By now everyone is aware of the Turkish side of the story of how a Russian Su-24 was downed by a Turkish F-16 on Tuesday morning, when it allegedly crossed into Turkish airspace for a grand total of 17 seconds, with Turkey supposedly warning the Russian bomber which had been targeting alleged jihadists in the region no less than "ten times." Turkey even produced an alleged recording of said warning, which Russia implied was faked as the surviving pilot made it very clear no actual warning had been received by the Russian warplane.
So now that Russia has had three days to go through the evidence and assemble the pieces of what it thinks happened, here is the summary as presented earlier today by the Commander in Chief of the Russian air force, Viktor Bondarev, which however presents a very gloomy picture with dire consequences for the peaceful geopolitics of the middle east.
In summary, what Col. Gen. Bondarev said is that Turkey actively sought to ambush and bring down the Russian jet starting long before the actual missile was fired, which can be confirmed by the flight patterns of Turkish warplanes which had taken off well in advance, otherwise they would not have had enough time to reach the battlezone.
The Russian ministry of defense made this grave accusation quite explicit on Twitter an hour ago, when it said that Turkey had engaged in a choreographed ambush.
Here are the details of the Su-24's final hour as recounted by RT which notes that a pair of tactical bombers took off from Khmeimim airbase in Latakia at 06:15 GMT, with an assignment to carry out airstrikes in the vicinity of the settlements of Kepir, Mortlu and Zahia, all in the north of Syria. Each bomber was carrying four OFAB-250 high-explosive fragmentation bombs.
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. Both aircraft remained in the area for 34 minutes. During this time there was no contact between the crews of the Russian bombers and the Turkish military authorities or warplanes.
Some 20 minutes after arriving at the designated area, the crews received the coordinates of groups of terrorists in the region. After making a first run, the bombers performed a maneuver and then delivered a second strike.
Immediately after that, the bomber crewed by Lieutenant-Colonel Oleg Peshkov and Captain Konstantin Murakhtin was attacked by a Turkish F-16 fighter jet operating from the Diyarbak?r airfield in Turkey. The time needed to get the aircraft ready at the Diyarbak?r airfield and travel to the attack zone is an estimated 46 minutes.
"The radar surveillance data confirms that two F-16 fighter jets were patrolling the flight zone for an hour an 45 minutes at an altitude of 2,400 meters [some 7,800 feet], which speaks of a deliberate action and their readiness to attack from an ambush over the Turkish territory," Bondarev told reporter.
In order to attack the Russian Su-24 with a close-range air-to-air missile, Bondarev said that the Turkish fighter jet had to enter Syrian airspace, where it remained for about 40 seconds. "According to radar tracking data, it was the Turkish warplane that crossed into the Syrian airspace for about 40 seconds to a depth of 2 kilometers [6,560 feet], while the Russian fighter-bomber never violated the Turkish border", he said.
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 and disappearing from the range of Russian radars at the Khmeimim airbase.
The Russian general again reiterated that at no point preceding the attack did the Russian bomber violated Turkish airspace.
One of Turkish F-16Cs stopped its maneuvers and began to approach the Su-24M bomber about 100 seconds before the Russian aircraft came closest to the Turkish border, which also confirms the attack was pre-planned, said Bondarev.
"At 10.24 Moscow time the crew carried out bombing and after it the plane was shot down by an air-to-air missile launched by a Turkish Air Force F-16 that had taken off from the 8th Diyarbakir airbase on the Turkish territory."
The launch of a missile was confirmed by the crew of the second Russian Su-24. "[The crew] observed a plume of a white smoke and reported it."
And this is where the narrative gets even more convoluted because according to Bondarev the Turkish F-16 was guided to its intended target from the ground and launched an air-to-air missile while the Russian warplane was readying to carry out a second attack on terrorist positions.
"The method of guidance of F-16 aircraft into effective engagement zone directly, but not along the pursuit course curve shows that the fighter jet was directed from a ground control station," Bondarev told reporters.
The fighter jet stopped maneuvers in the area of patrolling and commenced missile launching a minute and 40 seconds before the Su-24 maximum proximity to the Syrian-Turkish border, Bondarev added.
Furthermore, it appears that the jihadist groups on the ground were anticipating an event of this kind playing out above them.
Bondarev called attention to the readiness of the Turkish media, which released a professionally-made video of the incident recorded from an area controlled by extremists a mere 1.5 hours after the Su-24 was downed.
Furthermore, the operation to rescue the surviving navigator took several hours and eventually recovered Konstantin Murakhtin, although one Russian Marine in the team was killed when the rescue helicopter was destroyed by a US-made tank missile launched by the extremists – an incident they filmed and published online within hours of the attack.
He also mentioned the memorandum of understanding regarding the campaign in Syria, signed by Moscow and Washington on October 26. In accordance with this agreement, the Russian side informed its American counterparts about the mission of the two bombers in the north of Syria on November 24, including the zones and heights of operation.
"Taking this into account, the Turkish authorities' statement on not knowing which aircraft were operating in the area raises eyebrows."
Finally, Bondarev also mentioned the memorandum of understanding regarding the campaign in Syria, signed by Moscow and Washington on October 26. In accordance with this agreement, the Russian side informed its American counterparts about the mission of the two bombers in the north of Syria on November 24, including the zones and heights of operation.
This is perhaps the most important accusation, as it ties in with the incendiary remark lobbed by Putin at US "protocols" yesterday:
We told our US partners in advance where, when at what altitudes our pilots were going to operate. The US-led coalition, which includes Turkey, was aware of the time and place where our planes would operate. And this is exactly where and when we were attacked. Why did we share this information with the Americans? Either they don't control their allies, or they just pass this information left and right without realizing what the consequences of such actions might be. We will have to have a serious talk with our US partners.
To summarize, here is what Russia has implied: the US shared the flight path details of the Russian Su-24 with Turkey in advance of the flight, which then Turkey used to ambush and take down the Russian bomber, with the implicit blessing of the Pentagon. Turkey may have further shared data with "Syria Free Army" US-armed jihadists on the ground, who not only recorded the downing of the bomber and the execution of its parachuting pilot, but also were prepared to attack a Russian rescue helicopter (with US weapons) which led to a second casualty - an attack which was also captured on clip and promptly uploaded!
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If Putin is in indeed onboard with this version, he will deem - perhaps not diplomatically, but certainly in internal circles - Turkey's aggression to be an act of war, and not only by Turkey but by NATO and the US, which provided Turkey with the data it needed to lead to a Russian loss of life.
What Russia's next steps will be is unclear, however as we reported previously, we expect far more aggressive provocations on the Syria-Turkey border by both sides, especially now that every Russian bombers will have air support, and now that Russian S-400 missiles can reach any provoking Turkish jet in minutes, in effect Russia establishing a "No Fly Zone" above Syria.