Aydin Albayrak, Ankara – Today’s Zaman August 10, 2012
Masum Türker, chairman of the Democratic Left Party (DSP), has claimed that it was a Russian warship, and not Syria, that shot down a Turkish aircraft over the Mediterranean on June 22.
According to Türker, the Turkish jet was downed by a new-generation electromagnetic missile shot from one of the Russian warships which was in the region at the time of the incident. “New-generation missiles do not explode, but block the electronic systems,” Türker told Today’s Zaman in an exclusive interview.
Following the downing of the Turkish aircraft, an unarmed reconnaissance version of the F-4 fighter jet, Syrian officials said they were sorry for the incident. Türker takes this official statement as an indicator that the jet was not shot down by Syria, saying, “For a mistake you committed, you wouldn’t say you were sorry, but you would say ‘forgive me’.” According to Türker, Syria wanted to give the message “we wouldn’t have wished such a thing to happen, but we couldn’t avoid it.”
Syrian officials also said the jet was downed by anti-aircraft gunfire within Syrian airspace. Türker doesn’t believe this to be true, because the aircraft was too far away from land, the wreckage of the jet being discovered at about 8 miles off the Syrian coast, for anti-aircraft gunfire to be efficient, given that anti aircraft guns have a range of about two kilometers.
“Had the jet been downed by anti-aircraft fire, then it wouldn’t have been swept away such a long distance either.” he noted.
At the time of the incident there were three Russian warships in the region, and the DSP chairman claims that one of the ships is equipped with the best radar and missile systems in the world. Türker is of the opinion that the Turkish jet was there for intelligence purposes, and that it was not flying alone, but was accompanied by one or two other fighter jets. “When the other jet[s] felt the blockage on their electronic systems, they just flew away,” he said, noting that according to the training document of the Turkish Air Force, intelligence jets should not fly solo, but should be accompanied by fighter jets.
According to Türker, the US and Great Britain are aware, having their own radar records, that the jet was downed by Russia, and Russia is disturbed by fact that Turkey is carrying out the demands of the US regarding the Syrian issue.
After the Turkish jet was shot down over the Mediterranean, conflicting views were expressed by Turkish and Syrian officials. Syrian officials said they downed the Turkish aircraft with antiaircraft fire about 1.5 kilometers off the Syrian coast. But Turkey insisted that the jet was downed while flying 13 miles off the Syrian coast, which is out of the Syrian airspace, and that it was after it was hit that the jet entered Syrian airspace, having gone down into the sea at some 8 miles off the Syrian coast.
A series of public statements, made by Turkish officials in the days following the incident, meant to shed light on how the jet crashed ended up raising a barrage of questions, including whether the aircraft was shot down by the Syrian forces at all. On June 25, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç announced that the plane was hit by a laser-guided or heat-seeking missile. On July 8, Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz raised eyebrows when he revealed that an examination of the pieces from the wreckage of the plane showed no sign of a missile attack or anti-aircraft fire.
On July 9, Brig. Gen. Baki Kavun raised further suspicions on whether the plane crashed as a result of a missile attack when he revealed that there was no evidence as yet which indicated conclusively that the plane was shot down by a missile. “Our jet had a missile detection system. So if there had been any missile threat, the system would have detected it,” he said.
And on July 11, the General Staff raised the possibility of an accident, referring to the plane as “our aircraft that Syrian authorities claimed to have downed.” On July 30, Arınç said nine pieces of critical importance of the jet were being analyzed, but the physical and chemical analyses seem to have produced no results so far.