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 4450 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. I suspect they know that it is Syrian but they simply do not wish to admit it – either for technology reasons or, more likely, they don’t want to admit that Syrian jets are now painting them. The Turks consider themselves superior to the Syrians – no love lost – and in the past have shot down several straying Syrian fighters.

    This sounds like an emboldened Syrian pilot, feeling that the Russians have his back, sticking two fingers up at the Turks and the Turks, not wishing to escalate things at the moment, having to suck it and see.

    A 5 minute long paint is very challenging isn’t it – come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough.

  2. Airspace is airspace. if you do not consider a 8km intrusion a violation, what is then ? 12km ? 20? no reasons to be alarmed unless they fly over a major city ?

    • Like the reconnaissance F-4 that was shot down after it repeatedly crossed into Syrian airspace back in 2012.
      Over the last year Turkey has radar locked on Syrian aircraft or helicopters coming within 5 km of the Turkish border, thus giving cover for the jihadists Turkey are supporting right there (when the helicopter was shot down the parts landed in Syria).

  3. I don’t think the Iranian MIG 29 are airworthy as they come from Iraq in the 90’s according to Wikipedia there not even in there order of battle

    • IRIAF does fly MiG-29s and not just former Iraqi Air Force ones, actually those are the smallest part (4-5 I think). they are not IRIAF ones just because of the distance they should cover.

      • Marco, you are right. The IRIAF has airworthy MiG-29s. wikipedia has photos of them flying. Most of them are not ex-Iraqi, but were purchased new in the 1990s.

  4. I think Putin is playing the hard man as normal the Russians would last 30 secs in a dog fight with a F16. If keep this up the Russians will lose a SU24

  5. some points: NATO has several air forces with MiG-29s, poland, bulgaria, slovakia, hungary (in reserve). if a “dirty trick squad” wants to inflame the situation they could use “loaned and cleaned” MiG-29 to stir things up a bit … iranian MiG-29s (ex-iraqi) could be possible, but syrian MiG-29 most probable … there is a feud between syria and turkey (historical, see ottoman empire and killed aircraft on both sides prompting blood revenge) … russia did not deploy MiG-29 to latakia because they lack range and endurance.

    it is odd, that turkey cannot identify opfor aircraft

    • This is just not the way in which NATO countries work. You have action groups with smartphones documenting what is going on everywhere because they are mostly democratic and governments have to account for their assets among them aircraft. Making a number of “MiG-29s” disappear from those countries is not easy at all with the huge footprint it requires. Overall it is a major operation… to achieve what exactly? Some air show stunts at the Syrian-Turkish border?

Comments are closed.