“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.

In the meanwhile, Moscow has deployed the S-400 air defense system at Latakia, moved the Moskva guided-missile cruiser off the airbase and decided to escort its bombers with the Su-30SM Flankers.

Image credit: Russia MoD

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. Just wait until Turkey gets their F-35s! They, along with Israel, will be masters of the skies over the Middle East and Eastern Med. No matter which side you believe in this back and forth over the Sukhoi downing,

    Turkey is about to field one of the most powerful air forces in the world. Even more powerful than it is now. Though Greece and Turkey are both members of NATO, this has to have Athens concerned. Probably the Russians too.

    In a non-nuclear confrontation, even without NATO’s assistance, Turkey will be more than able to handle any confrontation with Russia. Regardless, one hopes this situation does not escalate. But with F-35’s power at their command, one never knows where this might lead them. Especially a man like Ergodan who wants to return Turkey to its former position of power and glory in the world. Or at least in that part of the world. The Middle East will remain a world hot-spot for decades into the future. Including nuclear proliferation. It’s coming just as surely as night turns to day. Or maybe in this case, I should say day turning into darkness!

    • Russia is famous for their Tanks, they have 15.000 units (turkey 3000), also Russia has 3000 aircraft while turkey has 1000 units, for me they will not be able to handle a confrontation so easy.

    • Turkey has no means to intercept a cruise missile barrage. If Russia decided to give TUrkey hell, they’d first sent hundreds of cruise missiles and take out all the airfields (F-35 won’t be doing much flying after that), large concentrations of Turkish land forces and then fly their fighters in. Same goes for Israel. NEVER will they be “masters” of the sky. Only as regional power will they control anything.

  2. Who knows maybe in 10 years the Russians will admit they were using Turkish airspace to transit to the target. This sounds too much like the kind of crap the USSR gave back in the days of KAL 007. We just need Putin out of office and the Russians will admit what happened when they no longer feel a loss of face.

    Now that said having the AIM-9 hit the Fencer over Syria was not a good way to go. The Turks should have been making passes and firing warning shot across the Fencer’s noses while they were over Turkish airspace. I don’t think the Turks are getting much out of this other than a lot of their air space covered by an S-400 battery.

    • Finally someone with some objective thoughts on the matter. Getting rather tired of the asinine trolls on this site.

    • Agreed it was a pretty stupid move, now they are going to be locked up by big birds and su-30 radars from 100nm+ out. And they aren’t going to like it. And it will have been all their fault, making them even madder, because Turks are really good at stewing in their anger and then doing something impulsive…ask Greece.

    • What about the crap yanks were dishing about IAF655?
      Yanks systematically spying, and violating (for example just months earlier in the Kuril Islands) SU airspace significantly added to the paranoia, and was one of the main causes of the KAL007 downing.

  3. I wonder why they decided to shoot it down now, is it because the Russians are stating to hurt the black oil market?

  4. I find it incredulous that the Su-24s do not have basic radios that can receive 121.5 / 243 Mhz, aka “guard.” If not, the Russians need to rethink their international deployments.

    • 15-25 min. to scramble a fighters.(for a 17 sec air violation & shot over Syria)
      As a part of NATO, Turkey broke NATO’S RULES OF AIR ENGAGEMENT.(no excuses)
      Turkey violates Greek and Iraqi air space to bomb the Kurd’s ( the people fighting ISIS)

      More like an ambush, I doubt they they warned the Russian bombers.
      Something smells real fishy and its not Russian; I’m looking at the turkey. ISIS celebrates like they shot the plane down…

    • Anyone can buy a cheap handheld radio that monitors 121.5 MHz. The Russians are proving once again that they are irresponsible idiots in the international arena. They sacrificed their pilots for a $100 radio! That’s the Russian way. A Russian scientist once informed me that they lost loads of cosmonauts before finally succeeding in first orbiting the earth. The Russian way is: launch first, if successful, brag about it, if not, bury it.

      • Loads of Cosmonauts? Oï on what Rockets? You guys like to make things up as you go right? The facts are simple. Turkish math doesn’t add up. The whole, n radio onboard BS, that was spewed by Jane’s, got wrecked by Israel when they said they managed to contact the Russians; So yeah, Turks can lie as they usually do about these things, they’ve got the NATO get out of shit card.

        I don’t belive more the Russian version that I do belive the Turkish one. But there’s no way the Turkish 17 seconds to hell, We didn’t know who was there, we followed protocol etc. The fact that the Aviationist is even peddling the Turkish variant, when it is the least credible of both, really makes me sad.

        But hey, now the Turks can’t bomb innocent Kurdish lives. At least that Russian pilot didn’t die in vain.

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