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International law and the Turkish shootdown of the RuAF Su-24

Written By: - Date published: 8:49 pm, November 27th, 2015 - 117 comments
Categories: colonialism, defence, International, iraq, military, Syria, uncategorized, war - Tags: , , , ,

A couple of days ago Turkish F-16s shot down a Russian Air Force Su-24 bomber. The plane was returning to base from a ground attack mission against Islamic militants in Northern Syria.

The pilot and the navigator of the Su-24 bailed out in time. Unfortunately the pilot was killed by anti-Assad Turkmen militants who shot him dead in the air while he was parachuting to the ground.

The navigator of the plane did escape successfully (although it seems that one of the search and rescue helicopters was destroyed by ‘moderate’ militants using a US supplied anti-tank TOW missile, resulting in the death of a Russian Marine).

In a subsequent media interview the surviving RuAF navigator said that he was very familiar with the area after many combat missions and that there was no way his Su-24 had strayed into Turkish air space. He also said that the Turkish F-16s had provided no warnings, visual or radio, before the shoot down.

(F-16 interceptors are far faster and more agile than an Su-24 bomber. Pulling parallel with and behind the Su-24 would have visually warned the Russian plane in circumstances where warnings over a specific radio frequency might not be monitored).

It appears that the Su-24 crew didn’t even know they were under attack until their plane exploded around them. They did not conduct any evasive maneuvers. My view is that the Turkish F-16s were lying in ambush looking for an opportunity to take down a Russian jet: Turkey is supportive of many of the anti-Assad and anti-Kurdish militant groups that Russia has been bombing. Further, Russia has been providing the US coalition with full advance details of where, when and at what altitude Russian planes will be operating at.

At a new ambassadors to Russia credential receiving ceremony, Putin said this about the incident:

“I can’t help saying that we believe the traitor-like stabs in the back from those who we saw as partners and allies in the anti-terrorist fight are completely unexplainable…It seems that the Turkish government is deliberately pushing the Russian-Turkish relations to a standstill, we regret it,” he said.

USAF Maj Gen Charles Dunlap (ret.) is a former USAF deputy Judge Advocate General and now with the Duke law faculty. He has written about this incident, saying that the Russians may have a “strong case” in international law:

While President Obama is certainly correct in saying that “Turkey, like every country, has a right to defend its territory and its airspace,” exactly how it may do so is more complicated than the president implies. In fact, the Russians may have strong legal arguments that any such right under international law was wrongly asserted in this instance.

The reasons for this include the following:

The problem here is that the Turks are not asserting that any armed attack took place or, for that matter, that any armed attack was even being contemplated by the Russians. Instead, in a letter to the U.N., the Turks only claimed that the Russians had “violated their national airspace…for 17 seconds.” They also say that the Russians were warned “10 times” (something the Russians dispute) and that the Turkish jets fired upon them in accordance with the Turks’ “rules of engagement.” Of course, national rules of engagement cannot trump the requirements of international law.

The question boils down to: was deadly force justified as the only recourse when there was no indication that the Russian jet was targetting any Turkish targets?

Another important international law issue arose after the Russian aircraft was struck by the Turkish missiles. The two aviators ejected, but were attacked as they parachuted from their stricken aircraft — reportedly by elements of the Free Syrian Army. In the effort to rescue the downed aviators, one Russian marine was killed.

It is extraordinarily well-settled that the law of war prohibits making anyone parachuting from a distressed aircraft the object of attack, and that doing so is a war crime. There is no real dispute among experts as to this reading of the law.

Regarding the Russian marine killed on the rescue operation, the law is more complex. Generally, a rescue effort is a military operation subject to lawful attack…(however) given that shooting at parachuting aviators is itself a war crime, the effort to rescue them from patently illegal conduct may very well transform the incident into one where international law could find the marine’s death an unlawful killing.

Dunlap concludes his piece by saying that the US is relying on the strict interpretation of international law in various areas of the world, including the Spratleys in the South China Sea. And in a chaotic area like Syria, even more care has to be taken to correctly apply international law.


The Russians have concluded that both the Turkish F-16 and their Su-24 were inside Syrian air space when the attack occurred. The wingman of the Su-24 saw the Turkish missile launch and reported the event back to base. The Turkish F-16 then turned back towards Turkish airspace, rapidly dropped altitude to evade Russian radar and disappeared.  The Russians now see the Turkish attack as being an unfriendly pre-planned military operation. My view is that the Turks probably had one of their best ‘top gun’ pilots execute this mission.

In response, Russia will now be suspending visa free travel between the countries. Restrictions on Turkish agricultural imports had already been announced. Expect to see a broad range of diplomatic and economic measures being utilised by Moscow as push back against Ankara.



117 comments on “International law and the Turkish shootdown of the RuAF Su-24 ”

  1. Bill 1

    In 2012, the Syrians shot down a Turkish jet which had entered its airspace, and Erdogan’s furious response at the time was that “a short-term border violation can never be a pretext for an attack”.

  2. barry 2

    We don’t know who the Russian jet was attacking. All we know is that it would have been an opponent of the Syrian government, which could well have been a group allied to Turkey. This doesn’t make the shooting down, legal or moral, but we should endeavour to be accurate.

    The situation in Syria is very complicated and pretty much all parties are lying about their real motivations for being there. Daesh is just a convenient excuse for most.

    Certainly the Turks must have known what they were doing and we can only assume that they are trying to drive a wedge between Russia and Nato to avoid them co-operating or agreeing to leave Assad in place.

    Make up any other conspiracy theories you like and half of them are probably true. 🙂

    • Colonial Viper 2.1

      We don’t know who the Russian jet was attacking.

      The Russians give full information of their air missions to the Americans ahead of time to prevent exactly this kind of incident. During his press conference with Hollande, Putin said that the Americans may have been irresponsible with who/how they shared this information around.

      • The Americans might have thought the Turks would be a bit more rational than to shoot down a Russian plane; certainly at least rational to the point of querying its presence and establishing contact.

        Seventeen seconds suggests they shot first without second thought. Seventeen seconds is not very long at all.

        • Colonial Viper

          Hi Robert, I’ve edited the post above to say that the Russians have decided that this was an authorised, pre-planned operation by the Turkish Government against Russia. Crazy stuff.

