Russian aircraft occasionally intrude Israeli airspace, whereas Turkish jets regularly violate the Greek one.

Airspace violations are more frequent than one might believe.

On Nov. 24, a Russian Air Force Su-24M that allegedly violated the Turkish airspace was shot down by an AIM-120C air-to-air missile fired by a TuAF F-16 in Combat Air Patrol.

Although the details of the incident are quite controversial, with the Russians claiming that no violation occurred nor was the Fencer warned by the TuAF (that has since then suspended its flight over Syria) as Ankara has said since the beginning, it is safe to say that violations occur every now and then and rarely they end up with the downing of the intruder.

Indeed, violations of the Turkish airspace were reported few days after the Russian Air Force contingent deployed to Latakia, in northwestern Syria, started pounding FSA and IS targets across the country.

On Oct. 3 and 4, NATO said a Russian Air Force Su-30SM and Su-24 aircraft violated Ankara’s sovereign airspace in the Hatay region in spite of “clear, timely and repeated warnings.” In that case, the RuAF admitted the violations, claiming they were due to “navigation errors.” TuAF F-16s in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) were scrambled to identify the intruder, after which the Russian planes departed Turkish airspace. During the Oct. 3 incident, the Russian Su-30SM maintained a radar lock on one or both the F-16s for a full 5 minutes and 40 seconds: a quite unusual and provoking conduct by the Russian pilots.

Following the first incidents, Ankara said it would shot down any aircraft violating their sovereign airspace as done in the past with a Syrian Mig-23, a Mi-17 and an Iranian made Mohajer 4 UAV.

Whilst the alleged violation of the Turkey-Syria border by the Russian Su-24 is far from being unexpected considered the amount of intrusions reported since the beginning of October, far more surprising is the news that the Russians have also violated the Israeli airspace more than once in the past weeks.

“Russian pilots occasionally cross into Israeli airspace, but due to excellent defense coordination that began with Netanyahu’s meeting with Putin in which limits were set, the Israel Defense Forces and the Russian military agreed on security arrangements,” said General (res.) Amos Gilad, head of the Israeli Defense Ministry’s political-security division, as reported to Israeli media outlets.

The security protocol established between Israel and Russia should prevent incident like the one of Nov. 24 and the subsequent diplomatic crisis.

He added, “In the understandings with the Russians, we retain freedom of action in our attempts to prevent weapons getting through from Iran to Hezbollah.”

Violations regularly occur somewhere else.

The skies over the disputed islands of the Aegean Sea are often violated by the Turkish Air Force F-16s and F-4s.

Greece claims 10 miles of air space around a chain of Greek islands lined up along the Turkish west coast, part of those are in very close proximity to the mainland, while Turkey recognizes only six miles (that is to say the extent of the Greek territorial waters, recognized by each other).

Many of the incidents take place within the four-mile radius, which Athens considers its sovereign airspace and Ankara considers international one; however, according to several reports, there are a number of unauthorised Turkish military flights directly over Greek islands themselves.

An article published by Politico last summer reported figures from research at the University of Thessaly, according to which there were 2,244 incursions of Turkish fighter jets and helicopters in 2014 alone.

Although it’s unclear how many of those +2,000 occurred within the contentious 4NM airspace (nor do we know the figures of the Greek violations logged on average by the Turkish Air Force besides this data from 2012), it’s quite clear that a border incident similar to the Russian Su-24 shoot-down is always around the corner over the Aegean Sea. Like the one that led to dogfight and subsequent a mid-air collision in 2006 (causing the death of a Greek pilot).

Anyway, although they were pretty upset by the Russian violation on Nov. 24, the Turkish authorities should be quite used to such kind of incursions, from both the intruder and the intruded standpoint.


Image credit: Russian MoD (Top), Politico (Bottom).


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.


    • Open and map and locate when Turkish violations (inluding the Carpathos incident) take place. Does the article mentions about the Turkish predeclaration of war (casus beli) btw?

    • It can’t be aim-120. Su-24 never received radar-lock warning.
      It had to be a heat-seeker missile fired at close range from altitude below Su-24’s.

  1. What I gathered from this article is that russian navigation is comparitavly crap and they dont know where they are half the time…. I joke but its no secret that there are pictures out there with russian planes having store bought GPS units in the cockpit.

  2. Is this an attempt to justify Russians planes crossing the Turkish border? Turkey has a right to protect their border any way they want. If other countries do it in a different way that’s their prerogative…

    • Lets say next time Turks try to bomb Kurds or just violate syrian airspace/border in any way, they’ll get shot down/bombed on the spot. Ok?

    • You will see where the turkish will put their AIM-9X against the R-27ER or ET if they get close again:

      R-27ER AA-10 Alamo-C, the semi-active-radar homing extended-range version. Missile can be used at 20 to 27000 meters altitude. Effective kill range for a target at same altitude: 2 to 65.5 km head-on, 0.7 to 16.5 km tail-on. Missile cannot be fired at altitude less than 3 km againist a target with background earth, if launch range is less than 6 kilometers. Maximum range: 117 km. Maximum allowed vertical separation: 12 km.

      R-27ET AA-10 Alamo-D, the infrared-homing extended-range version, Weight 348 kg. Missile can be used at 20 to 27000 meters altitude. Effective kill range: 2 to 52.5 km head-on, 0.7 to 12.5 tail-on. Maximum range: 104 km. Maximum allowed vertical separation: 12 km.

    • How can’t you see that this sentence doesn’t stand even a basic logical check – you can only protect when someone is attacking but the thing is no-one was attacking Turkish soil at that moment, but guess what?.. you are not alone, many Turkish polititians and some others as well keep repeating this meaningless mantra, in general it is true – every country can and should protect its airspace but it is just that this doesn’t apply in this case.. shooting Fencer in the back, without any warning by the brave Turkish pilot.. it was just a cowards’ act.

      • OR – Every country has a right to enforce and protect their border (sure the US elected not to). Just because the Russian plane did not appear to threaten Turkey doesn’t matter at all – they were warned not to intrude before and the Russians are bullies. They don’t care about other country’s rights to include the Baltic and Northern European countries whose borders are violated blatantly including flying with no transponders risking civil aviation collisions.

        YOUR statement doesn’t make sense. Are you going to wait for a foreign aircraft to actually attack you before you will enforce your border??? This is why borders are there and Russia could have asked for permission from Turkey to enter briefly. They didn’t and paid for it – and rightfully so.

  3. Russian is more humane. Actually Russia should bomb Israel for trained, supporting and armed terrorist operating against the government of Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yamen and many others.

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