The Last Critical Mile: Turkey and Syria Differ on Plane’s Downing

Turkish Officials Insist Jet Had Left Syrian Airspace When It Was Shot Down

What happened to the Turkish F-4 warplane that was shot down on Friday off the coast of Latakia remains very much disputed, as the official Turkish version of the events differ slightly but significantly from the Syrian version.

According to Syria’s military, they detected an unidentified object speeding toward Latakia at high speed and very low altitude. They hit it just 1 km off the coast, and it eventually crashed into the sea about 10 km away. It was only later that they learned it was a Turkish warplane.

Turkey, for its part, confirmed an air space violation, but insisted it was accidental and “routine.” They claim the plane had left Syrian airspace 15 minutes before it was shot down, and crashed 24 km off the coast, in international airspace.

The Turkish claim is significant, and rests on the plane being a single mile out of Syrian airspace (13 miles off coast instead of the 12 defined by international law). Turkish FM Ahmet Davutoglu insisted the plane was on a “training mission.”

The Turkish version is perplexing on a few fronts, not the least of which being that the warplane, which has a top speed about about 1,400 mph, having “accidentally” crossed the border, was still milling about just one mile outside of Syrian airspace 15 minutes later to get hit with a missile. Another is that Turkey maintains it is positive exactly where the plane went down, just barely outside Syrian airspace instead of just barely inside it, but still hasn’t been able to find the plane’s wreckage days later.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.