Latest news about the Turkish F-4 shot down by Syria: still conflicting versions. New detail: rescue plane came under fire too.
According to the Turkish media outlet Hurriyet Daily News, the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has shown photos of two pairs of boots that belonged to the two missing pilots on board the RF-4E shot down by Syria on Jun. 22.
Erdogan had called a meeting with his political opposition leaders to discuss the situation and it was during this meeting that the photograph was shown.
It’s at least unusual to find two pairs of boots but not any potential bodies or remains, unless the pilots Capt. Gokhan Ertan and Lt. Huseyin Aksoy removed the boots once they took to their life raft. Anyway, too much time has passed since they ejected and the probability to find them alive, after so many days is extremely low.
In other developments, Hurriyet also ran an article stating that Syrian officials knew that the jet that was Turkish. Turkish intelligence units say they have recordings of the Syrian forces referring to the jet by the word ‘Komsu’ which is Turkish for “Neighbor” followed by the Arabic word for plane.
The intel agents also went on to state that the F-4 had its IFF (identification, friend or foe) system switched on meaning that it would have been picked up by the radar stations (even the Syrian ones – this is normal, for “normal flights”; it’s unusual for covert missions that don’t fly with a switched on transponder in order to not “advertise” their position to radars).
This would seem to indicate that Turkey is monitoring Syrian government forces very closely, by recording their radio “chatter” and it could be argued performing aerial reconnaissance of the area.
On the other side Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported that the jet had been shot down using anti-aircraft artillery with only a range of 2.5 km (although other media outlets reported the maximum range declared by Damascus as 1.2 km). This would indicate that the jet was a lot closer to the coastline than what Turkey had admitted to.
However, Ankara insists the Phantom was shot down by a Surface to Air Missile, that hit the RF-4E as it was 13 nautical miles off the Syrian coast (hence, in international airspace). The report of the another RF-4E flying alongside the downed one as well as their own recorded radar data could be used by Turkey to prove its version of the episode.
Furthermore, it has come to light that a Turkish Search and Rescue aircraft also came under fire whilst searching the area for the crashed Phantom and its crew, and it was forced to immediately leave the Syrian airspace after the shots.
According to SANA wreckage from the jet, the tail end had been handed to the Turkish authorities with an official record which shows holes which had come from a heavy calibre machine gun. Obviously none of this has been confirmed by the Turkish authorities: Turkish media states that the aircraft has been located in 1,300 meteRs of water but it has not yet been recovered.
Written with The Aviationist’s Editor David Cenciotti
Image credit: Giovanni Colla