At first, the images didn’t look very different from the raft of other ISIS propaganda on the internet, but within minutes, it occurred to me that this was definitely no ISIS propaganda video.
The trademark flag-waving masked gunmen I’d expected to see were replaced with clean-shaven, technically adept and highly trained weapons specialists giving expert tuition in how to turn obsolete munitions and ammunition into state of the art weapon systems.
Without doubt, the most chilling aspect of watching this training video was the unprecedented levels of technical expertise and ingenuity of those weapons engineers.
During my career I have pitted my wits against some of the world’s most prolific bomb-makers.
I personally began fighting against the IRA’s bombmakers in 1999 – during my first tour in Northern Ireland.
At that time they were considered to be the best in the world – but by the time I deployed to Iraq in 2004 the level of technical sophistication achieved by the IRA in 30 years was superseded by Iraqi insurgents in just 12 months.
What this video shows is that ISIS are leagues ahead of their terrorist predecessors.
Their advanced knowledge of weapons engineering, coupled with their seemingly limitless ability to reverse engineer and recondition weapons (which until now intelligence agencies had considered obsolete and beyond repair) kept me awake all night.
The shocking footage of the improvised fighter jet rocket demonstrated the ISIS instructors advanced understanding of every part of the missile’s highly intricate array of components.
Terrifyingly, those components: the seeker unit, infra-red homing radar, and all the other complex avionics that control the missile and its deadly explosive payload, had all been modified to turn the obsolete munition into a deadly remote controlled surface to air missile that could be fired against a range of aircraft such as helicopters, low flying jets and unmanned aerial vehicles.
The ability to reverse engineer and modify advanced weapons of this type, is something no terrorist group has ever achieved.
Other footage showed the modification of shoulder launched surface to air weapons systems known as MANPADS.
The Assad regime amassed up to 20,000 manpad units before the start of the revolution but, thankfully, the thermal batteries required to launch them have very limited shelf-life and without the batteries they simply won’t work.
For decades, terrorist groups have possessed these deadly weapons but their repeated attempts to repair or acquire new batteries have been futile…until now.
The footage suggests that ISIS have achieved the previously unachievable and will now be able to export that knowledge to its affiliates all over the world.
We know that ISIS is intent on attacking the West – including an intense desire to attack commercial aviation. That threat appears to be dangerously more achievable now.
But ISIS has repeatedly shown that it can murder and maim using many different methods of attack.
In September 2014, ISIS released a speech encouraging individuals to carry out attacks against Westerners.
Since then it has repeatedly released English-language videos renewing calls for lone actor attacks in the West.
ISIS has a long history of using truck and car bombs, suicide bombers, and IEDs and the footage showing the remote control car bomb, complete with a mannequin capable of tricking the advanced early warning sensors at critical/high security facilities particularly concerned me.
When you consider that the group also possesses mustard gas and potentially other types of chemical weapons the consequences of such a device incorporating chemical weapons is truly the stuff of nightmares.
Whether or not these weapons will work every time is yet to be seen, but if ISIS has managed to achieve the previously unachievable, the real fear is that they’re certain to find their way into the hands of jihadi organisations and networks outside Iraq and Syria.