NATO on Monday criticized Russian fighter jet incursions into Turkish airspace over the weekend, calling the move irresponsible and dangerous.
Russian Sukhoi Su-30 Flanker attack aircraft entered Turkish airspace on Saturday and Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer multi-role fighter aircraft did the same on Sunday. The planes flew over the Hatay region, located in the southern part of the country on the Mediterranean Sea and bordering Syria, according to NATO.
“The aircraft in question entered Turkish airspace despite Turkish authorities’ clear, timely and repeated warnings,” it said in a statement. “In accordance with NATO practice, Turkish fighter aircraft responded to these incursions by closing to identify the intruder, after which the Russian planes departed Turkish airspace.
“Allies strongly protest these violations of Turkish sovereign airspace, and condemn these incursions into and violations of NATO airspace,” according to the statement. “Allies also note the extreme danger of such irresponsible behaviour. They call on the Russian Federation to cease and desist, and immediately explain these violations.
NATO also called on Russia to “immediately cease” its attacks on the Syrian opposition and instead urged for the federation to focus on attacking militants affiliated with the Islamic State in Iraq in Syria, known as ISIS or ISIL. Ankara also issued a formal warning.
CNN in Turkey reported that a pair of MiG-29 planes had Turkish F-16 aircraft under radar lock for more than five minutes. The MiG-29s were presumed to belong to the Syrian air force.
The twin-engine Su-30 is Russia’s newer multi-role fighter and capable of air-to-air and air-to-ground operations. The older Su-24 is also a twin-engine aircraft designed in part to conduct long-range strike missions.
Recently released commercial satellite imagery showed Su-30SM and Su-24 fighter jets (partially covered in nets), Il-76 transport aircraft, Mi-24 Hind helicopters (also partially covered), T-90 tanks and BTR-80 armored personnel carriers at Bassel al-Assad International Airport.
The imagery also showed Mi-17 Hip helicopters and probable Ka-27/28 Helix helicopters, in addition to a fuel storage facility, at the Istamo Weapon Storage Facility.
A broadcast last week from the Russian television network RT shows some of the military’s more than 50 jets and helicopters now operating in Syria, including the Sukhoi Su-25UB Frogfoot attack planes and Su-34 Fullback advanced strike fighters conducting airstrikes from a base in Latakia.