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.


  1. to the author: counter to what you wrote (…The skies over the disputed islands…), the sovereignity of the Greek islands are not disputed, but the airspace between the islands and turkish mainland are. secondly, i would have expected you also to write the downing of TuAF F-16 back in 1990’s.

    You can visit to see the turkish government’s point of view on the issue and for a bit of insight.

    • Could you elaborate on a Turkish F16 deliberately colliding with a HAF F16, killing the pilot, and especially at where the turkish F16 pilot, was collected from? South west of Icaria and Karpathos? What was he doing there?
      Could you comment on the predeclaration of war on applying a rightful right? (12NM)

      Btw the version of the events you narrate chagne from day to day, one day the airspace in the Aegean is a “special case” the other day its the status of the islands themselves a “special case’
      Lots of special cases.

    • “but the airspace between the islands and turkish mainland are.” this is, to put it mildly, just not correct,, the airspace among greek islands, greek islands and the greek mainland, etc etc is disputed. The airspace among greek islands and turkish mainland is undisputed (when Turkish friends do not dispute even the greek islands sovereignty) since its simply divided in the middle. This is the only area of airspace which is not disputed actually. Actually the link you provide your self mentions “The Aegean high seas would diminish to 19.7 percent.” nothing about the border areas, everything is about the sea among Greek islands and Greek mainland. Turkey wants to have a saying over their airspace there and the sea there.

  2. According to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
    territorial waters extend 12NM, including airspace, and seabed. Turks
    don’t have any respect for international law, if it doesn’t fit their
    “Any increase beyond 6 miles is totally unacceptable to Turkey” sums it up.
    Any criticism of the (currently perceived) enemies of Russia will be interpreted as abetting the russians, and automatically trigger the wrath of nato trolls.
    In the meantime, turks are upping the ante, concentrating armor, artillery, and other ground forces to the syrian border. Also EWS KORAL is reported. Yanks will possibly deploy EA-18 to Incirlik.
    The west’s darlings, the “f”sa “moderate” terrorists issued a few days ago an ultimatum to the western kurdish controlled enclave’s YPG to retreat from 7 villages on the eastern side, near the highway south to Aleppo, conducting to clashes between kurds, and turkish backed “moderate” terrorists.

  3. Wow.

    So you’re saying with DECADES of navigational experience and technology such as GPS, GLONASS, INS, TACAN, etc., your Russian pals STILL use dead reckoning.

    Is that how they ‘accidentally’ ended up in the Ukraine?

    No excuse.

    If Russia want’s to meddle in international affairs, they should realize there are consequences for their fumbling bullying.

    Only despotic leaders believe they can do whatever they like and not suffer the consequences.

    Using your deeply flawed logic, the USAF should be able to take a scenic flight around Moscow with some B-1’s right?

    Only RT shills are that delusional.

    • All the yank high-tech didn’t help to avoid violating repeatedly
      venezuelan airspace. Last time, nov 6th, 12 miles deep for 3 and 1/2
      minutes. As usually, yanks needed almost 2 weeks to admit guilt, and
      All anxiously wait for the choirs of Venezuela’s “right to defend it’s territory”, and their right to shoot down the intruder. Don’t hold your breath.

  4. Dear all, some clarifications: where the Greek islands and the Asia Minor are in close proximity the teritorial waters are divided in the middle.
    Furthermore, the discussion for the 6NM vs the 10NM is no sense. Since violations are taking place directly OVER GREEK INHABITED islands (I am sure that some Turkish friends will be found to claim that bla bla these are not Greek etc etc, hmm with a Greek population? really?) .
    Also the issue of the 6NM vs the 10NM is happening only because Turkey has predeclared actually a war in greece (Casus Beli) in the case Greece extends its teritorial waters and air, as legally can, and as Turkey has already done so in 12NM.

    Furthermore, the incidents and the violations are taking place on the border. THE MAJORITY OF THE VIOLATIONS TAKE PLACE W E S T of the E A S T E R M O S T Greek Aegean islands, emulating an naval and air blockade of Lesvos, Samos Ikaria etc!!!! Thus violations are taking place in near Skyros, West to Limnos, West of Ikaria etc etc etc.

    Some other Turkish friend might claim here international airspace etc etc, this does not explain the persistence on flying formations of armed aircraft among Greek islands, emulating a naval blocade.
    TLDR: Turkey just wants Greek eastern Aegean islands back to an Ottoman Empire. Wont happen.

  5. I actually have been asking myself this question since day one. The Syrians to do fly Su-24 after all.

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