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Russia in Syria: Russian Radar Locks on to Turkish Fighter Jets
Meanwhile Moscow steps up air strikes against opposition targets
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Turkey said that radar used by Russian aircraft and its surface-to-air missile systems in Syria locked on to Turkish jets as the Russian air campaign intensifies against opposition targets.

The Turkish military said that eight Turkish F-16 fighters patrolling the Turkish Syrian border had been threatened by a Mig-29 and later by an anti-aircraft missile system. In both cases the threat consisted only of Russian use of radar for a limited period, but the Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that Russian actions were “very serious – even dangerous”. “It doesn’t look like an accident, and we’ve seen two of them over the weekend.”

Meanwhile, Russian air strikes are increasing in number against targets in territory held by Isis. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that in the past 24 hours there were 34 air strikes in Palmyra which was captured by Isis on 22 May. The attacks are said to have killed 15 fighters and destroyed 10 vehicles. Air strikes against Raqqa, the Isis de facto capital in Syria, killed two fighters, while other raids took place north of Aleppo and close to Latakia.

It is still not clear how far Russian air strikes are being launched with the aid of forward air observers on the ground calling in an attacks on precisely identified targets. The US-led air campaign against Isis has been at its most effective when acting in collaboration with the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) whose commanders can give the exact co-ordinates of a target. Even so, Isis forces as a whole have not been defeated by the US air campaign, even if they have suffered heavy casualties.

The friction between Russia and Turkey complicates an already highly complicated situation on the Syrian-Turkish border. This is 550-miles long and about half of it is now held by the YPG, which is threatening to move west of the Euphrates River and capture the last Isis border crossing with Turkey at Jarabulus.It might also attack Isis and other Syrian opposition forces north of Aleppo and link up with a Kurdish enclave at Afrin.

A further extension of Syrian Kurdish control, particularly if aided by US air strikes, would be a blow to Ankara. It still maintains a relationship with Jabhat al-Nura, the al-Qaeda affiliate, and the hard-line Sunni Islamic group, Ahrar al-Sham, which had been advancing in Idlib and Latakia, but is coming under Russian air attack.

Whatever Turkey’s intentions in Syria since the start of the uprising in 2011, it was not to see the Syrian Kurds gain control of a band of territory across its southern frontier. A Turkish ground invasion into Syria, though still a possibility, would now be riskier with Russian aircraft operating in areas where Turkey would be most likely to launch an incursion.


The danger for the Turks is that they now have two Kurdish quasi-states, one in Syria and one in Iraq, immediately to the south. Worse, the Syrian-Kurdish one, known to Kurds as Rojava, is run by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) which is effectively the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which has been fighting the Turkish state since 1984. Any insurgency by the PKK in Kurdish areas in south-east Turkey in future will be strengthened by the fact that the PKK has a de facto state of its own.

It appears that Turkey’s four-year attempt to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad has failed. It is unclear what Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan can do about this since support from Nato is at this stage purely rhetorical. As for Turkey’s relations with Russia, Mr Erdogan says that any attack on Turkey is an attack on Nato and that “if Russia loses a friend like Turkey with whom it has co-operated on many issues, it will lose a lot.” But in Syria, at least, it appears that it is Turkey that is the loser.

* Russia is ready to consider expanding its air strikes in Iraq if it receives a formal request from Baghdad to do so, a senior Russian politician said. Valentina Matviyenko, head of the Russian parliament’s upper chamber, was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying that “in the case of an appeal to the Russian Federation from Iraq, the leadership will consider the political and military viability of an aerial operation”.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Russia, Syria, Turkey 
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  1. Andrei Martyanov [AKA "SmoothieX12"] says: • Website

    The are NO MiG-29s in Syria. Su-25SM, Su-24M, Su-34 and Su-30SM. No MiGs.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  2. bubbletea says:

    turkey was been waging a 4-year war to overthrow
    assad, and is contemplating sending in ground forces.
    turkey is also bombing kurds in iraq (and possibly
    also syria) without approval of the relevant government.

    a response by syria, or russia in support of syria,
    does NOT automatically require a NATO response.

    turkey as the aggressor is on her own.

    • Replies: @Kiza
  3. looks like there already is a “No-Fly Zone” over Syria: no Turkish planes allowed…by Russia. Pretty soon it’ll be: no Israeli planes allowed…by Russia. Then it’ll be: no US/Nato planes allowed…by Russia. Putin’s Grand Strategy is gradually coming into focus, and it’s awe-inspiring:

    1. re-cement the Shi’a Crescent: Hezbollah in south Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran

    2. take-down the US-puppet Saud Dynasty in Arabia, bring Moscow-friendly regime to power

    3. with de facto control over all Middle Eastern oil and, indeed, via Russian exports, most of the world’s oil supply, Putin says the Magic Words “no more dollars accepted for oil”

    4. US debt-drowned, dollar monetized Ponziconomy then collapses, bringing – after an extended domestic hot war – an anti-Globalist, Nationalist, Russia-friendly government to power

    • Replies: @Carroll Price
  4. Kiza says:

    It is obvious that Turkish aggression in Northern Syria and clash with the Russians would be presented as an attack by Russia on Turkey to get NATO involved. This is the same Turkish Government which organized a false-flag attack on its historical Sunni monument, to accuse and create a casus belli against Syria. The same Government which, according to Seymour Hersh, supplied Sarin to Sunni rebels, again to create casus belli for a US bombing of the Syrian Government. This is the same Turkish leader who called Al Assad his brother when on vacation together and now wants to take about 1/3 of Syria for Turkey.

