Could ISIS fighters be training as warplane pilots capable of turning their weapons on coalition aircraft?
That's the worrying prospect suggested by an unverified report from the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that ISIS has three warplanes in its possession in northern Syria.
To quote the greatest news commentator of our age:
The tools of industrialized warfare are not things one picks up and uses intuitively, the way one does, say, a hammer. A fighter pilot is much more than a guy who knows how to fly a plane and which button to press to launch the missiles*.
This takes me back to the turn of the millennium, when people were going bezonkoids about the Chinese acquiring a carrier, spinning yarns about the PLAN sailing a carrier battlegroup right under the Golden Gate on Tuesday morning, when the fact is that even if you handed a navy a complete turnkey CVN, it would take years to develop, practice, and perfect carrier operations through trial and error; naval aviation is a lot more complicated than just "land-based aviation, but with a moveable runway." Similarly, most Armor guys I've talked to were pretty confident that, as wonderful as the Abrams was in Desert Storm, they could have switched rides with the other team and still won, such was the gulf between training and grabassticness.
If ISIS really does have their hands on three aircraft, it doesn't matter what type or how sophisticated they are; without the entire organization of an Air Force behind them, they're just three crescent moons waiting to be painted on American (or French or British) cockpits.
*...and here's where I throw in the obligatory side note that they're called "missiles" and not "hitiles" for a reason.