The Complex

Chinese surface-to-air missiles are being used by Syrian rebels

This is interesting. The YouTube video below apparently shows what’s looks like a Syrian air force Mi-8 Hip transport chopper being shot down by Syrian rebels using what appears to be a Chinese-made FN-6 shoulder-fired heat-seeking missile earlier this month. While there have been some reports of the rebels seizing stocks of older Soviet-designed SA-7 ...

Chinese Internet, China Defense Blog
Chinese Internet, China Defense Blog

This is interesting. The YouTube video below apparently shows what’s looks like a Syrian air force Mi-8 Hip transport chopper being shot down by Syrian rebels using what appears to be a Chinese-made FN-6 shoulder-fired heat-seeking missile earlier this month.

While there have been some reports of the rebels seizing stocks of older Soviet-designed SA-7 Strela shoulder-fired missiles and possibly a few newer, much more capable Russian-made SA-24 Grinch missile systems, this is the first anyone has heard of anything other than Russian-made shoulder-fired missiles in rebel hands.

The FN-6 has a range of about 3.75 miles and can hit targets flying up to about 11,000 feet.

"This is a very significant development, none of us saw this coming," said Matthew Schroeder, director of the arms sales monitoring project at the Federation of American Scientists. "Open source information suggests that few if any [FN-6s] are on the black market. This is a very rare occurrence and represents significant change in the [selection of] MANPADS available outside of government control."

Where did these missiles come from?

"That’s the million dollar question," Schroeder says. "It’s a fairly new system, it hasn’t been exported that widely . . .  not like the SA-7s and HN-5s and older systems have been sitting in depots for generations" long before efforts to control their spread.

As Brown Moses Blog (a site dedicated to chronicling the weapons used in the Syrian conflict) points out, the nearest known operators of FN-6s to Syria are the Sudanese and Pakistani militaries. The vast majority of shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles found throughout the Middle East and Africa are Russian-made — including the thousands that may have flooded the black market after the fall of Muammar al Qaddafi’s government in Libya.

Interestingly, Chinese state TV did a report on this chopper being shotdown showing a rebel holding this very weapon — that’s a screengrab from the segment above. That’s right, Chinese government TV is running a story about a Chinese-made surface-to-air missile being used by the rebel army. What’s also interesting is that China has warned against external involvement in the Syrian conflict.

This is interesting. The YouTube video below apparently shows what’s looks like a Syrian air force Mi-8 Hip transport chopper being shot down by Syrian rebels using what appears to be a Chinese-made FN-6 shoulder-fired heat-seeking missile earlier this month.

While there have been some reports of the rebels seizing stocks of older Soviet-designed SA-7 Strela shoulder-fired missiles and possibly a few newer, much more capable Russian-made SA-24 Grinch missile systems, this is the first anyone has heard of anything other than Russian-made shoulder-fired missiles in rebel hands.

The FN-6 has a range of about 3.75 miles and can hit targets flying up to about 11,000 feet.

"This is a very significant development, none of us saw this coming," said Matthew Schroeder, director of the arms sales monitoring project at the Federation of American Scientists. "Open source information suggests that few if any [FN-6s] are on the black market. This is a very rare occurrence and represents significant change in the [selection of] MANPADS available outside of government control."

Where did these missiles come from?

"That’s the million dollar question," Schroeder says. "It’s a fairly new system, it hasn’t been exported that widely . . .  not like the SA-7s and HN-5s and older systems have been sitting in depots for generations" long before efforts to control their spread.

As Brown Moses Blog (a site dedicated to chronicling the weapons used in the Syrian conflict) points out, the nearest known operators of FN-6s to Syria are the Sudanese and Pakistani militaries. The vast majority of shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles found throughout the Middle East and Africa are Russian-made — including the thousands that may have flooded the black market after the fall of Muammar al Qaddafi’s government in Libya.

Interestingly, Chinese state TV did a report on this chopper being shotdown showing a rebel holding this very weapon — that’s a screengrab from the segment above. That’s right, Chinese government TV is running a story about a Chinese-made surface-to-air missile being used by the rebel army. What’s also interesting is that China has warned against external involvement in the Syrian conflict.

John Reed is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He comes to FP after editing Military.com’s publication Defense Tech and working as the associate editor of DoDBuzz. Between 2007 and 2010, he covered major trends in military aviation and the defense industry around the world for Defense News and Inside the Air Force. Before moving to Washington in August 2007, Reed worked in corporate sales and business development for a Swedish IT firm, The Meltwater Group in Mountain View CA, and Philadelphia, PA. Prior to that, he worked as a reporter at the Tracy Press and the Scotts Valley Press-Banner newspapers in California. His first story as a professional reporter involved chasing escaped emus around California’s central valley with Mexican cowboys armed with lassos and local police armed with shotguns. Luckily for the giant birds, the cowboys caught them first and the emus were ok. A New England native, Reed graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a dual degree in international affairs and history.

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