a jet used in Aleppo, we now know that the government was not using MiGs or Sukhois or any other Soviet-built ground attack jets at all.
Syria is using training jets to attack the rebels. Specifically, it is using the Czech-made Aero L-39 Albatros, a high performance jet trainer that has been in production for over 40 years and is one of the most popular training aircraft in the world.
Syria is known to possess several L-39ZA aircraft. The ZA variant is specifically upgraded for light ground attack. It carries a GsH-23L 23mm twin canon with 150 rounds and outer pylons that can carry air-to-air missiles and ground attack munitions. It can carry almost 3,000 lbs. of munitions.
The L-39ZA is very popular with developing nations as a cheap ground attacker. It is also used by Algeria, Bulgaria, Cambodia, the Czech Republic, Nigeria, Thailand and several other air forces around the world.
This has to raise some questions about the capabilities of the Syrian Air Force. The L-39 is weakly armed compared to its Soviet-built jets. A single Mig-23 can carry twice as much weaponry as the L-39ZA. An Su-24 “Fencer” can carry six times more bombs and missiles than an L-39ZA.
Syria is clearly having difficulty maintaining, arming, and using its more advanced Russian jets.
Update: We also have been made aware of this video of an L-39 over Syria