Russian Su-30SM, Su-24 violate Turkish airspace. Flanker locks on TuAF F-16 for +5 minutes

It looks like a Sukhoi Su-30SM deployed to Syria has had a close encounter with Turkish Air Force F-16s past the Syria-Turkey border.

Russian planes deployed to Syria violated the Turkish airspace twice in the last couple of days.

According to NATO, the violations occurred “on 3 October and 4 October by Russian Air Force SU-30 and SU-24 aircraft in the Hatay region. The aircraft in question entered Turkish airspace despite Turkish authorities’ clear, timely and repeated warnings. In accordance with NATO practice, Turkish fighter aircraft responded to these incursions by closing to identify the intruder, after which the Russian planes departed Turkish airspace.”

Some more (sometimes contradictory) details appeared on the Turkish media outlets: although the first reports said the aircraft (initially IDed as Mig-29 Fulcrums – a type flown by the Syrian Air Force and not deployed in theater by the RuAF) breached into the Turkish airspace for 5 miles, according to Ankara, the Russian Su-30SM multirole plane violated Tukey’s airspace by “only” some hundreds of meters and returned to Syria after it was intercepted by two F-16s from the Turkish Air Force out of 10 flying CAP (Combat Air Patrol) near the border.

Furthermore, it seems that the Russian Su-30SM (as said, initially referred to as a Mig-29, before it was determined it was a Flanker-derivative multirole jet) maintained a radar lock on one or both the F-16s for a full 5 minutes and 40 seconds.

According the Russians, the violation was due to a “navigation error”: quite funny considered the type of navigation systems equipping a modern Su-30SM.

Although the navigation error can’t never be ruled out a priori, considering the equipment carried by a 4++ Gen. aircraft, and that it was flying next to a “danger zone” there’s reason to believe that the two pilots on board were perfectly aware of their position.

What is even more weird is the fact that the Russian plane locked the Turkish F-16s for such a long time: instead of turning back the RuAF Sukhoi was ready to fire (or to respond to fire).

Almost no details are currently available about the Su-24 Fencer violation.

As explained when a Turkish RF-4 was shot down by a Syrian coastal anti-aircraft battery after violating the Syrian airspace in 2012, aircraft entering a foreign airspace should not be fired upon but warned, intercepted and eventually escorted outside the violated airspace.

In 2014, a Syrian Mi-17 was shot down by a TuAF F-16, while in 2013 it was the turn of a Syrian Mig-23. But now the Turkish F-16s defending Ankara borders face a different threat….

Image credit: Russian MoD


About David Cenciotti 4453 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.


  1. Damn. Lock on for more than 5 minutes??? Did they have to hose down that F-16 cockpit of vomit and piss after it landed? How does an F-16 get nailed for that long?? Is the BARS-R radar on the SU-30SM reality that good??!! The TuAF has Block 40/Block 50 F-16’s for goodness sake.

    • If the aircraft were intercepted by Turkish F-16’s as the media claims, then all fighters involved would have been within visual range of each other. Not especially difficult to maintain radar lock at that distance.

  2. If aircraft should be warned, intercepted and then escorted out according to protocol, then neither country, Syria nor Turkey, are following protocol. At least not always.
    Israel shot down a Syrian Su-24 last year after it went 800m into its airspace. The plane crashed in Syria and both pilots ejected in Syria.
    Although it may be argued that that’s FairPlay, given the countries are virtually at war, to me it seems like everyone’s attitude is: protocol shmotocol.

  3. Interesting the different response – i.e. not shooting – from the Turks now that the Russians are backing the Syrians with air power.

    As the article notes, prior to the last few weeks the Turks were happy to shoot down any straying Syrian fighter.

  4. some other reports said the mig 29 was locking them for 3 mins and something and a ground SAM locked them for 2 mins something
    go figure what really happened

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