“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. About the chopper, it made an emergency landing after it was badly damaged by ground fire. It was then destroyed by the TOW as it lay abandoned. I doubt there was any coordination between the rebels and the Turks.

    • Most of the involved “rebels” are turkish citizens not “moderate” syrian rebels. A lot of turkish grey wolfes were also identified in the group that killed the pilot. Grey wolfes are often related to turkish intelligence apparatus. Or in short it stinks!

    • You say what? Who do you think transfers the ammo and toys to Coastal Divisons of the the FSA? MiT through “Turkmen” brothers.

        • You said you doubted any “coordination” between Coastal Div and Turkmen. That’s like saying I doubt there’s any coordination between clouds and rain. If you looked at ANNA report you’d see that the Hip’s were fired from both sides of Jabal Akrad, so both Turkmen. and FSA were busy ambushing the SAR team. Both “teams” uploaded videos of the first SAR party being fired upon while in transit. In other words you don’t have any idea about what happens in Kesab, so please spare us the Ukraine innuendos.

          • You again completely misunderstood me, and then proceeded to a straw man argument. I shall repeat, just for you.

            I said I doubted there was any coordination between the rebels and the Turkish Air Force at the time the plane was shot down and made no generalized comments. The rebels saw this event as an opportunity to actively engage the Russians and so they took it.

            As for the FSA and Turkmens firing simultaneously and filming, so what? They’re practically allies (remember that Turkmen =/= Turkey). THEY might have coordinated with each other. Now I know you’re gonna tell me that the Turkmens are Turkish operatives and all that kind of stuff. It doesn’t matter because at the very moment of the downing, I highly doubt they got a phone call from Ankara telling them “we shot down a plane, go get the pilot and shoot down any rescue helicopters”.

            How about you pay attention to what I’m saying instead of making an argument out of something I didn’t say? Seriously, my initial comment was but an observation and it’s now blown into a full on controversy.

            • What you are sayin is that you doubted there was any coordination about this. However. I doubt there was no coordination. I fact according to what the Russian declare their jets were doing and how the “incident” took place, Turks waiting for the second “skirting” to fire at the plane, I pretty much guarantee Turkish AF, Turkmen militas cooperation, in the simplest form. Asking for air cover.

              Given the 20th of Novemeber angry words from Erdogan to the Russian ambassador in Ankara, that makes it even less plausible that the Turks weren’t “coordinating” with the Turkmen. As, if we believe Turkey and not Russia, the Turks had NO IDEA who was operating in the Area. Something the Russians say was communicated 10 minutes after mission launch to the deconfliction liaison for NATO.

              The fact that the Coastal Team was litterally 10km out of its way to go and shoot the Russian SAR, while they could serve some more logical purpose (like fighting back in Latakia); this isn’t practically allies. It’s one more evidence of cooperation.

              I pay attention to what you say, but also to what is known about the area? The plane was shot when it was in Syrian arispace and it was shot so it would get down into No Man’s land. It was a message and the logic is clear. Shoot the plane and get both flyboys (dead or alive). Sure Turkey didn’t thought about the possible consequences of shooting down an unidentified plane right accross the border.

              Your initial comment from a military standpoint is hardly belivabe. Unless Turkey’s military is schizophrenic, which it isn’t, this was nothing short of a “message”, sent to Russia. With the whole shabang. Message obviously heard by Russia. All too well.

              An observation isn’t a subjective opinion on the plausibility of “cooperation” between three sides here. Sides that are the whole chain of action against Asad’s forces in Norther Latakia and the Turkish Syrian border area.

              • Dude, just stop. I know what I said. What I said has so little value, given its insignificance, that I don’t want to argue anymore. It’s not even a conviction of mine. It’s just an observation. You just want to use it to argue on a bigger scale than that of my comment, which I don’t want.

                It’s like saying “oh look at that blue pigeon, I think it belongs to Smith” and then you come along and give me a dissertation about why it shouldn’t belong to him and that it’s not naturally blue, etc.

                I restate my statement IN ITS ENTIRETY: I doubt there was any coordination between the Turkish Air Force and rebels around the immediate events that followed the downing of the plane, including the destruction of the helicopter and the firing on the parachuting crew. Period. No sous entendu, no implications.

                Im sure your last reply (which I didn’t read) contains fallacies and baseless assumptions, as I’m sure my previous comments did. But it doesn’t matter, because almost everything said after my initial comment is irrelevant.

                • Lol, you just assume that there was no coordination. Then go on record and call this an “observation”. Check the etymology of the freaking word. What you just stated is an opinion. As such, it has basically the same value as mine. Ironically, this is the only observation in this discussion.

