What many probably already expected has happened: a Russian Air Force jet on an attack mission violated NATO airspace while executing an air strike against forces opposing the Syrian government on 5 October 2015. The intrusion 5 miles (8 km) into the airspace of the military alliance member Turkey has caused a lot of protest from that country’s government in Ankara.
According to the Turkish authorities the Russian jet flew over the Turkish province of Hatay, about 30 miles (45 km) north of the Syrian city of Latakia. For about two weeks, 28 to 36 Russian combat jets plus 14 to 20 Russian military helicopters are operating from the airbase just southeast of that city, supporting and cooperating with Syrian government forces in combating not only the so-called Islamic State forces, but all militia that has an issue with the Syrian leadership headed by president Bashar al-Assad.
The Turkish Air Force scrambled F-16 fighter jets to intercept the Russian intruder, but no details have been made public on how close they came. The Russian military ops and probably accidental intrusion of Turkish airspace could very well lead to an armed incident with unknown consequences. Over the course of a few years the Turkish Air Force has shot down several Syrian aircraft that violated its airspace.
Questions are: does Ankara equally pull the trigger on combat jets with the Red Star – with the possibility of creating a larger conflict with Russia for all NATO-members? And does Moscow want to jeopardize the peace situation in Europe; one that has already been under pressure ever since Russian forces are acting more bluntly across the continent. For now Ankara has both called the leadership and Moscow and the Russian ambassador in Turkey to say that intrusions like the one today are unacceptable.
© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: A Turkish F-16C taking off (Image © Elmer van Hest)