      • nadis 2.1.2

        No point giving the info to the Americans. It needs to go to Nato or Turkey.

        The Americans would only care operationally about potential encounters with their own aircraft.

  3. Jenny Kirk 3

    Interesting comment on this from Gwynne Dyer in the Herald –

    This is the first time in more than fifty years that a NATO plane has shot down a Russian plane, and it happened in very suspicious circumstances…….

    How strange that there was a Turkish TV crew in northern Syria, positioned just right to film the incident. …….

    Putin also observed that “We have long been recording the movement of a large amount of oil and petroleum products to Turkey from IS-occupied territories. This explains the significant funding the terrorists are receiving.”

    • Bill 3.1

      The Russians had informed NATO (through the US) of their intended flight path apparently. Sorry, outta here, or I’d find the link.

    • Pascals bookie 3.2

      The oil trade situation is complicated as hell (like everything else)

      For a taste, Hassan Hassan is really solid (literally co-wrote the book on the rise of ISIS in Syria) :

      The bombings, especially in eastern Syria, are disrupting the livelihoods of many of those who had relied on trade, transportation and oil-related economic activities before ISIS controlled their areas. After the collapse of the government in eastern Syria, hundreds of families relied on extracting and refining oil to run their heavy vehicles, to pump water to irrigate their distant lands, to generate electricity or to sell the refined oil in the black market to make meager profits to sustain their families

      It’s true that ISIS gains from smuggling oil, but it’s not like, say, funding terrorism via drugs. It’s more horozontal than vertical

      the local economy is still operating, but it’s kind of mafia based, and kind of not. ISIS in effect taxes trade and buys support not with bribes, but with granting freedom to smuggle etc. So bombing the smugglers is bombing the locals who are doing what they can to survive, destroy the black war time economy and what do they have left? Jihad, that’s what.

      when the US first started bombing, support for ISIS and AQ went up because the people got more desperate, the illegal oil trade was what was keeping them alive.

      Interestingly too, the border crossing the Russians bombed this morning is one that has also been a regular target for ISIS VBIEDs

      • greywarshark 3.2.1

        Thanks PB for giving this background to what the ordinary people are doing while those who have their hands on the levers and the money play their deadly games above, around and beneath them, while the people dart out of their refuges like mice.

        This sort of thing takes us back to our genesis millions of years ago when we started our metamorphosis. Robert Burns to the Mouse presents our predicament.
        From Burns Country:

        I’m truly sorry man’s dominion,
        Has broken nature’s social union,
        An’ justifies that ill opinion,
        Which makes thee startle
        At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
        An’ fellow-mortal! ….

        But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
        (*But little Mouse, you are not alone)
        In proving foresight may be vain;
        The best-laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men
        Gang aft agley,
        An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
        For promis’d joy!

    • AmaKiwi 3.3

      If you have not done so, please read the article Jenny Kirk provides a link to (3.0 above and I show below).

      Dyer outlines the obvious strategic reasons for the attack: Turkey’s opposition to its own Kurds and Ergoden’s personal hatred for Assad. Dyer makes perfect sense.


  4. RedLogix 4

    A good analysis CV.

    While it is impossible for us ordinary people to know the exact truth of what happened, I’m persuaded in this instance the Su-24 was ambushed. The ‘violation of air-space’ was nothing more than a flimsy, and probably illegal, pretext.

    • Colonial Viper 4.1

      The other dimension is that Russia and Turkey have massive economic and energy ties; the two countries have a significant amount of bilateral trade and tourism. Turkish PM Erdogan even visited Moscow a couple of months ago to attend the opening of a huge new mosque.

      This is part of the reason why Putin is so pissed off about this turn of events, describing Turkey’s attack as an ‘inexplicable stab in the back by a traitor.’

      Something big is going on in the background behind all of this.

      • RedLogix 4.1.1

        Yes I agree. Nothing on the surface of this makes sense … which is what I was hinting at above. We’ll never be told.

        • Richard Christie

          Something big is going on in the background behind all of this…
          Nothing on the surface of this makes sense

          It’s Middle Eastern politics. For more than a millenia it has been a case of it having more layers than an onion.

          USA, Europe or Russia, – or anybody arrogant, naive or stupid enough to interfere in it will get burned and will probably fail to understand why.

        • Draco T Bastard

          I’ve been looking at the focus on Turkmen in the MSM and by Turkey and think that Turkey wants to carve off a chunk of Syria when it collapses. I suspect that this has probably been agreed at the NATO table and Russia stepping in and supporting the Assad regime has thrown a spanner in the works.

  5. JonL 5

    If the Turks warned the Russians 10 times, the planes must have been well inside Syrian airspace at the time. To then get the go ahead from the President to shoot at them, when transiting the isthmus was 17 secs total, have a plane ready and firing an AIM locked on and targeted, they must have been locked on and waiting way before the SU got to the border. Premeditated ambush!.

    • Richard Christie 5.1

      Doesn’t neccessarily follow.
      The transcript suggests the warnings where made to warn of approaching territorial violation and to turn back.

      • Colonial Viper 5.1.1

        chances are the transcript is a fake. You dont warn planes which are 50km to 100km away from your border. At 1200km/h an Su-24 would travel 100km in that 5 minutes of warnings.

        • Richard Christie

          “chances are”

          Hmm, your tendency toward drawing conclusions based upon supposition, limited information and, I presume, no background in military aviation logistics, undermines your arguments, in my view.

          I think it foolish to conclude culpability from armchairs in NZ , either way, from partisan news reports, internet research and hunches.

          • Colonial Viper

            Hi RC, I gave you the rationale from which I drew my suppositions.

            If the Turks had warned the Russian jet on an aviation emergency channel everyone from the Iranians to the Israelis to every country’s naval vessels off the coast of Syria would have picked up the transmission.

            I think it foolish to conclude culpability from armchairs in NZ

            My comment you are critiquing was around the veracity of the transcript, nothing more.

        • alwyn

          Out of curiosity why do you propose a speed of 1200 km/h?
          That is very close to the planes maximum speed at low altitude isn’t it? It would seem unlikely that it was actually travelling at supersonic speed if on a bombing mission and also hard to believe that the pilots could have bailed out and survived at that velocity.
          What is a more likely speed and distance covered in five minutes?

