Following the downing of a Russian jet near the Syrian-Turkish border, the Turkish military has released audio recordings of the warnings it claims were sent to the Russian plane. The segment posted by the UK Independent has a Turkish controller speaking English and saying, “This is Turkish Air Force speaking on GUARD. You are approaching Turkish air space. Change your [sic] heading south immediately.”
Russia and Turkey have been arguing over whether proper warnings were issued to the Russian Su-24 warplane shot down by Turkish F-16s on Tuesday. The Turks say a series of ten warning messages were transmitted to the aircraft as it approached their border, while the rescued navigator of the Russian plane claims he did not violate Turkish airspace, and was shot down without warning.
(Note that the captions in this video mistranslate “on GUARD,” a reference to the universal aircraft emergency frequency, as “en guarde,” a fencing term.)
This appears to be the same audio provided by a civilian pilot for Lebanon’s Middle East Airlines, who was outbound from Beirut when he heard a similar warning issued repeatedly. In this recording, a Turkish controller speaking English says, “Unknown air traffic position onto Humeymim 020, redirect to 26 miles. This is Turkish Air Force speaking on GUARD. You are approaching Turkish airspace. Change your heading south immediately.”
The MEA pilot told Al-Arabiya that he heard similar warnings from Turkish ground control “two or three times a week, on every flight I took for the past month.”
“What was different this time is that the Turkish officer was shouting and seemed tense, while the warnings were much calmer in previous times… this is why I knew something was going to happen,” the civilian pilot continued. He mentioned that he and his colleagues are increasingly nervous about flying anywhere near Syrian airspace, for obvious reasons.
It remains to be seen if the Russians will challenge the authenticity of these recordings, perhaps alleging that the Lebanese airline is working with the Turks. Al-Arabiya mentions that some Lebanese strongly resent Syrian influence over their politics, exercised through allies such as the Hezbollah militia.
The BBC notes that the Turkish military continues to claim it did not know the nationality of the Su-24 before it was shot down, which would imply they thought it might be Syrian regime pilots flying a plane purchased from Russia. Turkey also says that it mounted a rescue operation to recover the downed pilots.