UPDATED: NAVIGATOR ALIVE AND WELL | Turkish F-16s shot down a Russian Air Force Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer over the Syrian border on Tuesday 24 November. Apparent footage shows an aircraft bursting into flames at some altitude and coming down rapidly. Two parachutes were seen, indicating the crew ejected. Both the Syrian Air Force and the Russian Air Force operate Fencers over Syria.
Russia later on Tuesday confirmed one of its Sukhoi Su-24s went down, but also said the aircraft and its crew remained well inside Syrian airspace. According to Moscow, the jet was hit by ground fire as it flew at 6,000 meters. Turkey claims the crew of two ignored warning signals.
Pilot dead, navigator Su-24 fled
Rebel forces in the area claim to have found the body of the pilot, who apparently did not survive ejection from the falling aircraft. Wreckage came down inside Syria. Also, a Russian helicopter looking for the pilots was supposedly fired upon by local rebels, destroying the chopper. Fortunately the second crew member was able to flee from his captors – Turkmenistan rebels – with the aid of Syrian special forces, according to Russian sources on 25 November. The navigator is said to be in relatively good condition and is now at Hmeymim Airbase near Latakia, home of the Russian expeditionary forces in Syria.
Today’s shoot down involved two F-16s taking out the Su-24 with one single AIM-9 heat seeking missile, sources say. Others say an AIM-120 radar guided missile was used. The Turkish foreign ministry was instructed by the president to directly contact NATO and the United Nations. NATO will discuss the situation on Tuesday during an emergency meeting.
— Habertürk TV (@HaberturkTV) 24 november 2015
The border between Syria and Turkey has been a hot spot for quite some time, with Turkish F-16 guarding the airspace and repeatedly chasing after intruders. Most recently, Turkish pilots found Russian Air Force jest in their paths. Ankara then warned Moscow not to fly into Turkish airspace.
The Turkish Air Force has reponded to alleged earlier incidents as well, the most recent incident involving another Russian aircraft. On 23 March 2014, the Turkish Air Force also downed a Syrian aircraft, being a MiG-23 Flogger. In September 2013, a Syrian Mi-8 or Mi-17 Hip helicopter fell victim to a Turkish F-16 as it violated Turkish airspace, according to the Turks.
On the other hand, a Turkish RF-4E Phantom was downed on 22 June 2012, with the loss of both crew members. The recce aircraft was flying over the Mediterranean Sea at that time.
Russian actions over Syria
Russian Air Force Su-24 have been operating from Syria for several weeks now, along with Su-30 Flankers and Su-34 Fullbacks. Over the last week, Russia intensified its actions over Syria as a response to the bombing of a Russian airliner over the Sinai.
© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editors Elmer van Hest and Marcel Burger
Featured image: A Russian Air Force Sukhoi Su-24 (Cy-24) taking off in 2011 (Image (CC) Alex Beltykov)