          • Colonial Viper

            Out of curiosity why do you propose a speed of 1200 km/h?
            That is very close to the planes maximum speed at low altitude isn’t it?

            The Russians say the Su-24s were flying over 5,500m (18,000 feet) most of that time.

            This altitude was chosen as it is out of reach of common MANPAD shoulder launched ground to air systems.

            • alwyn

              Thank you.
              I never realised it had been that high.
              I haven’t been following anything about this except the likelihood of “he says, she says” debates.

            • Draco T Bastard

              The Russians say the Su-24s were flying over 5,500m (18,000 feet) most of that time.

              That’s got nothing to do with what speed they would have been operating at considering that they were patrolling:

              Ten minutes later, the bombers entered the range of Turkish radars and took positions in the target area, patrolling airspace at predetermined heights of 5,800 meters and 5,650 meters respectively.

              Their speed would have been at a comfortable, fuel conserving cruise.

              • Colonial Viper

                they were patrolling until they were given their attack orders. AFAIK the Su-24s had completed their attack orders and were on the way home when they were attacked.

    • nadis 5.2

      The approval from Erdogan was likely a blanket approval, along the lines “if you get a chance to shoot a Russian plane down when in our airspace, take it”.

      I don’t think there is any doubt the Russian plane was (briefly) in turkish airspace, but the Turkish response was disproportionate. The US has publicly told them they were out of line.

      It pays to remember that Turkey is not really a democracy. The elected government governs with the permission of the military.

      Also who is one of Turkeys closest allies? Israel. Both Turkey and Israel have their own complicated reasons for wanting to keep Syria in a mess.

    • AmaKiwi 5.3

      The Turkish plane violated Syrian airspace. By Erdogen’s logic, the Syrians have every right (but not the capability) to shoot down the Turkish fighter!

      The Assad regime has not given anyone EXCEPT the Russians permission to operate in their airspace. All the others (Yanks, British, French, etc.) are violating Syrian airspace.

      Typical US/Western exceptionalism: We can bomb your country because we are . . . God? the world’s policeman? the only force for good?

  6. Pascals bookie 6

    On the whole legalities issue, I think it’s pretty much irrelevant to be honest.

    the actors are acting in pursuit of their percieved interests.

    And given what all sides are doing in Syria and Turkey and Iraq in pursuit of those interests, quibbling over the legalities of this particular incident is kind of an obscenity in itself.

    • RedLogix 6.1

      Yes the legalities may never wind up in a War Crimes Court, but nonetheless they certainly wipe out any moral high-ground that the various parties might try to perch on.

      • Pascals bookie 6.1.1

        The victims of this warcrime are bombing hospitals in IS controlled cities.

        Their is no moral high ground here, that’s my point, so all this pinhead dancing about speeds of aircraft and 17 seconds and so on is obscene. The people who matter in this will be watching the news and asking “This is what you care about? A military target getting hit by another military outside of queensbury rules?”

        • RedLogix

          Are you arguing that the rules are no longer relevant … that it’s now ok to do anything you like in warfare?

          I know that sounds like a strawman, but if we are going to discount the murder of parachuting aircrew, then what other rules are we going to set aside? What threshold did you have in mind?

          • Pascals bookie

            Of course it’s a strawman Red.

            Firstly, war crimes are committed all the time in war. Shooting at parachutes is a crime, absolutely.

            But it is a very understandable one. Bomber pilots are generally well aware that if you have to bail out the first thing you should do is try and ensure that you are landing as far away from where you were dropping bombs on people as possible.

            Fighters on the ground without air cover are every bit as defenceless against ground attack aircraft as parachuting pilots are, so they tend to not care too much about the legalities of some ‘how do you like it’ payback.

            All of this argument about whether irregular troops shot at a parachiting pilot, while the Russians have been bombing cities to Dedend Assad who has been using committing all amnner of crimes is what I’m saying is obscene.

        • Colonial Viper

          “The victims of this warcrime are bombing hospitals in IS controlled cities.”

          Those stories were most likely anti-Russian propaganda. A director of the International Red Cross said that he could not confirm or deny any such occurrences as none of their staff had witnessed such an attack.

            • Colonial Viper

              This is from the Guardian article, your first link:

              Dr Mohamed Tennari, director of Sarmin hospital, said the facility appeared to have been directly targeted and could no longer serve patients on one of the fiercest frontlines in the war.

              He said the hospital had been the target of at least 10 other airstrikes earlier in the conflict. Throughout the war, international medical organisations have repeatedly claimed that medical facilities in opposition areas have been systematically targeted.

              Bold mine.

              The hospital says it has been hit by airstrikes many times over the years. Maybe the Russians were the ones which hit it this time. But they certainly weren’t the ones which hit it every other time.

              Physicians for Human Rights is a US based and funded NGO that I don’t have much faith in. In contrast, MSF did confirm hospitals were hit in airstrikes and they are certainly reliable, but they can’t tell who did them and did not attribute blame. In contrast, how Physicians for Human Rights can tell the difference between a Russian airstrike from a US coalition airstrike mystifies me.

                • Colonial Viper

                  have a look at the wording in your link:


                  re-read it and see how many times that press release condemns the conduct of the US military in causing civilian casualties or in attacking the hospital. (The number is: none times.)

                  than have a look at the wording in your link:


                  Tell me how many times it condemns the conduct of the CIA, as opposed to the conduct of the 2 doctors. (The number is: none times.)

                  Interesting, isn’t it, when you read what is actually there.

                  • Pascals bookie


                    “re-read it and see how many times that press release condemns the conduct of the US military in causing civilian casualties or in attacking the hospital. (The number is: none times.)”

                    Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) today condemned an aerial attack on a Doctors without Borders (MSF) clinic in Kunduz, Afghanistan that reportedly killed at least 16 people, including nine MSF staff and seven patients.

                    “This is truly horrific and inexcusable,” said Susannah Sirkin, director of international policy and partnerships at PHR. “‘Collateral damage’ is not an acceptable excuse for what by all accounts seems to be a serious violation of international humanitarian law. Targeting a hospital is a war crime and warring parties are obligated to take every measure possible to avoid attacking health facilities.”

