“Turkish RF-4E Phantom shot down by Syrian missile in international airspace” Ankara says

Turkish military prosecutors that have investigated the mysterious downing of a Turkish Air Force RF-4E that went down inside the Syrian airspace on Jun. 22, 2012, say that the reconnaissance plane was shot down by a missile.

According to the official report, the missile (fired by a SAM battery) exploded near the left engine nozzle, when the aircraft was still in international airspace (35.48.2N 35.33.21E), at 7,400 feet altitude, flying parallel to the Syrian border with a heading of 211°.

No technical malfunction or failure occurred prior to the missile’s explosion.

The blast caused a sudden loss of control: the aircraft banked to the left and crashed into the sea at 8.6 nautical miles from the Syrian coast (35.48.26N 35.37.59E). A missile alert signal was recorded by the Radar Warning Receiver.

Although a previous report said that the remains of the aircraft collected had not provided evidence of any organic or inorganic explosive residues, any fire initiator or accelerator substances which are derivatives of petroleum, and there was no sign of an ammunition remnant, traces of potassium chlorate, used in warheads and propellants as oxidizer, RDX (Hexogen), HNX (Octogen), TNT (2,4,6-Trinitrotoluene) and PETN (Pentaerythritol Tetranitrate) were found on the wreckage.

Hence, the new official version by Ankara is that the aircraft was hit by a surface-to-air missile (an SA-3 or modified SA-2 as suggested by ACIG.org Editor Tom Cooper).

However, Turkish claims are still a bit confusing.

On Jun. 22, Turkey said that one of their planes had been gunned down by Syrian armed forces (a version backed by U.S. intelligence sources) even though they later claimed it was hit by a SAM missile. On Jul. 12 they released a statement according to which the parts of the airplane recovered by the sea did not have traces of explosives.  Latest report says the plane was not hit but crashed as a consequence of a missile blast near its rear.

The saga continues.

Image credit: Turkish Air Force

About David Cenciotti 3753 Articles
David Cenciotti is a freelance 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 four books.