Tag Archives: Latakia

Neither gunned down nor hit by a missile. A technical failure may have caused the crash of the Turkish RF-4E in Syria

The RF-4E that went down inside the Syrian airspace on Jun. 22 may have been downed by a technical failure.

This is more or less what emerges from the latest news released by the Turkish Armed Forces.

According to the report by the Presidency of the Gendarmerie Criminal Department, the remains of the aircraft collected on the water surface did not provide evidence of any organic or inorganic explosive residues, any fire initiator or accelerator substances which are derivatives of petroleum, and there is no sign of an ammunition remnant.

To make it simple: it was neither a missile nor gun fire. Therefore, it could have been a technical malfunction or a sudden emergency that did not give the crew the time to radio the alert.

But it is quite unlikely. After experiencing the failure, the pilot headed towards Syria. A decision that proves that the two on board had the time to react to situation, no matter which one it was.

Also a bit confusing  are the claims by Ankara.

On Jun. 22, Turkey said that one of their planes had been gunned down by Syrian armed forces even though they later claimed it was hit by a SAM missile. Today the latest Turkish official release states that “the plane which was gunned down by the Syrian armed forces, according to the Syrian official authorities” [highlight mine].

The saga continues.

TuAF RF-4E Phantom II

An F-4E flying at night. Image credit: Turkish Air Force

Turkish Armed Forces release first images of the debris of the RF-4E Phantom downed by Syria

After announcing that the remains of the two missing aircrews were recovered from sea (that proved that the aircraft was not a drone), the Turkish Armed Forces released the first images of the debris of the RF-4E Phantom downed by Syria on Jun. 22, recovered by the NAUTILUS research vessel at a depth of 1,260 meters.

As a result of the research campaign launched in the aftermath of the incident, several items considered to belong to the missing plane were either recovered or filmed including the flight helmets of the pilot and WSO (Weapon System Officer), the boots (among the item collected on the sea surface), some cockpit instruments, ejection seat parts (cushions, handle), landing gear parts, engine and so on.

Noteworthy, a lot of parts are still missing (or at least, the images were not released yet): I’m curious to see whether there are some showing holes that would indicate that the plane was really gunned down as Syria and the U.S. (whose RC-135 spyplane was noted in the region at the time of the shooting) affirm, or there debris with signs of fire proving that it was hit by a surface to air missile, as claimed by Ankara.

Someone found it curious that some parts, as the flight helmets or the boots, were floating on the sea surface. However, this is probably due to the fact that the flight helmets are made of kevlar, hence not heavy enough to sink.

Here’s the map showing the locations were the parts were recovered:

Image credit: Turkish Armed Forces

H/T to Arif Emre Avcilar for the heads-up

Was the Turkish F-4 Phantom shot down by Syria actually a drone? A new interesting theory emerges.

Since the news that a Turkish Air Force RF-4E had been shot down by Syria on Jun. 22, I’ve received several comments and emails from known and reliable sources as well as anonymous people.

Among the hundreds hints, a  few suggested that the Phantom downed in mysterious circumstances by a Syrian anti-aircraft artillery  off Latakia, was actually a remotely controlled aircraft (a drone), being used to either spying on Assad’s regime activities in northern Syria, or probing Damascus air defenses, as suggested by a NATO pilot and reportedly routinely done in the Aegean with the Greek ones.

Although the chances that Ankara has modified one its Phantoms to be remotely piloted and used for covert missions inside the Syrian airspace seem to be scarce, I can’t completely rule out the possibility that a sort-of QF-4 (the U.S. aerial target drone F-4) is (or was) flying with the Turkish Air Force.

The TuAF operates the Anka drones, a family of unmanned aerial vehicles (with configuration and size comparable to the MQ-1 and MQ-9) developed by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) for use by Turkey’s Air Force.

According to some sources, with some U.S. help (Americans play a role in almost all conspiracy theories…) TAI could have modified some of its Phantoms to perform unmanned, dangerous spying missions, in which a much faster type of aircraft, offering a higher sensors payload, is needed.

However, it’s just an intriguing theory that was probably fueled by the mysterious flight path of the plane (that included a leg well inside the “enemy airspace”) and, above all, the fact that neither the bodies nor remains of the RF-4E crew members (whose names were released) were recovered since the search and rescue operation was launched in the aftermath of the downing.

In the meanwhile, the Ankara has released new and even more detailed data about the downed plane [that used radio callsign "Safak 46"] on Jul. 1 in response to the WSJ article that quoted U.S. intelligence sources that backed the Syrian account of the incident.

