Mystery deepens as “unidentified Mig-29 Fulcrum” locks on a Turkish F-16 again

It has happened again….a Turkish Air Force F-16 was locked on by an “unidentified” Mig-29.

As already reported, on Oct. 3 and 4 October the Turkish airspace was violated by Russian Air Force Su-30SM and Su-24 aircraft in the Hatay region.

During the first incident, the Russian Su-30SM (initially referred to as a Mig-29 by the Turkish military) maintained a radar lock on one or both the F-16s for a full 5 minutes and 40 seconds before the aircraft departed the Turkish airspace. As explained, this was a rather unusual incident: violations occur every now and then, but usually aircraft involved in the interception do not lock on the “target” in order to prevent dangerous situations.

Well it happened again on Oct. 5 and, to make the whole story more mysterious, it looks like the aircraft was identified as a Mig-29 from an unidentified nation/air force.

According to the Turkish General Staff, the Mig-29 locked on at least one of 8 TuAF F-16s performing CAP (Combat Air Patrol) on the border with Syria. What is more, the lock on lasted 4 minutes and 30 seconds.

Considered that the Russian Air Force has not deployed Mig-29s to Syria and assuming that the Turkish Air Force has properly identified the aircraft harassing its F-16s on border patrol, it’s is safe to believe the aircraft involved in the last incident was a Syrian Mig-29 “visiting” the TuAF aircraft in CAP station (as already done in the past).

In both the Oct. 3 and Oct. 5 incidents what is also quite surprising is the length of the lock on: both the Su-30SM and the Mig-29 (provided these were involved in the two close encounters) used their radars to paint the Turkish planes possibly exposing to several intelligence gathering platforms details about their systems. Indeed, if the Mig-29 is a very well-known weapons system, the emissions of the RuAF Su-30SM N011M Bars-R radar can be considered extremely interesting to both the TuAF, Israeli AF and NATO planes with ESM (Electronic Support Measures) capabilities.


By the way, what is probably a Boeing 737 Peace Eagle airborne early warning & control (AEW&C) aircraft can be spotted every now and then on circling at high altitude over southern Turkey, most probably monitoring the movements of the Russian and Syrian planes while collecting some intelligence data as well.


That said, why are the Turkish unable to determine nationality of the Mig? With all the ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) aircraft focusing on the airspace of northwestern Syria it is at least weird that a positive identification of the aircraft was not achieved. And isn’t it strange that the one later IDed as a RuAF Su-30SM was initially referred to as an “unidentified Mig-29”? Maybe the Russian Su-30SMs (the only aircraft belonging to the Russian contingent that have not been repainted with the Red Star insignia yet) and the Syrian Mig-29s are flying missions along the border with Turkey together making identification more difficult? Unlikely, considering once again the amount of allied AEW (Airborne Early Warning) aircraft in the vicinity.

Anyway, close encounters do not only involve Turkish and Syrian/Russian aircraft.

In the last few days U.S. F-16s from Incirlik came within 20 miles of RuAF Su-34s: reminder that the airspace over Syria is becoming incresingly “hot.”

Many thanks to Guglielmo Guglielmi for discovering the Turkish E-7 on FR24 and to Arda Mevlutoglu for sending us some heads-up about this developing story.

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. David Cenciotti…who is he and where does he work ? He is a paid voice for the interests of Turkey and it’s “allies” protecting ISIS , (creation of NATO and USA). He is making a big story about Turkish airplanes supposedly locked outside of Syria borders, when every one knows that Turkish Army does not respect even it’s NATO allies with over 1500 unauthorized entrances of the Greek “borders every year, with no excuse and under the cover of NATO and Greece’s supposed allies.I would like to hear his story about these Turkish operations that still happen every day. Or this is not the “problem” now ? How come NATO and USA despite their aggressions to many European countries (Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece< Cyprus to mention a few) and many other countries around the world are always considered innocent and care about the protection of their allies ? What did they do when a NATO member (Turkey again) invaded Cyprus in 1973 ? NOTHING.What did they do when a NATO member (what a surprise…TURKEY again) invaded with naval forces 2 small Greek islands and planted their flags claiming they belong to them ? NOTHING.What do they do when a NATO member (USA) attacks Serbia with no reason, just to "protect" A few Turkish populations that live in this country since it has been liberated from the Turkish occupation ? NOTHING.And now they worry because Russians are having concrete results in the war against ISIS that NATO and USA created and still protect,(USA bombing hospitals despite the warnings they received from the doctors) . Hey mr. David Cenciotti, we live in countries that communicate between them. You are not addressing to idiot Americans that think the whole world is restricted to the USA…

  2. It seems to be that the mighty Russian military is at it’s best shooting down airliners, be they Malaysian or Korean. What do they call their pilots? I think it is “Heroes of the Soviet Union.” Some brave guys shooting down helpless airliners. Kind of like ISIS does. All these actions are sub-human.

  3. The truth is the Russians picked this fight never expecting Turkey might actually shoot back. Russia would be wise not to escalate militarily, as their air force, although quite capable, is NO MATCH for Nato in the Middle East.

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