                    According to the aid organization, the MSF hospital that has treated hundreds of wounded during the current battle over control of the northern Afghan city was struck repeatedly in spite of the fact that the hospital had communicated its coordinates to coalition and Afghan government authorities. U.S. military officials have acknowledged bombing raids in the area at the time of the hospital bombings and indicated that it could have been “collateral” damage.

                    PHR calls for a full, independent investigation into this grotesque incident and calls on all warring parties in Afghanistan to respect humanitarian law, including the protection of hospitals, patients and health workers

                  • Pascals bookie

                    On the other story;

                    Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) today welcomed a federal lawsuit against psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, the architects of the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program. PHR said the lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), is a landmark step toward accountability, but urged the U.S. Department of Justice to criminally investigate and prosecute all those responsible for torture, including health professionals.

                    “Psychologists have an ethical responsibility to ‘do no harm,’ but Mitchell and Jessen’s actions rank among the worst medical crimes in U.S. history,” said Donna McKay, PHR’s executive director. “These two psychologists developed an experimental torture program based on brutality and junk science, and sold it to the CIA for $81 million. This lawsuit will hopefully provide greater transparency and some measure of relief to the victims, but the United States still has an obligation to investigate and prosecute these crimes.”

                    • nadis

                      Get with the thinking PB:

                      US = Evil
                      Russia = Good except when the US is forcing them to be bad
                      China = Good, except when the US is forcing them to be bad

                      US = responsible for every problem in the world today.

              • nadis

                Typical of you to slander Physicians for Human Rights simply because it is an American based organisation.

                Why not take sometime to read what work they do before casually slandering them?

                A quick look at their accounts shows 10% of revenue in their last financial year came from “Federal Grants”. Hardly bought and paid for. And they seem to have a pretty sold track record questioning the USG.


            • Colonial Viper

              One more thing…the Russians have never said that they were mainly or exclusively targetting ISIS (the western media made that strawman up)…the Ruskies are out to get anyone and everyone fighting against Assad’s military forces.

              • Pascals bookie

                And hospitals that treat them. Just for the record.

                And it’s funny how you leap to the cinclusion that if it wasn;t russians it must have been western airstrikes that hit the hospitals. Have you been following the war at all CV, other than reading RT and other Russian propaganda sites?

                What Syrians do you read?

                • Colonial Viper

                  And it’s funny how you leap to the cinclusion that if it wasn;t russians it must have been western airstrikes that hit the hospitals.

                  Intensive though ineffective western airstrikes have been hitting Syria for well over a year now.

                  I don’t read any Syrian bloggers.

                  • Pascals bookie

                    Define ‘intensive’ for a start.

                    But the point is that the capital’ of ISIS fell to non-ISIS opposition fairly early, it was bombed and shelled extensively by the ‘legitimate’ govt for a long, long time before ISIS took over. Whcih was years before the West started in the area.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      In January, four months into US airstrikes against ISIS: this was written:

                      “As of 11 p.m. on Tuesday (0400 GMT Wednesday), US and coalition air forces had conducted a total of 1,676 air strikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria since Aug. 8, and had used some 4,775 munitions, a Pentagon spokeswoman said.

                      Warren said US and coalition forces had hit 3,222 targets in the air strikes but he declined to say what percentage of Islamic State equipment was destroyed.”

                    • Colonial Viper

                      declassified US documents show that the Americans have been interested in using sectarian divisions to destabilise the Assad regime since the 2000’s. And US intelligence documents recognised a few years ago that a Salafist militant movement was the tool of choice by regional allies who wanted Assad gone.

                      The US is used to employing Islamic militants to take out countries they do not like.

                  • Pascals bookie

                    How about middle eastern news sources?

                    Read any of them?

                    I’m asking because the lines you are taking are almost purely Russian.

                    It’s really fucking odd how you apply certain adjectives to some things but not to others.

  7. McFlock 7

    Air combat is about “ambush”. Having the f16s give up a tactically superior position by flying “beside” the fencer is stupid and possibly suicidal. Shit, they were probably vectored into position by the operator of the radar that produced the track the turks released (if that track is genuine). Although the shooting a pilot in a parachute is definitely a crime.

    That having been said, whether the decision to fire was a policy decision or a tactical decision is another matter. Probably policy, using an airspace incursion as legal pretext. Similarly, it could just have been a response to continued airspace confrontations inthe area.

    The idea that it’s an attempt to keep a wedge between Russia and post-Bataclan NATO is an interesting one – there are lots of actors with lots of agendas going on, and that’s just assuming that all militaries are acting as agents of government policy without their own agendas or flaws. And the Syrian anti-Assad forces are wildcards – the S&R and parachute-shooting were probably escalations Erdogan hadn’t counted on.

    However, this looks to me like a calculated move, not a flashpoint accident.

    • Colonial Viper 7.1

      i tend to agree on the premeditation: a 10s to 30s airspace incursion (if it occurred -the US is now saying the Russian plane was shot down in Syria according to their thermal imaging) is not enough time to identify the intruder, get into firing position, and obtain approval to fire from the chain of command.

      So IMO the Turks must have planned and greenlit the op ahead of time.

      Also – an Su 24 is an air to ground bomber and would be no match for an F16 in an air to air encounter.

      • McFlock 7.1.1

        Well, waiting for the su24 to actually cross the border before even beginning to vector aircraft into the area in case they did would be pretty dim.

        And syrian SU24s have also had confrontations in the last couple of years – there’s always the possibility the turks thought it was syrian and not russian. Something to bear in mind.

      • Draco T Bastard 7.1.2

        Also – an Su 24 is an air to ground bomber and would be no match for an F16 in an air to air encounter.

        The Su-24 is an Attack Aircraft and is around about the same age as the f16. It seems to be quite a capable aircraft.

        Although it wouldn’t survive a dogfight with an f16 it would probably be able to defeat the missile that was launched at it through the use of counter measures and manoeuvring – if the crew had enough time to respond. By the looks of things they simply didn’t.

        It looks to me as if the Turkish aircraft got in close, used passive sensors to target and then fired without warning.

        • nadis

          Rather than say “attack aircraft” you should really say “ground attack aircraft”.

          The Su24 is not even close to the f16. Its akin to comparing a Ford Falcon XR6 turbo to a Mark 2 Ford Cortina.

          The closest US aircraft to an SU24 is the F111 which was taken out of service in the 1990’s.