Here’s a rough translation of the Turkish General Staff statement:

1. The statement is needed to answer the claims based on the story published by foreign press organs about the downing of the aircraft by Syria in international airspace on Jun. 22, 2012.

2. As already stated several times before, the aircraft was shot down in international airspace while flying as a single plane, an unarmed flight mission to test existing radar installations in the region.

3.  According with our radar data, and as a result of our investigations: the aircraft took off from Erhac / Malatya at 1030, vectored towards Eastern Mediterranean, approached waypoint #1 at 11:06 local time started to cruise at an altitude of 21,400ft. The aircraft approached waypoint #2 at 11:14 at 8,600ft, waypoint #3 at 11:23 at 7,500ft, waypoint #4 at 11:37 at 2,000ft and return leg for a second test run at 11:50 at 3,000ft. Violation of Syrian airspace lasted about 5 minutes. According to the analysis of radar track and radio comms during the second leg approaching waypoint #4 the aircraft suddenly lost altitude at 7,400 feet altitude at 11:56 and contact was lost at 11:57, in international airspace.

4. Immediately after, a search and rescue mission started and a public statement has been made.

5. Subsequently it was learned that our aircraft was brought down by Syria.

6. As a result, based on the research, analyisis of the radar track history and investigation, the aircraft was hit approximately 13 miles off Syrian airspace, and the last point that the aircraft was flying stable was 35 48.22 North, 33.21 East 35th. From this point the aircraft quickly lost speed and altitude and Syria crashed in Syrian territorial waters 8.5 miles off the coast approximately at 35 48.26 North, 37.59 East.

7. There is no information about the fate of our pilots.

8. The Nautilus ship, used to recover the wreckage of the aircraft is expected to arrive in the area by the evening of Monday Jul. 2.

Image credit: Turkish Air Force Air Staff

Six Turkey's F-16s scrambled on Syria border after Syrian helicopters came close to the Turkish airspace

Six Turkish Air Force F-16 fighter jets were scrambled from airbases in southern Turkey after Syrian helicopters were spotted near the border between the two countries.

The Turkish QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) cells were ordered to perform alert take offs and reach the area in response to three similar incidents on Jun. 30, according to the BBC.

Although no violation of the Turkish airspace has been reported, the incidents came amid growing tensions between Ankara and Damascus, following the mysterious downing of a Turkish Air Force RF-4E on Jun. 22.

Syria claims the Turkish reconnaissance plane was shot down by air defense fire while flying well inside its airspace; Turkey insists it was downed by a surface to air missile after briefly violating and then leaving Syrian airspace, a version that seems to be denied by the U.S. intelligence, in tune with Damascus one.

Following the Phantom incident, the Turkish Government decided to amass rocket launchers and anti-aircraft systems along its southern border.

Four of the F-16s that were scrambled on Jun. 30 took off from Incirlik and two departed from Diyarbakir.

Incirlik is not a permanent F-16 base, but a certain number of fighter jets was probably based there to reinforce Turkey air defense in the region.

The Syrian helicopters that sparked the alert scrambles, flew as close as 6.5km (4 miles) to the border, according to the AP news agency. It is still unclear whether they were of the same type of those used by the regime against the rebels.

TuAF F-16 Fighting Falcon

Image credit: Turkish Air Force

"Turkish F-4 gunned down by anti-aircraft artillery inside the Syrian airspace" U.S. intelligence says

The Turkish RF-4E shot down by Syria on Jun. 22, was probably gunned by a shore-based anti-aircraft artillery battery while it was flying inside the Syrian airspace.

Therefore, the U.S. version of the episode is in tune with the Syrian account (at least for what deals with the position of the aircraft when it was hit) of the mishap, rather than the Turkish one.

This is what the U.S. intelligence/defense sources indicated to the Wall Street Journal that, in an article published on Jun. 29, also confirmed The Aviationist’s early hypothesis that the Turkish Phantom was flying a mission aimed at probing Damascus air defenses.

Although how the American officials have gathered specific details about the position of the plane remains a sort-of mystery (an ISR – Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance – and/or an AEW – Airborne Early Warning platform spying Syrian activities might have recorded something) such embarrassing discrepancies emerge while Ankara amasses rocket launchers and anti-aircraft guns along its border with Syria as a reaction to the downing of its fighter jet (whose crew members have not been recovered yet).

TuAF RF-4E Phantom II

Image credit: Turkish Air Force