How did a country that used to have one of the better air defense systems in the Mideast turn into such a clown-show? How do they manage to shoot down a Russian aircraft, their ally, with Russian SAMs?
The reason has to be the civil war. This forced a major change in the organization of the Syrian Armed Forces and
the share of resources. The primary threat to Syria became jihadi militants and irregulars. Ergo, the Syrian Air Defense Force ended up at the scheisse end of the priority queue. Plus the rebels captured several airfields and air defense installations and destroyed or damaged a number of AD systems and killed, captured or converted their crews. Many of those bases have now been recaptured and are starting to be re-manned with new or upgraded systems received form Uncle Vlad. But they are still a low priority for a country that is only saved from bankruptcy by the charity of Tehran and Moscow. Then there is the Israeli Air Force. They have years of experience going up against Syrian SAMs and seem to be able to take them out easily, which make the SAM crews extremely nervous. There must be a lot of pressure on them to live up to the propaganda. And how well trained are they? There is also a rumor that some of the crews are partially manned by Hezbollah, supposedly to train them for a possible future transfer of systems to Lebanon.
The Russians, after first blaming the French Navy, have finally admitted it was their own allies that 'inadvertently' shot down their ELINT & RADINT capable IL-20M with 15 souls aboard. But they maintain it was Israel's fault for using the IL-20 to mask their approach. Maybe so, or not? We'll see if the radar tracks and timing are ever published. The S-200VE, 'Vega-E, SAM system that brought down the IL-20 was supposed to have been upgraded with IFF capabilities. They obviously did not work. Perhaps due to an ill-trained crew, or perhaps due to Israeli jamming, or perhaps the aircraft IFF transponder was broken or turned off or deliberately using a ghost signal. I am more inclined to think the SAM crews were in a panic and fired off some missiles on a 'ballistic trajectory' and 'without guidance' like they did back in April for the US/UK/FR missile strike. The warhead on the S-200 is 217 kilos (478 pounds), approximately half the weight in HE and the other half in 37,000 fragmentation pellets. It is triggered by either radar proximity fuse or command signal. I have no clue as to the blast radius.
I am neither a fan of Putin nor Netanyahu. But I do admire the Russian and the Israeli people, with the exception of the vicious right wing in both of those countries, and in my own country. Let's hope those yahoos don't get the US into a shooting war with Russia, if Putin or Shoigu decides to retaliate against the IAF with their S-400s they have in Syria and it escalates. Maybe 'moderate dog' Mattis can keep Trumpkin out of it, but the Congress would want in on it, both parties.