  2. Turkey and Russia agree that the Turkish F-16 didn’t attempt to contact the Su-24. Turkey has said that GCI contacted the Su-24 and Russia has not denied this. There was the lead Su-24 in the air to hear the Turkish GCI warning but Russia is silent about this fact. Russia says that the missile launch was confirmed by the lead Su-24, but they apparently didn’t bother to warn the trailing Su-24 as the navigator of the shot down Su-24 says he was shot down without warning. The Russians also say that Syrian radar could also see the Turkish F-16 plot an intercept course that includes a border incursion into Syria (according to Russia), but it also apparently failed to warn the Su-24.

    Russia has had three days to get their facts straight, but they want us to believe that Syrian radar saw the whole intercept and stayed silent and the Russian lead Su-24 confirmed the missile launch but failed to warn their wing man? Really Russia?

    Sounds more like that trailing Su-24 was flying without working radios so they couldn’t hear their wingman, Syrian CGI or Turkish CGI.

    Kinda cool that Russia is showing us their tactical map they are using. That dotted line is a railroad according to Google maps. They are really trying to stress that they were South of the railroad since that line runs close to the Southern tip of Turkey. The other Russian map (released just after the incident) shows the same map but the Su-24 tracing the Turkish border a few KM to the South of it. I suppose that course seemed improbable, so they give us a new map.

    • Where did Russia said that the Lead SU24 didn’t warned the tail? Please post source. The Turkish letter to the UN. Says that the second plane kept flying in Turkish airspace. However their radar image, shows that BOTH Su’s were out of Turkish airspace when one got hit. The other issue is that. The missile launch was confirmed how? The Su-24 can’t watch its back? So how can the SU 24 know an IR missile according to the RU-MOD is locked and coming? Explain to me please? Is the aviationist or the Conmen den?

  3. A few clarifications about RF spectrum allocation:
    In the Warsaw Pact countries, the military usually used high HF – low VHF for tactical communications. Most equipment was designed for 20-52MHz. Also 73-76MHz (4m) was used for (multiplex) directional ground communications.
    As a side note, frequency bands for broadcasting were (still are in Russia):
    48.5-66MHz (TV VHF I), 65-74MHz (audio FM), 76-100MHz (TV VHF II), 174-300MHz (TV VHF III), which are obviously different from Europe, and the rest of the world.
    The yanks (and later nato) use 225-400MHz for military purposes.
    OTOH, a russian bomber has no need to “chat” with civvies on the air band, nor nato “buddies”.
    For an interceptor, air patrol, or rescue planes that would be a necessity.
    If, and that’s a big IF, the turks really warned, or “chatted” on the agreed channel, has not been proved. Even in the note to UNSC, there is no mention of it (see picture).
    ps: A special thanks to mr. DC, for kindly providing the missing piece of the puzzle (Su24 being unable to receive civilian/nato emergency channel).

    • As the experts around here were no help in clarifying the issue,
      elsewhere more knowledgeable people provided the necessary info:
      The Su24’s on-board radio is a R-862 Zhuravl-30 http://www.yarz.ru/prod_r862me.html
      It covers 100-150MHz, and 220-400MHz with 25/8.33kHz channel spacing, using AM, or NBFM modulation. The emergency channel receiver is optional, and not installed as standard.
      As I previously (falsely) assumed that there would be a technical impediment to direct communications on the usual air channels, this is obviously not the case. Any ground, or airborne radio station could have communicated directly with the Su24 crew, on the prearranged channel. What isn’t possible for the Su24 crew is to monitor the civilian/military emergency channels, which the turks used, knowing that the Su24 could not receive them, but any other receiver monitoring the channel could. The (almost) perfect alibi.
      As previously observed, communications from turkish ground stations can only be received by planes, not russian, nor syrian ground stations away. What those could receive, were emissions from the intercepting aircraft, which obviously didn’t contact the Su24 crew, just sneaked behind it, and opened fire without warning, not using on-board radar during the attack. The perfect ambush.
      If the turkish ground station issued any warning on the prearranged channel is difficult to prove, as only planes in the region could receive it, and practically no third party would be listening on exactly that particular channel.

  4. After the S400 was put online, not only the turks are avoiding syrian airspace, also the yanks keep out.
    The turks have also curbed their habitual violation of greek airspace, and cat, and mouse plays over the Aegean. Greeks can now enjoy free skies above their islands.
    Guess an active S400 is good to educate bad mannered neighbors. Let’s see how the customers are rushing to line up in queue.

  5. The new one i heard about is that the US want to make the Russians use the Krasukha-4 to try to figure that one out, and therfor let the Turks shoot down the SU24, but instead, the Russian moved in the S-400.
    its like “We know you want us to use our jammers, but we take in our best air defence instead”

Comments are closed.