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Turkish F-16 shoots down a Syrian MiG-23

March 23, 2014 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Turkey has confirmed that one of their F-16s downed a Syrian MiG-23 Flogger for violating Turkish airspace, an action that Syria denounced as "unprecedented and unjustifiable".

TuAF F-16C block 40 from 181 Filo buzzing over the Turkish country side.

The incident happened today, with the plane crashing near the Syrian town of Kasab on the Turkish border after it was targeted by 181 Filo F-16s from Diyarbakir AFB.

A flight of two Syrian Mig-23 fighter aircraft entered the airspace over southern Turkey and was monitored for 80 nautical miles. The pilots were warned four times before reaching 10 nautical miles of Turkish airspace, a TUAF statement said.

While one of the MiGs turned back to Syria after the pilots were warned by the Turkish Air Force, the other Syrian plane did not comply. It continued to fly for a distance of one and a half kilometers into Turkish airspace before “one of our F-16 planes on patrol fired a[n AIM-9 Sidewinder] missile to the Syrian plane in line with the rules of engagement at 1314h,” the Turkish military said.

The Syrian jet was hit and fell in the vicinity of Kesab on Syrian soil 1,200m south of the border. The pilot was reported to have safely ejected from the aircraft.

During an election rally in the northwest of Turkey, Erdogan said: "A Syrian plane violated our airspace. Our F-16s took off and hit this plane. Why? Because if you violate my airspace, our slap after this will be hard.

In a statement Syria's foreign ministry said Turkey's "flagrant aggression against Syrian sovereignty in the Kasab border region over the past two days proves its implication in the events in Syria".

The Latakia province includes President Bashar al-Assad's family village of Qardaha.

According to AFP news agency, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, UK-based anti-Assad monitoring group, said the plane had been striking areas in Latakia in pursuit of rebels trying to gain control of a border post

Syria and Turkey have been at odds over the civil war, with cross-border fire and the deployment of missiles exacerbating tensions between the two countries. After this incident, the Turkish government announced that it had revised its military rules of engagement towards Syria and would consider every military element approaching its border from Syria as a threat.

Earlier this week, two Turkish F-16 fighter jets scrambled to intercept two Syrian Su-24 'Fencer' fighter jets approaching southern Turkey.

Additional images:

TuAF F-16C block 40 #93-0004 from 181 Filo is seen in flight on December 23rd, 2005. [181 Filo photo]

TuAF F-16C block 40 #92-0019 from 181 Filo is photographed during the ELITE2006 exercise held at Lechfeld AB. [Photo by Maarten Peters]