          F16 and SU24 are designed for different missions – all weather air superiority versus low altitude ground attack. SU 24 doesnt even have an air to air combat radar. Massive difference in speed, maneuverability etc.

          The SU 24 was designed to operate in areas where they had air superiority already or in low level long range penetration (which it is no longer fit for purpose).. It’s survivability in denied airspace against a nato standard airforce is close to zero. Simulated one on one kill ratios versus f15,16 and f18 are round 80% and vs the F22 100%. This was a clear example of taking a blunt knife to a gunfight.

          We’ll never get to the truth of this given the propensity of all players to tell fibs, but it is interesting to note that on previous incursions by SU24’s into Turkish airspace they were escorted by way more capable SU30’s, but this time the SU24’s were alone.

          • Draco T Bastard

            Rather than say “attack aircraft” you should really say “ground attack aircraft”.


            An attack aircraft (also called a strike aircraft or attack bomber) is a tactical military aircraft that has a primary role of carrying out airstrikes with greater precision than bombers, and is prepared to encounter strong low-level air defenses while pressing the attack.

            F16 and SU24 are designed for different missions – all weather air superiority versus low altitude ground attack.

            I’m aware of the difference which is why I differentiated between defeating the f16 and defeating the missile the f16 fired assuming that it was a Sidewinder with passive IR homing. That Wiki article indicates an ~25% success rate for the missile:

            The Sidewinder is the most widely used missile in the West, with more than 110,000 missiles produced for the U.S. and 27 other nations, of which perhaps one percent have been used in combat. It has been built under license by some other nations including Sweden. The AIM-9 is one of the oldest, least expensive, and most successful air-to-air missiles, with an estimated 270 aircraft kills in its history of use.

            • nadis

              I think you’ll find the Turks used an AMRAAM AIM120 radar guided missile. Much harder to defeat than an infra-red lock missile, and especially hard for a non-stealthy brick like the SU24.


              • nadis

                and just to be clear:

                AIM9 short range
                AIM120 long range

              • Draco T Bastard

                Turkish F-16 attacked Russian Su-24 without warning, both were above Syria – commander

                To attack the Russian bomber with a close-range air-to-air missile, the Turkish fighter jet had to enter Syrian airspace, where it remained for about 40 seconds. Having launched its missile from a distance of 5-7 kilometers, the F-16 immediately turned towards the Turkish border, simultaneously dropping its altitude sharply, thus disappearing from the range of Russian radars at the Khmeimim airbase.

                Using the AMRAAM at that range would be a waste and give warning as the Su-24’s sensors would have picked up the attack radar which is why I think it was the Sidewinder. The passive guidance doesn’t give warning of the lock and the short range wouldn’t have given the Russian aircrew enough time to react once the Su-24’s sensors picked up the missile launch – if they even did.

                • nadis

                  ” which is why I think it was the Sidewinder.”

                  Except it wasn’t. Read the press reports.

                  And if the Turks have AESA radar in the F-16 (they supposedly have a home developed system) then then primitive avionics in the SU24 would never know they were being painted.

  8. infused 8

    Jez. You believe everything you hear eh.

    So much of your story is either wrong, or not actually known.

    An F16 can’t just appear and shoot them down without the slightest bit of knowledge by the Russian pilots.

    My bet is the Russians were actually attacking along the Turkey border. The motives of Russia and Assad are clear, as well of that USA and Turkey.

    The US isn’t hitting ISIS 100% of the time, neither is Russia. They are both playing another game.

    I’m pretty sure you know this.

    • Colonial Viper 8.1

      yes, the Russians were hitting anti-Assad Islamic militants in Northern Syria near the Turkish border. These militants are Turkey supported. They have also been hitting oil trucks supplying Erdogan’s son’s oil trading company.

      “An F16 can’t just appear and shoot them down without the slightest bit of knowledge by the Russian pilots.”

      Why do you say that? Aim 9X sidewinders have passive IR tracking which is very hard to detect. And the Russian pilots were never expecting an air attack from the Turkish side of the border.

      • McFlock 8.1.1

        The tracker isn’t detected, the rocket motor is.

      • Exkiwiforces 8.1.2

        SU-24 Radar Warning Receiver should have picked up the F-16 radar in it’s search mode prior to lock on or when lock was achieve by the Turkish F-16’s. A high pitch tone would have screaming in the Aircrew helmets, the cockpit RWR panel Flashing like mad.
        1) Which makes me wonder his wingman (the other SU-24) was doing at the time and;
        2) Why was the Russians not maintain a listening watch on the Guard Frequency.

        Sounds like to me the Russians had very poor SA and very slack TTP’s.

        • McFlock

          Which is why I suspect the f16s were vectored in by ground control, RAF 1940-style. Similarly, use of an AMRAAM would have set off the RWR.

          The turks would have been watching the Russian/Syrian strike attacks for a while now, so it would be failry straightforward to place the f16s in the area with the correct direction to allow an IR lock while the strike aircraft are transiting the airspace bulge.

          That’s the only way I can reconcile the crewman saying there was absolutely no warning, and even then a missile launch warning system could have picked up the attack.

          • Pascals bookie

            Or the crewman is, y’know, lying.

            • McFlock

              lol always a possibility.

              But not necessarily a given – the idea of air combat is for the other guy to not see you before you kill them.

          • nadis

            errrrr……. the whole point of an AIM120 is passive radar homing. The radar comes from another plane and the AIM120 homes in on the reflected radar beam. It only goes “active” if it loses the target. If the SU24 didn’t know it was being targeted – and thats quite possible given the outdated avionics it would never know it was being targeted until the Mk1 eyeball saw the missile. I think the Turkish F16s have a Turkish produced AESA radar which would be undetectable by the SU24.

            Point is the Russians werent expecting this kind of threat and the Turks have the tech to beat up on SU24’s very easily.

            • Draco T Bastard

              If the SU24 didn’t know it was being targeted – and thats quite possible given the outdated avionics it would never know it was being targeted until the Mk1 eyeball saw the missile.

              Man, you’re full of shit. Upgrades:

              Surviving Su-24M models have gone through a life-extension and updating program, with GLONASS, upgraded cockpit with multi-function displays (MFDs), HUD, digital moving-map generator, Shchel helmet-mounted sights, and provision for the latest guided weapons, including R-73 (AA-11 ‘Archer’) air-to-air missiles.

