The Turkish military reported Friday, June 22, that radar and radio contact was lost with a Turkish air force F-4 plane after it took off from Erhac Airport in the eastern province of Malatya while flying over the sea opposite the Turkish-Syrian border. The incident took place not far from the Syrian port of Latakia.
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that Syrian anti air defenses shot the plane down in an ambush calculated to retaliate for the defection of the Syrian Air Force pilot Col. Hassan Maray al-Hamadeh to Jordan a day earlier with his MiG-21 warplane. Officials in Damascus are certain his defection was organized by US and Turkish intelligence.
DamPress and other Syrian news agencies reported at 16:00 local time Friday that two military aircraft infiltrated Syrian airspace over Latakia and broke the sound barrier while flying low in threatening formation. One was hit by Syrian anti-air fire and the second escaped. DamPress speculates that the intruders were either Turkish or Israeli. The Turkish press reported later that a search operation rescued the two pilots of the downed aircraft from the sea. The plane has not been found. Since Thursday, Syria’s entire air fleet has been grounded while its spy agencies screen flight personnel for more potential defectors.
Turkey’s government has called an emergency security meeting amid reports that one of its fighter jets was shot down by Syrian security forces.
The Turkish military earlier said it had lost contact with an F-4 Phantom over the Mediterranean Sea on Friday morning, south-west of Hatay province.
It did not confirm reports that Syrian air defence forces were responsible.
But local media are quoting Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as saying “the other side have expressed regret”.
Mr Erdogan also revealed that the two crew members were safe.
Relations between Turkey and Syria, once close allies, have deteriorated sharply since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011….
Witnesses in the Syrian coastal city of Latakia meanwhile told BBC Arabic that Syrian air defences had shot down an unidentified aircraft near the town of Ras al-Basit.
There was no immediate confirmation from Turkish officials, but later it was announced that Mr Erdogan would be holding an emergency meeting with his top military and intelligence chiefs to discuss the missing plane.
Mr Erdogan was also said to have told Turkish reporters on a flight back from Brazil that “the other side have expressed regret” over the downing of the F-4, and also that the pilots had been recovered.