By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
The continuing rebel offensive in Syria's Dara'a Governorate saw the capture of a 2K12 Kub ''SA-6 Gainful'' surface-to-air missile system and associated radars and equipment by Harakat al-Muthanna near the town of Sheikh Miskin, also known as Sheikh Maskin or Shaykh Maskin.
The town was originally surrounded by no less than six 2K12 SAM sites, of which five were still active at the beginning of the Syrian Civil War. However, the Civil War saw the total disintegration of the Syrian Air Defense Force, and with it, much of its SAM sites. Just one of the five sites was still manned in early 2014, with all other SAM sites abandoned.
This follows a pattern seen everywhere in Syria. For example, three of the four 2K12 SAM sites present around Deir ez-Zor were forced to retreat for the then advancing rebels, and one of these was destroyed while en route to Syrian Arab Army held territory. Another 2K12 site abandoned one of its inoperational 2K12 launchers, which was later captured by fighters of the Islamic State. Numerous other SAM sites also fell in the hands of rebels throughout Syria, mainly in the vicinity of Damascus.
The disintegration of the Syrian Air Defense Force mainly effected the S-75s, S-200s, 2K12 Kubs and to a lesser extent the S-125s. All ageing, eating up precious manpower and unlikely to even detect Israeli aircraft flying over Syria, let alone firing at them, most were decommissioned with their personnel continuing their career as normal soldiers instead. Many of the mobile 2K12s were evacuated to safer territory and placed in reserve while most of the static S-75s, S-125s and S-200s are now simply collecting dust.
Two of the 2K12 sites surrounding Sheikh Maskin were moved to a nearby radar site at some point in the Civil War, and this might be the location where the 'lone' 2K12 was captured. To back up this claim, Google Earth footage reveals what appears to be six 2K12 launchers present here at 5-1-2014. Two other vehicles could be the associated SURN 1S91 "Straight Flush" mobile radar stations. Without these, the 2K12s are unable to operate.
If this radar site turns out to be the true location where the 2K12 was captured, the rebels operating in Southern Syria just captured two SAM sites. However, it is not even remotely likely that the rebels would be able to operate the battered 2K12s, which require specialized training for both the launchers and radar to succesfully operate.
This contrary to the single 9K33 Osa operated by Jaish al-Islam in Eastern Ghouta, which fortunately for the Syrian Arab Air Force (SyAAF) has now run out of missiles. The 9K33 combines both the radar and launcher in one vehicle, and is easier to operate. None are stationed in Syria's Dara'a Governorate however.
Fresh tracks in the ground possible indicate the crew was still planning on leaving, or that this 2K12, numbered 95703, was still partially active.