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.
Image credit: Turkish Air Force
- “Turkish F-4 gunned down by anti-aircraft artillery inside the Syrian airspace” U.S. intelligence says (theaviationist.com)
- “Turkish Phantom jet fighters [as the one shot down by Syria] routinely violate the Greek airspace.” And get locked by SAM sites. (theaviationist.com)
- Turkish Phantom shot down by Syria saga continues as new details about the mysterious shooting emerge (theaviationist.com)