“Turkish Air Force F-16s ambushed the Su-24 Fencer”: here’s Russia’s version of the controversial shootdown
Here’s the Russian version of the Su-24 shootdown.
On Nov. 24, a Su-24M Fencer bomber was shot down by a TuAF F-16 near the Turkey-Syria border. The Turkish Air Force claims the Russian bomber violated the Turkish airspace after ignoring several radio warning issued by a GCI (Ground Controlled Intercept) radar station.
Although the violation (the last in a series of alleged incursions) was extremely short (17 seconds) the intruding Su-24 was hit by an air-to-air missile and caught fire. Both crew members ejected: one died after being fired upon while descending towards the ground; the other one was rescued by a CSAR (Combat SAR) mission.
However, the Russian Air Force has a different version of the story.
Here’s the release by the Russian MoD (highlights mine):
“In the course of appearance of different versions concerning circumstances of the attack on the Russian Su-24M aircraft carried out by the Turkish F-16 fighter in the sky over Syria on November 24, the Russian Defence Ministry presents facts of this situation unprecedented in its disloyalty.
The accident happened on November 24. Combat loss of the Su-24M, tail number 83, was caused by fire engagement.
At 9.15 (MSK) it was assigned to carry out strike near Kepir-Motlu-Zahiya located in the north of Syria.
This task was assigned to two Su-24M aircraft crews, including one of pilot Lieutenant Colonel Oleg Peshkov and Captain Konstantin Murakhtin (aircraft number 83, with combat payload four OFAB-250-270 air bombs).
The crews were assigned to conduct combat air patrol near Maarrat al-Numan at flight levels of 5800 m and 5650 m correspondetly.
The aircraft took off from the Hmeymim airbase at 9:42.
At 9:52, the Su-24M entered detection zone of the Turkish Air Force radar means and was under their coverage in the course of 34 minutes.
After 20 minutes passed since the crew had entered its area of responsibility, the Command centre of the Hmeymim airbase ordered it to eliminate militants in the area.
The crews bombed two assigned targets and turned to the left to make another approach for destruction of two remaining targets.
As it was carrying out an airstrike at the target located 5.5 km to the south of the Turkish border, at 10:24 the crew led by Lieutenant Colonel Peshkov O.A. launched bombs at the target and was then downed by an “air-to-air” missile from an F-16 fighter of the Turkish Air Force, which had performed take-off from the Diyarbakir airfield of the 8th Air Brigade located in the territory Turkey.
During the analysis of video air situation display provided by the Command Centre of the Syrian Air Force and Air Defence, an aerial target was spotted, moving from Turkey in the direction of the state border at the speed of 810 kmph and with the heading of 190 degrees.
After the Turkish fighter approached the Su-24M at a range equal to the range of a missile launch (equal to 5-7 km, which proves that the F-16 was in the Syrian air space), it quickly maneuvered to the right, lowered, and disappeared from the display of the air situation display.
According to the objective monitoring data received from the air defence means, the Turkish jet remained in the Syrian air space for 40 seconds and dived 2 km into Syrian territory, while the Russian bomber did not cross the Turkish border.
The crew of the leading aircraft confirms the missile launch. After the launch and a left turn for heading 130 degrees, they observed a flash and a tail of white smoke, which he reported to the flight control officer.
At 10:25, the flight control officer registered that the mark from the Su-24M aircraft disappeared from the radars. The further requests and the requests of the leader crew of the Lieutenant Colonel Peshkov remained without answer.
The estimated time of arrival of an F-16 aircraft from the military airfield Dyabakyr from the stand-by position on the ground to the possible place of missile launch constitutes 46 minutes (15 minutes for preparation and take-off, 31 minutes – flight time needed to arrive at the firing point).
Thus, interception of a Su-24M aircraft from the stand-by position on the ground from the military airfield Dyabakyr is impossible as the necessary time for approaching the target exceeds the minimum time needed for attack by 12 minutes.
Objective monitoring data received from the Syrian radar stations confirmed the presence of two F-16’s in the duty zone from 9:11 till 10:26 min (for 1 h 15 min) at the altitude of 2400 metres, that shows that the operation was planned beforehand and the fighters were ready to attack from the air ambush over the territory of Turkey.
