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

Debris of the landing gear of the downed TuAF RF-4E.

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:

The map showing the locations were the parts were recovered. (Image credit: Turkish Armed Forces)

Make sure to monitor this link to read all the past and future stories on this topic: https://theaviationist.com/category/turkish-rf-4e-shot-down/

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

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. Since when is a press release is proof of a cause? Since the alleged weapons of mass destruction by Saddam Hussein, you should be every message from the the military field is checked three times.
    These pictures prove nothing. Why does not rear sections and wings? Could there perhaps irritate us some red color?

    Each QF-4 drone has an explosive device can be remotely detonated aboard.

    Why does the Khaleej Times (UAE) write this?:
    “Last Friday to Syria downed unmanned Turkish jet,”
    A joke?

    Without independent investigation can tell us everything. The thing still stinks.

  2. FWIW, in the ’80s USAF, your early flight physical included taking your foot “prints,” like finger prints. Took me a minute to realize why. No idea if boots stay on in severe impacts. Thanks, enjoy your blog a lot.

  3. Maybe the holes the in metal part the guy is holding in Picture 16 show AAA damage?

  4. There’s a video purports to show the very moment the jet was shot down.

    Is it real? Who knows, not me that’s for sure. Except it does sound like some kind of AA cannon. And at the beginning you do hear the sound of a plane which then kinda stops

  5. the location of that ( ZU-23-2 “Sergey” AA canon) is widly Known at the area of ( Wadi Qandel* 25 KM north of Lattkia-Syria )

    the location is close to a sandy beach where locals used to have ( hubble bubble) and some drinks …Hence they know the area very will and the are sure that no S/A launchers may ..even.. exist there

    meaning :
    certaily… it was NOT hit by a surface to air missile

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