In less than 24 hours, rebels used surface-to-air missiles to strike down two aircraft in northern Syria, marking a turning point in their war with forces of President Bashar al-Assad.

Since the end of July, the Syrian regime has used fighter jets to try to suppress a growing insurgency. The air force has frequently bombarded rebel-held areas across the country, causing high casualties.

But on Wednesday morning, rebels shot down a warplane in the northern province of Aleppo, an AFP reporter said.

The warplane crashed after it was hit by a massive explosion, a tower of thick black smoke rising into the sky, said the reporter, who was just a few kilometres (miles) away.

The previous day insurgents had downed an army helicopter for the first time.

"It's a turning point," said Riad Kahwaji, expert at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA).

"If the Syrian air force starts losing several aircraft every day, that will be a significant turning point because the regime will lose its superiority and will no longer be able to use its main means of delivering strong fire power effectively," Kahwaji told AFP.

The jet fell on an olive grove a kilometre (less than a mile) away from the village of Tourmanin, north of the embattled city of Aleppo.AFP