WASHINGTON: Russia’s arming its Su-34 warplanes in Syria with air-to-air missiles can only complicate an already difficult situation in Syria’s airspace, Pentagon spokesperson Michelle Baldanza told TASS on Monday.
“Such systems will further complicate an already difficult situation in the skies over Syria and do nothing to further the fight against ISIL [the former name of the terrorist group Islamic State which is outlawed in Russian] as they have no air force,” she said. “·We expect that if Russia follows through, they will abide by our Memorandum of Understanding regarding flight safety and not direct this system against Coalition aircraft.”
On Monday, spokesman for the Russian Aerospace Forces Colonel Igor Klimov said Russia’s Sukhoi Su-34 fighter-bombers (NATO reporting name: Fullback) had for the first time taken, in addition to bombs, short-and medium-range air-to-air missiles on combat mission in Syria. “The Russian Su-34 fighter-bombers today have for the first time taken on combat mission not only the OFAB-500 air bombs and KAB-500 guided bombs, but also short-and medium-range air-to-air missiles. The planes are equipped with missiles for their defence,” Klimov said.
According to him, the missiles “are equipped with target seeking devices and are capable of hitting air targets within the range of 60 kilometers.”
A Russian Su-24M bomber was gunned down by a Turkish F-16 fighter jet in the morning of Tuesday, November 24. Turkish defence officials claimed the Russian warplane had intruded into Turkish airspace in the area of the Syrian-Turkish land-surface border.
The Russian Defense Ministry said the Su-24M was flying over the Syrian territory and there was now intrusion in Turkish airspace.
The crew – Lt Col Oleg Peshkov and Capt Konstantin Murakhtin managed to eject themselves from the aircraft but Lt Col Peshkov was killed in midair by gunfire opened by militants from among the ethnic Turkomans.
Capt Murakhtin was rescued and taken to the Russian airbase at Hmeymin, Latakia province.
The search and rescue operation involved two Mi-8 helicopters. One of them was damaged by gunfire and made a forced landing. A contract marine serviceman – Alexander Pozynich – died in the incident while the rest of the search party was evacuated to a safe place.
The damaged helicopter was destroyed later by mortar fire from a land area controlled by militants.
The Russian defense ministry and later the surviving Su-24M pilot refuted Ankara’s allegations that the Russian plane had been given warnings before the attack.