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INTERNATIONAL > Pilots’ bodies retrieved, sent for a state funeral

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News

Turkey will bid farewell today to two of its pilots shot down by Syria as NATO nixes Turkey’s request to establish a no-fly zone over the Arab republic amid Moscow’s laughter that President al-Assad could seek asylum in Russia

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Turkey will today hold a state funeral to bid farewell to two pilots from a RF4-E jet that was shot down last month by Syria after their bodies were recovered from the seabed 8.6 nautical miles off the Syrian coastline.

The ceremony will take place at the Erhaç Base of the Turkish Air Forces in the eastern province of Malatya, from where the RF4-E took off. It will be attended by top civil and military officials, with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also expected to participate.

“The bodies of our pilots were found at a depth of 1,260 meters near the wreckage of the jet … which had broken up into eight pieces. The bodies have been flown to Malatya,” the Chief of General Staff said in a written statement yesterday. The army’s statement differed from Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz, who had earlier said the bodies were found inside the wreckage.

The Turkish jet was shot down by Syria on June 22; Ankara claims that plane was downed 12.6 nautical miles from the Syrian coast in international airspace while testing Turkish radar capacity in a solo and unarmed flight. Syria argues that it shot down the jet in its own airspace with an anti-aircraft weapon, and not by a laser guided missile as Turkey claims. The technical analysis on the wreckage will give strong evidence on how the jet was downed.

In Malatya, a large ceremony will be held for Capt. Gökhan Ertan and Maj. Lt. Hasan Hüseyin Aksoy with the participation of the foreign and defense ministers, Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel and force commanders. Erdoğan has also cut short a holiday to attend the ceremony.

The army’s statement included a map showing exactly where the wreckage was found and pictures of the parts of the wreckage found on the seabed and the surface. The main parts of the wreckage will be retrieved following the completion of the documentation process, sources said. This process is particularly important to better understand how the jet was downed and at which point it crashed into the sea. The works are being carried out by the military’s hydrographic vessels Çeşme and İnebolu, as well as the U.S.-flagged Nautilus.

‘Our radar tracks enough for proof’
The results of the technical analysis will address all lingering questions as to whether the plane was shot down by a missile or an anti-aircraft weapon. Russian and U.S. media have cast doubt on the Turkish version of the strike.

“We have issued calls to other countries to share their information if they have any. We have not been given anything yet,” a senior diplomatic source told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday in an obvious reference to Russia, the U.K. and the U.S., who all have military bases in the region.

“As a matter of fact, the information they provide us is not that vital, as this is our jet and our radar tracks are better than anyone else’s. We have traced our jet second per second via our radars in Malatya and radars on its route,” the source said. “We are pretty sure that it was shot down 12.6 nautical miles off the Syrian coastline in international waters.”

July/06/2012

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ealsho@eartlink.net tango73

7/6/2012 11:33:14 PM

The RF4-E is still a good aircraft with very sofisticated radar and electronics and a very good ejection system. Why the pilots did not bail out?...maybe maintenace problems.

DutchTurk JANICAR

7/6/2012 7:03:35 PM

@JRC JRC your always trying to blame Turkey, while sketching that you act neutral. Well ok, if anyone can shoot jets and helicopters, Turkey should down 5 Syrian helicopters now, since they violated the Turkish air space. What are you talking about? You can't down a jet, especially not an unarmed training jet, without warning. It is not important anymore who is to blame, Turkey should retaliate just to show the world that we will sacrifice or kill an entire army for one son of our country.

Murat

7/6/2012 6:17:15 PM

They knew what they were doing exacly. They were given clear orderes to provoke the Syrian defenses. They did. Turkey does not have a strong case here, though there is one. Those boys were sacrificed so NATO and Turkey learn more about Russian systems. Hopefully all was not lost and some of the radar signatures are stored in the digital memeory in the EW pods and can be recovered.

JRC JRC

7/6/2012 4:10:53 PM

@Basil Keilani. If the plane had not entered Syrian airspace this would not have happened, trying to turn the situation around makes no difference to that fact. Turkish/Syrian relations have been tense for a while, the Turkish air force should not have violated Syrian airspace unless it was willing to take the risk. It's sad that two lives have been lost, and Syria has its share of blame here, but so does Turkey, politically and militarily.

Basil Keilani

7/6/2012 1:06:09 PM

The Syrians did not think it was Israeli aircraft. They didn't give the Turkish plane a warning, and the plane was leaving Syrian airspace.

Red Tail

7/6/2012 12:59:20 PM

Iyad Hussein. You write "Syria wanted to learn how Turkey is so modern yet Islamic.". Turkey has been secular, not Islamic, since the republic was founded.

Joe B

7/6/2012 11:51:14 AM

@Iyad: "Syria wanted to learn how Turkey is so modern yet Islamic. " - it is called democracy, look it up, though it may not be mentioned in any Syrian dictionaries.

Iyad Hussein

7/6/2012 10:16:26 AM

So what you are saying is that the wreckage was found in Syrian territorial waters. Why not say it clearly. I am sorry to the loss of these fine officers. It's sad that Syria and Turkey states are no longer friends.Syria wanted to learn how Turkey is so modern yet Islamic. I love Turkey as I do Syria

JRC JRC

7/6/2012 10:12:48 AM

This is looking more and more like Turkey deliberately entered Syrian airspace, to test it's radar and response times, but either underestimated Syria's trigger happy military, or got too close to the Russian base. If true, then fault lies on both sides.

john albay

7/6/2012 7:26:31 AM

may the souls of our fallen heros rest in peace,you will be avenged!
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