              So, that would be the latest electronics available and not the original suit from 1974 as you seem to think.

              Point is the Russians werent expecting this kind of threat and the Turks have the tech to beat up on SU24’s very easily.

              But they haven’t got anything to go against the full modern air-force that Russia will now be shipping in.

              • nadis

                If it doesn’t carry AESA radar (and it doesn’t) it’s obsolete.

                But you’re right. The newer planes the Russians can bring are much better. But seriously, the SU24 is way past its use by date which is why Russia is already reducing their numbers in service.

        • Colonial Viper

          “SU-24 Radar Warning Receiver should have picked up the F-16 radar in it’s search mode prior to lock on or when lock was achieve by the Turkish F-16’s. ”

          What if the Turkish F-16 had its radar off. What if the F-16 was getting its targetting information from a distant AWACS or satellite platform via datalink. Thats the way to pull something like this off.

          Apparently the wingman did see the missile launch (according to the link in my edit in the post up above.”

          • Exkiwiforces

            “What if the Turkish F-16 had its radar off. What if the F-16 was getting its targetting information from a distant AWACS or satellite platform via datalink. Thats the way to pull something like this off.”

            This comment does not make any sense at all weather the Turkish F-16’s were in Visual Range (VR) and or Beyond Visual Range (BVR) as the Turkish Pilots would lose SA. In this age of Air to Air Combat no pilots worth their salt would turn their radar off because they will still SA and they still need the radar to use for Beyond Visual Range (BVR).

            • Colonial Viper

              OK, cheers for your contributions, Exkiwiforces.

            • Exkiwiforces

              Just further expand on my comment.

              The F-16 would have still have been receiving targeting info from AEW aircraft and from Ground Report control Units (Air Defence Radars Units) to give the F16 pilots a better overall SA.

            • Draco T Bastard

              In this age of Air to Air Combat no pilots worth their salt would turn their radar off because they will still SA and they still need the radar to use for Beyond Visual Range (BVR).

              Ah, no. A modern combat pilot has their radar turned off by default as it lights them up like a Xmas tree turning them in to a nice, big, bright target. Passive IR can pick up targets beyond human visual range.


              • Exkiwiforces

                They don’t turn off their radar!!! It’s either in standby/ passive mode or in active mode. NO Pilot will never turn off their radar in combat or in training!! As he or she will not be track any targets on the radar if the was turned off as they lose SA.

                Passive is used 90% of the time to avoid giving a radar signature.

                Active mode is only used when are closing in on target for the kill when you need to used Active radar/ Semi Active radar missile systems, or when you need to use your gun system.

                The same goes with most naval combat Ships radar systems as well.

                • Draco T Bastard

                  They don’t turn off their radar!!! It’s either in standby/ passive mode or in active mode.

                  Miscommunication. I was thinking off = passive. They wouldn’t have the radar transmitters on by default while they would have the passive receptors on.

        • Draco T Bastard

          SU-24 Radar Warning Receiver should have picked up the F-16 radar in it’s search mode prior to lock on or when lock was achieve by the Turkish F-16’s.

          That would be true if it had been used. But it sounds to me more likely that the Turkish planes were guided by ground stations onto the Russian planes and then they used passive system to obtain lock.

          Why was the Russians not maintain a listening watch on the Guard Frequency.

          I’d say that they were. They’re in a complex situation where accidents are going to happen and so they will be listening.

          IMO, in this situation the BS is coming from Turkey and NATO.

          • Exkiwiforces

            The Turkish Air Defence Radar would have been verbal warnings, but the Turkish Airborne Early Warning Aircraft would have vector the F-16’s into a attacking solution if the verbal warnings failed.

            • Draco T Bastard

              Ah, you’re accepting Turkey actually provided some verbal warnings.

              • Exkiwiforces

                Yes, Any nation that maintains some sort of Air Defence of it own Air Space will give and must verbal warnings via the Guard Frequency IAW with International rules and IATO.

                • McFlock

                  Hopefully better and more clearly than the Vincennes did…

                  • Exkiwiforces

                    Yes, that was nasty with a number of failures from the US Navy chain of command, a loss of SA and very poor SOP’s (now knowing as TTP’s).

                • Draco T Bastard

                  Just because the law says that they must do so doesn’t mean that they will do so.

          • McFlock

            That’s my personal theory. But AESA radar is a good point. Although that assumes that the Turks have it and that the russians have nothing in the theatre able to detect it.

  9. b waghorn 9

    I would suggest that calling in the lawyers at this stage is about as useful as turning up to a gun fight with a pen in you’re hand.

  10. Tracey 10

    I get confused. Are the worlds leaders applying international law today or not.

    I know it wasnt when USA bombed MSF a few weeks ago suggesting a war crime.

    • Colonial Viper 10.1

      That seems to be the current state of the world…arbitrary rule of law…

      • Tracey 10.1.1

        And the TPP nicely positioned for corporates to take advantage of that lack

        • alwyn

          Now I am really getting worried.
          Are you expecting the Auckland Chamber of Commerce offices to be hit with a Harpoon missile from a US warship?

          • Colonial Viper

            rule by economic and financial domination is superior to rule by military domination

            • ropata

              not forgetting the use of political puppets and propaganda media outlets

              • Lisbeth

                Well it might be nice to get MEDIA ATTENTION. I would like you to learn to control a large case yourself in the media limelight. Remember you have to be investigator, researcher, mediator, cop, lawyer, judge, and politician all yourself, you have to do ‘everything’ yourself. You have to do all these jobs yourself. Impressive.

                The makings of a fine Man.

                Anyone would think you were GOD.

                • ropata

                  All it takes is a basic knowledge of current affairs and a willingness to dig for the real story. No need for the PR crapola you’re apparently spinning


                  NZ spends NZ$660 mln/yr on PR people and NZ$81 mln on journos. Optimal allocation of resources? Maybe for firms & govt. But NZ society?— Bernard Hickey (@bernardchickey) November 26, 2015

                  • Lisbeth

                    Yes you are probably right.

