In 2015, a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 “Fencer” was shot down in Syria and its pilot died shortly after ejecting from the plane. A Russian film chronicling the incident is slated for release later this month.
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The incident took place at a time when tensions between Ankara and Moscow were at an all time high due to continued violation of Turkish airspace by Russian warplanes.
On November 24, 2015, a Russian Sukhoi Su-24M2 was beaten down by a Turkish F-16 fighter plane near the Turkish-Syrian border. According to Turkey, the Russian plane entered Turkish airspace by only 2.19 km.
Turkish authorities also said they issued 10 warnings to the Russian plane for more than 5 minutes on the radio, before he was shot.
Shortly after this incident, Ankara stated that the warnings which were broadcast on the mutually agreed radio channel and the International Air Distress Channel (243.0 / 121.5 MHz, which the Su-24M was unable to monitor with its current radio equipment) did not receive a response from the Russian plane as it continued to fly into Turkish airspace.
This led the Turkish authorities to believe that the fighter plane belonged to Syria and not to Russia.
Complaints and counter-complaints
The surviving pilot of the Russian jet refuted the claims and said no warning was given and the plane did not violate Turkish airspace. Russian President Vladimir Putin called the incident a “stab in the back” by “accomplices of terrorists”.
The Turkish version was completely denied by Moscow as they said their plane was operating inside Syrian airspace and according to their satellite data the Su-24 was about 1 km inside. Syrian airspace at the time of the downfall.
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The US State Department also responded to this by saying that they had independently verified that the flight path of the Russian warplane violated Turkish airspace and that the Turks had sent several warnings to the pilot, to which they received no response.
They also released audio recordings of the warnings issued by Turkey.
Turkey and Russia had a strained relationship even before this particular incident. On October 3-4, 2015, the sovereign airspace of Ankara was repeatedly violated by a Russian Air Force Su-30SM and Su-24 over the Hatay region.
NATO said that “Russian fighter jets have entered Turkish airspace despite clear, timely and repeated warnings from the Turkish authorities.”
At that time, the Turkish Air Force F-16s on Rapid Reaction Alert (QRA) were dispatched to identify the intruder, as a result of which the Russian jets exited space. Turkish air. In addition to violating the airspace of a NATO member, the Russian Su-30SM had also placed a radar block on one or both F-16 jets for a duration of 5 minutes and 40 seconds.
A “navigation error”?
Moscow said the violation of Turkish airspace was due to a “navigation error”. After this incident, Ankara made it clear that any aircraft that violated its airspace would be shot down, in the same way it had previously done with the Syrian MiG-23s and Mi-17s.
On November 24, 2015, the Russian Su-24M2 was hit by an AIM-120 missile of American origin. This prompted the pilot, Lt. Col. Peshkov, and the operator of the weapons system, Captain Murakhtin, to immediately eject from the plane.
The two ejected crew members of the Su-24 Fencer came under fire from militants of the Syrian Turkmen Brigade, in flagrant violation of the Geneva Convention. The shooting resulted in the death of the Russian pilot while the weapon system operator survived and was rescued by Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) teams.
During the CSAR mission, one of the Mi-8 helicopters was hit by small arms fire, forcing it to make an emergency landing. This resulted in the death of one of its crew, a navy infantryman.
The crew members who survived this emergency landing were then evacuated. The abandoned helicopter was then destroyed using an American-made BGM-71 tow missile.
Oleg Peshkov, 25, the pilot of the downed Su-24, was posthumously awarded the Hero of the Russian Federation, the country’s award upper military honor.
Peshkov was buried with full military honors in the Alley of Heroes of the Lipetsk Cemetery. The ceremony brought together around 10,000 people. Surviving weapons system officer Konstantin Murakhtin and deceased rescuer Alexander Pozynich, 29, were awarded the Order of Courage.
Six years after the incident, Russian director Igor Kopylov decided to make a film of it. The movie ‘Sky’ (Russian name Небо) will be released on November 18, 2021. An unofficial trailer has also been circulating the Internet.