Amid mounting tensions between Greece and Turkey in the Aegean Sea, a Greek fighter plane reportedly crashed on Thursday after intercepting Turkish fighters near the island of Skyros. The pilot was reported dead on Thursday morning.
Hurriyet Daily News notes that Greek intercepts of Turkish jets are a fairly common occurrence in the Aegean these days. The Associated Press adds that many of the encounters escalate into “mock dogfights in disputed airspace.”
The jet that crashed was a single-seat Mirage 2000-5 that was part of a two-plane patrol.
“A Greek pilot joins the pantheon of heroes. He fell in the defense of our national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said on Twitter.
Kammenos recently described Turkey as an “enemy” of Greece, accused the Turks of planning to seize disputed Aegean islands by force, and vowed they will be defeated if they make the attempt.
The Greek Defense Ministry has not yet released a comprehensive official account of the plane crash. A source on the Greek general staff told AFP the fighter went down while returning to base after an intercept mission, shortly before it was scheduled to land.
“The mission was over and the plane was returning. We still don’t know if there was an actual engagement with the Turkish air force,” the officer said.
The Greeks have said their patrol was responding to Turkish planes violating their airspace, while Turkey claims none of its jets were near the site of the crash.