Tag Archives: Syrian Arab Air Force

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

"Turkish Phantom shot down because Syrian soldiers may have confused it for an Israeli plane" Syrian Information Minister says

Although much of what has happened on Jun. 22, when a Turkish Air Force RF-4E from Erhac was shot down by a Syrian air defense battery remains a mystery, at least the reasons why the aircraft was fired at after violating the Syrian airspace were (possibly) disclosed on Jun. 27, when the Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zubi.

Indeed, as reported by the Times of Israel, the minister told the Turkish news station A Haber, that Syrian personnel operating the anti-aircraft site may have confused the Turkish RF-4E for an Israeli Phantom, even if the Israeli Air Force has decommissioned the last F-4 in 2004.

“Turkish planes and Israeli planes look alike […] If an Israeli plane enters Syria, it is welcomed by fire. [The Turkish plane] might have been believed to be an Israeli plane; we did not want to take down a Turkish plane,” he said.

However, according to the information made public by the Turkish authorities, based on intercepted radio comms, the aircraft was clearly identified as Turkish before being downed (outside the Syrian airspace, according to Ankara’s version)

Whereas the Turkish and Syrian reconstructions of the mishap are still conflicting, Syria had previously claimed the downing of the Turkish jet (possibly involved in a mission aimed at probing Damascus air defenses near the Syrian territorial waters) was an accident caused by the “automatic response” of the officer commanding the anti-aircraft position near Lattakia.

Furthermore, the aircraft might have been downed by a new Iranian-made anti-aircraft gun whose presence was not known to the Turkish aircrew according to several Syrian news outlets.

As reported by Ynet News, Damascus purchased the new system, that can be mounted on armored vehicles and can engage planes at very low altitudes, two years ago.

TuAF RF-4E Phantom II

Image credit: Turkish Air Force

Turkish Phantom shot down by Syria saga continues as new details about the mysterious shooting emerge

On Jun. 26, NATO held a meeting of its 28 members at the request of Turkey under article 4 of the Washington treaty following the downing of the Turkish Air Force RF-4E Phantom by a Syrian Air Defense battery on Jun.22.

After the meeting NATO released the following statement:

The North Atlantic Council has met at Turkey’s request to hold consultations within the framework of Article 4 of the Washington Treaty which states that “the Parties will consult whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence, or security of any of the Parties is threatened.”

The North Atlantic Council discussed the shooting down of a Turkish aircraft by Syria. We consider this act to be unacceptable and condemn it in the strongest terms. It is another example of the Syrian authorities’ disregard for international norms, peace and security, and human life.

Our thoughts at this difficult time are with the missing  Turkish aircrew, their families and their loved ones. We continue to follow the situation closely and with great concern, and will remain seized of developments on the South-Eastern border of NATO.

The security of the Alliance is indivisible. We stand together with Turkey in the spirit of strong solidarity.

The New York Times ran an article (later picked up elsewhere) that included a scan of a letter sent from Turkey to the UN.

The letter includes several details that provide a clear view of the Turkish version of the episode.

Firstly the exact position of where the Phantom was hit: 35 48.22N – 35 32.21E which is 13NM from the coast of Syria and therefore in international airspace. This means the aircraft had violated the Syrian airspace but, according to the Turkish authorities, it had already left it when it was shot down at 11.58 local time.

Secondly according to the text of the letter, was flying at 7,400 feet on its own (not part of a pair) and after being hit turned towards the Syrian coast and hit the sea at 35 48.26N – 35 37.59E some 8NM from the coast.

Again the letter states the plane was transmitting its IFF (indentification, friend or foe) transponder and that Turkey has captured radio communications that demonstrates Syrian units knew this was a Turkish plane. The letter also alluded that Turkey may have proof from third party radar stations that could have recorded the route flown by the combat plane.

Noteworthy, the letter does not say that the RF-4ETM (this is the correct designation) was downed by a missile. However, if it was really flying so far from the coast (13 NM) and at medium altitude (7,400 ft), it could not be reached by anti-aircraft artillery flak.

Moreover, the letter confirmed that a search and rescue asset was fired upon whilst searching for the downed aircrew: it was a CASA (thought to be a CN-235) aircraft targeted by anti-aircraft artillery positioned on the Syrian shore.

Letter aside, new details about the mysterious Turkish activity near the Syrian territorial waters have emerged.

As said the aircraft was flying a preplanned route which included several similar patterns (this being one of the few things both parties agree on).

According to the data released by Turkey here’s how the airspace violation developed:

11.42LT: the aircraft “unintentionally” entered the Syrian airspace at 200 feet with a North East heading

11.44LT: a Turkish radar station (most probably the one providing assistance to the flight) issued an airspace violation warning

11.47LT: after turning left (and coming extremely close to the Syrian coast) the RF-4 exited the Syrian airspace

11.50LT: the pilot contacted the Turkish radar to inform it that they would have performed the same profile and asking for positive radar control not to repeat airspace violation.

11.58LT: the Phantom was hit while it was repositioning for a second pattern

Although it is extremely weird that the Syrian air defense shot down the Phantom 15 minutes after it violated the Syrian airspace (according to the Turkish version), it is at least as suspect that a combat plane flying under positive radio and radar contact, possibly under radar control or advisory service, violates a foreign airspace without being warned by its own air traffic control agency well before the violation occurs.

Written with The Aviationist’s Editor David Cenciotti

Image credit: Giovanni Colla

"Turkish Phantom jet fighters [as the one shot down by Syria] routinely violate the Greek airspace." And get locked by SAM sites.

As what really happened on Jun. 22, when a Turkish Air Force RF-4E from Erhac was shot down by a Syrian Air Defense battery, after violating the Syrian airspace, remains a mystery, an interesting video seems to prove that Turkish Phantoms routinely violate the Greek airspace and get locked by the Greek artillery radars.

This is what the Keep Talking Greece blog affirms publishing the following interesting video allegedly showing a Turkish F-4 locked by a Greek SA-8 anti-aircraft system.

“It is almost a daily practice for the Greek artillery that its radars lock Turkish fighter jets as they illegally enter Greek airspace. However Greeks do not push the button….” says the blog.

Was the RF-4E shot down off Syria flying a mission to probe the Damascus air defense system similar to those flown (quite regularly) in the Aegean sea to probe the Greece’s air defenses?