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. No I cannot confirm this.

    But can you confirm that the NATO didn’t know about Russian movement either? Can you confirm that their FP wasn’t intended to stay out of certain air spaces? Did they take the most direct route? Even this website admits that they don’t know the flight path and route these Russian aircraft took…

    There was always political and military speculation but it was never publicly confirmed until news and blog sights put the story out. Also if the “west” didn’t know about RuAF aircraft coming into Syria; wouldn’t it be a proper speculation that NATO aircraft would see a radar “blip” on their screens and radar signatures of formations of numerous Russian aircraft and would move to intercept? If interception was made without any prior or current knowledge of numerous Russian aircraft flying into a combat zones air space wouldn’t that have raised a “oh $h1T” signal and a combat intercept would have been done thus igniting a SHTF international military incident? There had to have been some knowledge somewhere in order for this NOT to happen. Were the Russian Aircraft challenged in any way by NATO aircraft?

    again all you and I can do is speculate…

    There is plenty the public doesn’t know about the military (US or otherwise). For years the US quietly operated RQ-180s close to and in the skies of Iran and Pakistan and no one in the public knew about it until one crashed. (Possibly) for years the US Army’s 160th SOAR operated and flew specially designed helicopters to insert and extract high level SF units for the most sensitive and clandestine operations. No one knew about it until the last part of a tail section of one ended up in Pakistan after the Osama Binladen raid. What the military does/does not do and knows/doesn’t know is really anyone guess. CIA, NSA, DIA, NGOs, NOCs, SAD, JSOC, MI5, Mossad, FIS, BND… what ever… what they do and do not do is none of my business and the best anyone can really do is speculate and make assumptions until something is publicly released… even then its not the whole truth. With all the ISR and SIGINT assets NATO has flying in and around Syria to make a smug remark that “The US didn’t know” is almost foolish (especially with the large RCS of Russian Aircraft flying in formation with a large cargo jet).

    IF (and I highly emphasize IF) the US and NATO did something to stop the actions of Russian aircraft moving into Syria, than that would have sparked an international incident that can only be summed up as “SHTF”. IF… if someone somewhere didn’t know something somewhere by someone could have made the wrong call for the wrong action. That is of course… IF… NATO didn’t know about RuAF aircraft entering Syrian airspace…

    • Yes,I agree on this.
      Obviously, either military knew and politicians miscalculated Russian intentions,
      or it is simply too risky to provoke military to military incidents with 7000 warheads Nuclear power as Russian Federation.
      I guess it would be justified only in existential threat as during Cuban missile crisis..
      But US has nothing to do in Syria, or Ukraine, it is 10000miles away!?Hardly worth the risk of MAD


    “Hostage labels as “old think” those critics who point to the F-117 shoot-down and the presumed supremacy of high-powered electronic-magnetic warfare. “We have one F-117 shot down in 78 days of flying over that country, thousands of sorties. They shot down one airplane,” Hostage says. “And they shot down one airplane because we flew across the same spot on the ground for weeks at a time. It took them multiple weeks to figure out how to shoot the thing. Then they had to get four or five systems to do it. It took them weeks to take it out. I can accept that kind of attrition rate. I obviously don’t want to lose anyone, but good Lord, one airplane over the course of 78 days, that’s pretty impressive.””

    • Obviously you never red data about how many aircraft missiles etc were involved in attack on a very very small country.
      Also, that country was under UN sanctions onon buying or repairing any weapons from 1992-2001.
      So basically, 24 NATO countries attacked 7mil people country which was in blockade for already 10, years, fighting with weapons from 1985.
      If you put downing of most modern US aircraft in that context, it is quite a victory of Yugoslav military and engineer thought against barbaric non-provoked illegal (not authorized by UN) attack on a sovereign country…

  3. I agree,and also, “top secret” datas about Russian (and any other countries, for that matter) radars are top secret with good reason: nobody wants to try on brand new F-anything aircraft how good Russian S-400 exactly is..

  4. That sounds perfectly sane, cautiouscautious and professional.
    Yet, Russia can’t agree with no-fly zone over Syria, it is too much of humiliation as Russia is openly Syrian friend.
    I saw today on Tverskaya street in center of Moscow t-shirts with slogans “Support Assad” which means, they will go to maximum length to protect Syrian state.

  5. But in case of NATO. dropping a single bomb on Russian territory Paris London NY etc would turn to ash in about 20-30 minuts in nuclear holocaust.
    So don’t write silly comments…

    • Yeah and so would Moscow and the rest of the cities in Russia.
      Turkey is part of NATO and article 5 means other members have to defend it.
      If Russia decides to turn something to ash, it will be turned to dust itself.
      So don’t write situpid comments comrade.

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