It is to be mentioned that the fighter aircraft stopped maneuvering in the duty zone an headed rapidly to the offset point 1 minute and 40 seconds before the maximum approach of the Su-24M aircraft to the Syrian-Turkish border. The method the F-16 aircraft entered the engagement zone (not by the curve of pursuit) shows that it was vectored from the ground.
Actions of the Turkish aircraft after launching of missiles over the territory of Syria - the wind-down turn with loss of altitude and going under the lower range line of the air defence means – also speaks for the fact that the perfidious crew’s actions were planned beforehand.
Objective monitoring data from the Hmeymim airbase and the leader aircraft did not register any request made by the crew of the Turkish aircraft to the Russian pilots on the pre-arranged frequency.
The readiness of the Turkish media to cover this incident is also surprising.
The strike with the “air-to-air” missile was made by a pilot of the F-16 aircraft of the Turkish Air Force at 10:24 and just in an hour and a half the video showing the falling warplane was published on the YouTube video hosting site by the Turkish private television company. The angle of the footage allows to define the possible place of recording. It is situated in the area controlled by the radical terrorist groupings consisting of people from the North Caucasus and the former republics of the USSR. The operator had known in advance the time and place, which would be the best for recording the exclusive footage.
Rapid appearance of militants’ groups in the landing area and publication of the video in the Internet just 1.5 hours after the accident show that the terrorists had been informed in advance about the prepared provocation for its videoing and publication of the materials in social media on the Internet.
All these facts clearly show the earlier preparation for downing of the aircraft and the coverage of those events using the Turkish Air Force, illegal armed groups and Turkish information agencies along with active support of the media.
Since the signing of the mutual understanding memorandum between the Russian Ministry of Defence and the Department of Defence of the USA on October 23, 2015, the Command of the Russian air group has undeviatingly taken all measures to prevent incidents between Russian military aircraft and warplanes belonging to the Coalition countries.
In accordance with these agreements, the Russian Air Force Command Centre at the Hmeymim airbase had informed representatives of the US Air Force concerning the engagement areas and echelons of a pair of Russian Su-24M bombers in advance.
That is why statements made by different officials from Turkey concerning that they had not identified the Russian aircraft are, at least, confusing.
Moreover, the Turkish military command has violated all articles and dispositions of the international law that regulates defence of the state border in the air space.
It is to be stressed that there were neither apologies, nor offers of help in positioning and evacuation of the downed crew received from the Turkish party after the tragedy happened.
In conclusion, it is necessary to touch upon the subject of the search-and-rescue operation conducted to evacuate the navigator, Captain Konstantin Murakhtin from the landing location .
First of all, the Command expresses its gratitude to all the members of the operation for their accurate, coordinated work, their tenacity and composure shown in the most difficult situation at night, surrounded by terrorists. Their work helped to bring the ejected navigator to the base.
As soon as Captain Murakhtin was safe, massive airstrikes were made by Russian aircraft and the Syrian rocket artillery on the area occupied by terrorists who had been actively searching for him.
In conclusion, it must be said that the Aerospace Forces Command is proud of its pilots, technicians, commanders, and maintenance personnel, which carry out combat missions to fight international terrorism in Syria.
The Command wishes to express its deepest condolences to the families of Lieutenant Colonel Oleg Peshkov and Private Alexander Pozynich, who lost his life rescuing the crew.
The families of the servicemen will not be left on their own and they will receive all required assistance.”
So, summing up, the Russian Air Force believes that the TuAF have established Combat Air Patrol (CAP) stations along the border (for years…) to ambush Russian (or Syrian) planes passing close by its F-16s.
Furthermore, it’s worth noticing that the entire “ambush” was monitored by the Syrian Air Defense and that, once again, the Russian MoD said that the F-16s did not make an attempt to radio the warning, but did not mention the GCI station that actually radioed the warnings.
Following the incident, Ankara said that the warnings, on a dedicated mutually agreed radio channel and the international Guard (emergency) channel (243.0/121.5 MHz – that the Su-24M is not able to monitor with the current radio equipment), were not answered by the Russian plane that continued to fly towards the Turkish airspace, leading the Turkish Air Force to believe the intruding aircraft was not Russian but Syrian.
Image credit: Russia MoD