A Greek fighter jet allegedly obtained 'missile lock' on a Turkish frigate that was traveling off the coast of Cyprus on December 8, 2019, the Aviationist reported.
Citing photos from the Twitter profile of journalist Yannis Nikitas, the Aviationist reported that a Greek Mirage 2000 jet targeted the Turkish frigate with Exocet anti-ship missiles during a show of force over the weekend.
“In the photos we can see the HUD of a Mirage 2000, recognizable also by the characteristic Mirage refueling probe, as it gets a lock on a ship which, according to the caption, could be a Turkish frigate. On the left side of the HUD we can see a 'M39' label, showing that the pilot selected the AM-39 Exocet anti-ship to perform the lock on the ship,” the publication said.
Relations between Greece and Turkey have been rocky this year after Ankara began drilling for oil off the coast of Cyprus.
This move by Ankara prompted Cyprus, Greece, and Egypt to issue a joint statement condemning Turkey for violating international law.
They specifically pointed out that in the statement that Turkey was operating in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone and territorial waters.
Turkey continues to maintain that their activities are within the framework of international law, despite the joint statement from Egypt, Greece, and Cyprus.
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More on the alleged "missile lock" from the original Aviationist report:
The images in question first appeared on the Twitter profile of Yannis Nikitas, an embedded journalist of the Hellenic Ministry of Defense.
Η Τουρκική φρεγάτα στοχοποιημένη από τα Mirage της #HellenicAirForce σε αποστολή ναυτικής κρούσης στο #Αιγαιο Αυτή είναι η γλώσσα που καταλαβαίνει ο Τούρκος. Καμία υποχώρηση στα εθνικά συμφέροντα. Καμία έκπτωση στην εθνική κυριαρχία. Υπέρ βωμών και εστιών σε ξηρά, θάλασσα κ αέρα. pic.twitter.com/H4qynMZrlv— Ioannis Nikitas (@Ioannis_Nikitas) December 8, 2019
Discussing the possibilities, the analysis describes:
Even if the caption states that the target is a Turkish frigate, we can’t confirm it yet due to the distance the image was taken from, as it’s impossible to discern useful features of the ship for an identification. However, if we extract an approximate shape from the ship in the photo and we consider only frigates, the target could be either a Turkish Barbaros-class frigate or a Greek Hydra-class frigate. We can’t still rule out the possibility of a Greek frigate as the HUD shows the PRAC label, which means that the missile was not armed and ready to be fired but rather set in training mode, or better as practice mode as shown in the image. If that’s the case, the photo could have been taken during TASMO training with the Hellenic Navy.
The other possibility in addition to the photos perhaps showing a Greek naval exercise in progress (and not a threatening missile lock on a Turkish frigate), is that it does indeed show an encounter with a Turkish ship, but from a prior incident:
While searching online for more info about the photos and the background of the specific mission of the Mirage from which they were taken, we found the same photos in an article published by Nikitas in September 2018 on his website DefenceReview.gr with two additional shots. If the additional photos are from the same mission (although the weather is different…), the top one shows a closer look at the ship that allows us to confirm that this is indeed a Barbaros-class frigate belonging to the Turkish Navy and the photos were not taken recently but last year during a show of force (i.e. flying low and fast close to a foreign warship in international waters).
Yet the photo set is still driving angry exchanges between Greek and Turkish commentators online, at a moment of heightened tensions over Turkish oil and gas exploration inside Cyprus' exclusive economic zone.