                    But to control a case as large as this, media attention might be a good thing – when one has to learn to handle a humongous task (case), and with the added pressure of the media on their back, it is not a bad thing to adapt to new surroundings (on a vast media scale). Governing ‘all’ areas, one gains expertise.

                    Media is most important, you have to present yourself in a way that is of most importance, not of grandeur but of skill. To do it in front of a large audience you will gain confidence. One must need confidence to be at ones best.

  11. vaughanm 11

    Lets be clear, Syria is an independent Sovereign Nation. Russia was invited by the Syrian Govt to help defend & support the Syrian Army in wiping out any terrorist threats. Moreover, Russia has a UN mandate under International Law to be in Syria with the expressed purpose of destroying terrorist entities. For Russia in terms of her interests, it was imperative to protect its borders from growing terrorist threats. Had Putin not intervened, the eventual capitulation of the Syrian Govt was inevitable – meaning Russia was obliged to address the terrorist threat to its doorstep sooner rather than later. Make no mistake, Russia has every right to be in Syria and is on the right side of history.

    So you can imagine how fucked off the United States, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey, United Kingdom, Germany, France, NATO and other Western allies are, that their ‘terror and destabilisation process’ to topple President Assad has taken a massive hit in the short time Russia’s been conducting missions within Syria. . . The US is on the wrong side of history, hence the panic and switch to ‘Plan C’ recently.

    Lets be crystal clear, The United States Govt and its allies have been operating under the pretence of a global War On Terror. This humungous pile of horseshit a.k.a. US foreign policy is literally a global War Of Terror. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have pushed and expanded US hegemony with breathtaking disregard for International Law. Just like in Iraq in 2003 with the illegal invasion and toppling of Saddam Hussein; or just as repugnant and illegal ousting and murder of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya in 2011 – the aim of Obama is to bring the Assad Govt down by any means necessary. Why the fuck has Barry been awarded a Nobel Peace Prize? Since taking office as POTUS he has created seven wars! The US Govt actively & covertly supports/funds CIA created proxies such as Daesh to destabilise Assad, while using Special Forces and other entities within Syrian territory uninvited with no mandate – in breach of International Law!

    Turkey is actively supporting, funding & training anti-Assad rebels and maintaining open supply lines for Daesh a.k.a. ISIS along the Turkish/Syrian border. Which is a blatant contradiction that flies directly in the face of the West’s so-called War On Terror, because in terms of destroying terrorist entities NATO member Turkey is doing the complete opposite. The shoot-down of the Russian SU-24 was a calculated move by Turkey, an attempt to antagonise and bait Russia into showing its hand: get Russia deploying advanced high-tech weapon systems ~ revealing possible exploits to NATO analysts / weapons experts.

    What we’ve witnessed since 2003 with US foreign policy has unfolded like a train wreck – slow moving and utterly violent, but cold and calculated. Creating millions of homeless & displaced refugees, well over a million innocent civilians killed many more maimed. Housing, infrastructure & livelihoods destroyed, trillions in taxpayers money vanished in Pentagon black budgets, human rights, freedoms and privacy taken away. Terrorism increased substantially throughout the World. Hypocrisy, propaganda & lies by the West and its allies continue to grow & spread through a compliant media repeating Washington’s lines in unison over & over. A misadventure and attack on Muslim Brothers & Sisters everywhere / an ever increasing demand by Govts to increase surveillance and police powers everywhere. As a New Zealand Citizen I’m ashamed the National Government supports and participates in maintaining US hegemony. I’m angry that the National Government continues to assist war criminals such as Obama, Cameron, Netanyahu, Erdogan. I’m disgusted the National Government continues to protect other war criminals such as Blair, Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Powell, Rice, Howard et al.

    Shame on us.

    “We’re going to take out 7 countries in 5 years: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan & Iran..”

    Ken O’Keefe discusses “who is ISIS” and the absurdity of what the mainstream media is telling us:

    US Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard: CIA Must Stop Illegal, Counterproductive War to Overthrow Assad:

    They Sow the Cyclone – We Reap the Blowback:

    Global War on Terror Coincides with Dramatic Increase of Terrorism:

    UN Backs Russia’s War on US-Backed Syria Terrorists:

  12. Exkiwiforces 12

    What get me is that the Russian aircrew weren’t maintaining a listening watch on the Guard Frequency which is design to prevent this kind of event from happing.
    Their Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) didn’t detect the Turkish F-16 radar in it’s seach mode or when the Turkish F-16 had a radar lock on prior to missile release.

    Given that Turkey is warned Syria and Russian it will not tolerate any violation of its airspace. With Turkey with maintain a Combat Air Patrol (CAP) inside it’s own airspace and the SU-24 was caught was inside Turkish airspace the Turk’s pounce on the SU-24’s and one other thing what the hell was his wingman (the other SU-24) doing at the time?? Sounds like very poor TTP’s on behalf of the Russian aircrew.

    Russian has habit in pass of calling ones buff but this they caught got out.

    I pulled this article form the Janes Defence website

    “Turkey shot down a Russian Su-24 ‘Fencer’ strike aircraft along its border with SyriaSyria on 24 November.
    A statement from the Turkish Chief of General Staff’s (TGS) office said an aircraft of unknown origin was shot down by two Turkish Lockheed Martin F-16F-16 fighter aircraft after it violated Turkish airspace, despite repeated warnings. To support its statement the TGS released a radar analysis of aircraft’s flightpath indicating the aircraft had violated the Turkish airspace before it was shot down.
    The Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed that one of its Su-24 had been shot down but stated the aircraft had been flying in Syrian airspace at an altitude of around 19,685 ft and had been brought down by ground fire. Prior to the shootdown, RussiaRussia had 12 Su-24s at Hmeymim air base in Latakia province.
    Russian President Vladimir Putin said the downing of the Russian aircraft will have “significant consequences for Russian-Turkish relations” and a scheduled visit on 25 November to Ankara by the Russian foreign minister was swiftly cancelled. NATO called a meeting of allied ambassadors at TurkeyTurkey’s request.
    Speaking ahead of a meeting with King Abdullah II of JordanJordan in Sochi on 24 November, Putin said “the loss today is a stab in the back, carried out by the accomplices of terrorists. I can’t describe it in any other way. Neither our pilots nor our jet threatened the territory of TurkeyTurkey”.
    The Russian MoD statement said the fate of the pilots was still being determined and that according to the preliminary data the pilots ejected from the aircraft.
    Footage from TurkeyTurkey’s Dogan news agency showed what appeared to be Russian military helicopters searching for the pilots. A Turkish reporter said he saw two people landing by parachute, while Reuters reported having received a video sent by a Syrian rebel group, which claims to show a Russian pilot immobile on ground. Reuters said an official from group said the pilot was dead.
    The downing of the aircraft took place in a mountainous area in northern SyriaSyria near the Turkish-Syrian border in the Yayladag district of Hatay province, across the border from the Turkmen mountains in SyriaSyria where an intensive bombing campaign by Syrian and Russian warplanes has been under way. Turkmens have ethnic kinship with TurkeyTurkey. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on 20 November condemned a bombing attack targeting Turkmen villages in SyriaSyria, with the Turkish Foreign Ministry summoning the Russian ambassador over the incident.
    Meanwhile, footage released by the Syrian rebel group the First Coastal Division on 24 November appears to show a grounded Russian Mi-8AMTShMi-8AMTSh helicopter being destroyed by a USUS-made TOW missile. The rebel unit also released footage of the Su-24 crashing, and it is possible that the Mi-8 (which was earlier seen accompanied by an Mi-24) was searching for the crew of the downed ‘Fencer’.

