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.
Image credit: Turkish Air Force
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