The Syrian Arab Air Force (SyAAF) is suffering from a serious shortage of Mi-17 transport helicopters, according to Colonel Ali Aboud, a pilot who was captured by the Jabhat al-Nusra jihadist group after his helicopter crashed in March.

Jabhat al-Nusra, which is Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, allowed Al-Jazeera to have an interview with Col Aboud that the Arabic news channel aired on 8 July. The pilot said he was being treated well, but described his experience in detention as difficult and asked SyAAF intelligence chief Major General Jamil Hasan to organise a prisoner exchange that would secure his freedom.

Col Aboud said he was an Mi-17 pilot for 27 years, but three years ago he was transferred to flying naval helicopters. He said the Syrian military had been forced to use its naval helicopters to support its ground forces because the SyAAF had only 45 operational helicopters after 90% of them had crashed or been destroyed. […]