    TurkeyTurkey amended its rules of engagement in 2012 after SyriaSyria brought down a Turkish F-4 Phantom IIF-4 Phantom II fighter aircraft. It said that any aircraft entering its airspace from SyriaSyria would be considered a threat. Since then TurkeyTurkey has downed a Syrian military jet, a helicopter and a surveillance drone that crossed into Turkish airspace.
    Since RussiaRussia’s air campaign in SyriaSyria began in late September, TurkeyTurkey has accused Moscow of violating its air space at least twice. RussiaRussia’s MoD has confirmed one brief incursion, but denied the second. NATO has previously denounced RussiaRussia for “irresponsible behaviour” in violating Turkish air space, while TurkeyTurkey warned that any future aerial intruder would be treated like an enemy.
    A senior former Turkish diplomat told IHS Janes that TurkeyTurkey should refrain from implementing rules of engagement that have potential to bring TurkeyTurkey and RussiaRussia into military confrontation. He believes that the Turkish government has been fuelling nationalistic feelings in the country to justify its ongoing fight against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) at home and in neighbouring northern IraqIraq while also using Turkmens in SyriaSyria as a pretext to stir up domestic nationalism.

    Although RussiaRussia has denied its Su-24MSu-24M entered Turkish air space, radar tracking data released by TurkeyTurkey and validated by NATO indicate it did. RussiaRussia has released its own air tracking data showing that the Su-24 did not enter Turkish air space, but it has a history of falsifying radar information (as with the MH17 disaster) and has previously admitted to breaches of Turkish air space.
    The Turkish data show that the Su-24MSu-24M only entered its airspace for 17 seconds, while flying west and apparently taking a short cut through Turkish airspace above a narrow projection of Turkish territory into SyriaSyria. While it seems unlikely the Russian Su-24 could have been taken as a serious threat by Turkish air planners, the aircraft was riding its luck by breaching Turkish sovereignty in such an impudent manner.
    After repeated warnings from TurkeyTurkey that it would shoot down any further Russian aircraft breaching its airspace, RussiaRussia seems to have little cause for genuine anger over the incident – if, as it seems, the aircraft did indeed enter Turkish air space. This may stem any prospect of RussiaRussia escalating the situation militarily, beyond its initial muscle flexing with the new SAM and ship deployment, although RussiaRussia has warned that trade between the two nations is likely to suffer.”

    • Tracey 12.1


    • Draco T Bastard 12.2

      but it has a history of falsifying radar information

      And NATO has a history of falsifying data to justify an invasion of a sovereign country that had done nothing to them.

  13. It is extraordinarily well-settled that the law of war prohibits making anyone parachuting from a distressed aircraft the object of attack, and that doing so is a war crime.

    There’s what the law says, and on the other hand there’s what people actually do when one of the blokes who was killing their mates a few moments ago suddenly turns up dangling from a parachute and presenting a lovely, tempting target. Let him who’s been in that situation and chosen “what the law says” cast the first stone.

  14. Is it possible that the Russian airforce were just incredibly arrogant and assumed the Turks would do nothing about them flirting with the border?

    And, just for perspective, here’s the passenger list for MH17:


    • Colonial Viper 14.1

      You’re right, the Russians never suspected that a friendly nation like Turkey would stab them in the back like this, using illegal lethal force.

      • ropata 14.1.1

        NRT: Journalism is not “espionage”
        Back in June, Turkish journalists revealed that the Turkish intelligence services were arming Islamist rebels in Syria. And now they’re being prosecuted for “espionage”:

        Two prominent Turkish journalists have been charged with espionage after alleging that Turkey’s secret services sent arms to Islamist rebels in Syria.

        Can Dundar, the editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet daily, and Erdem Gul, the paper’s Ankara bureau chief, face life imprisonment if found guilty.


        The journalists, who deny the allegations against them, reported that trucks belonging to the Turkish intelligence agency MIT were used to carry weapons to Islamist opposition groups in Syria.

        Video footage published alongside their report purported to show Turkish police officers intercepting the trucks and discovering crates containing weapons and ammunition.

        So, telling voters what “their” government is doing is officially a crime in Turkey. I guess they’re not going to be joining the EU any time soon after all.

      • te reo putake 14.1.2

        Yep, and shooting down civilian airliners is super friendly. Funny old world, eh?

  15. reason 15

    I couldn’t find a passenger list to play your game of my tragedy is bigger/worse than yours ………… but this accounted for 290 innocent civilians/woman/children http://www.mohammadmossadegh.com/news/iran-air-flight-655/remembering-the-victims/

    and then there was the cuban airlines terrorist bombing …… http://www.democracynow.org/2011/4/11/cia_trained_airline_bomber_set_free

    Airplane bombings and deaths get a lot of attention …………. Up to 500,000 Iraqi children starved of food and medicine is part of the war on the middle east that our governments in the west have committed …….. “”We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?” and Albright replied “we think the price is worth it.”


    “If you want to stop terrorism, stop participating in it.” Chomsky

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