    Turkey created a de facto no-fly zone in Northern Syria during the time when Syrian Government was on the defensive from Sunni extremists. Now that the Russian Airforce is in and new AA weaponry has been supplied to the Syrian Military, Turkey will have difficulty “patrolling its border with Syria” (lol), which is another name for flying in the Syrian airspace with impunity. Eight jets, I read that again, eight jets.

    Cockburn shows an amazing level of understanding for the Turkish shenanigans in this write up. What about Kurdish rights? It is really hard to take Cockburn for anything other than a UK regime propagandist.

  5. Kiza says:

    To be completely truthful about the Syria-war affair, it was not Turkey which started it – it was Israel which planned and organised it with US. But the Turks saw an opportunity for gain when the war started: why do not we chop-off 1/3 of the neighboring country which cannot defend itself. Like Ferengi from Star Trek.

  6. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Cockburn shows an amazing level of understanding for the Turkish shenanigans in this write up. What about Kurdish rights

    Yeah, it seems that one of the first thing Russian assets would do is protect the Kurds in Syria from Turkey, as U.S./NATO refused to do and even looked the other way as Turkey bombed the Kurds. With a friend like the U.S…

    Turkey is an enemy to the civilized world. As Larry Johnson, former CIA officer and former Deputy Director of Counterterrorism at the U.S. State Dept., said on his blog:

    Iran is not the biggest state sponsor of terrorism… That distinction belongs to Turkey and Saudi Arabia, who are funding radical Sunni muslims carrying out terrorist attacks in Syria and Iraq. Being a true leader in the world requires that the aspiring leader have credibility. We have none. We have squandered our moral leadership and you certainly do not buy more credibility by sending arms to inept rebels and helping fuel an uprising against a legitimate government.

    • Replies: @anti_republocrat
  7. Braciole says:

    The Syrian Air Force has Mig-29s and SAMs so this was the Syrians threatening the Turkish, not the Russians.

    • Replies: @Shytan
  8. Shytan says:

    Is it true that Russia teaches war games (chess) in their schools? It seems that they are out thinking the West at every turn.

  9. Shytan says:

    Turn around is fair play.

  10. tbraton says:

    “Turkey said that radar used by Russian aircraft and its surface-to-air missile systems in Syria locked on to Turkish jets as the Russian air campaign intensifies against opposition targets.

    The Turkish military said that eight Turkish F-16 fighters patrolling the Turkish Syrian border had been threatened by a Mig-29 and later by an anti-aircraft missile system.”

    As I understand it, the Turks shot down one and possibly two Syrian jets because they were flying, not in Turkish airspace, but “dangerously close” to the Turkish border. What do we know about the Turkish jets which were threatened by the Russian jet and locked on by Russian radar? Were they flying “dangerously close” to the Syrian border? Why were they even flying near the Syrian border? It sounds like a case for sauce for the goose. . . .

    The fact that Turkey not only demanded but received from the U.S. a commitment to establish a “no-fly” zone over western Syria as the price for making Incirclik airbase available to U.S. planes clearly shows to me that Turkey (or Erdogen) is planning to gobble up some Syrian territory, much as it gobbled up 40% of Cyprus back in 1974 to protect “Cypriot Turks” who comprised 18% of Cyprus’ population.

    • Replies: @Avery
  11. Avery says:

    Well said.

    Genocidal Turks, originally from Uyguristan, keep stealing the lands of others after either ethnically cleansing the indigenous populations or outright exterminating them (genocide).

    One thing for sure: Russia has taken no s___ from Turks for a couple centuries and won’t start now, with 10,000 nukes to back her up.
    NATO or no NATO.
    Russians and Turks have clashed in battle something like 17 times, and Russians have stomped them every time.

    The “accidental” crossing into the criminal state’s airspace by Russian jet(s) or radar-locks by whichever country (Russia or Syria) were no accidents. If the radar-lock was by Syrians, they were told by Russia to do it.

    Russia is telling Turks “stay out of Syria or else.”
    When the bear is rampaging, mange wolves/jackals better run.

  12. Vendetta says:

    This here is the best explanation I’ve read for the series of incidents. The Turkish Air Force has habitually threatened any Syrian aircraft up near the border and made the region a de facto no-fly zone for Syria and thus a safe haven for Jabhat Al-Nusra and friends.

    Russia’s aircraft operating in Northern Syria were getting threatened in the same manner by Turkish radar locks, they violated Turkish airspace as a demonstration of their will to fly wherever they damn well please in Syria.

  13. @Haxo Angmark

    What a wonderful scenario. Sounds like my ultimate bucket list.

  14. @Kiza

    It can be presented by Erdogan as anything he likes. That doesn’t mean NATO members are obliged to agree. A Russian attack on Turkish aircraft over Turkey could trigger NATO, but Russian bombing of Turkish troops on Syrian soil might not, nor the destruction of a Turkish aircraft well within Syrian airspace. So far, this is just a shot across the bow. Let’s all hope it goes no further.

  15. @Anonymous

    Looks like the Kurds may finally have found a reliable ally. Will they now join the Shi’ite crescent?

  16. Wally says: • Website

    This is a must read:

    Russians strike Syria with cruise missiles, engage in first ground battle
    Missiles launched from ships in Caspian Sea struck Islamic State targets in eastern Syria

  17. Deduction says:

    forward air observers

    You mean Forward Air Controllers. You’re confusing the role with that of a Forward Observation Officer. Otherwise, I thought the article was really good.

  18. Realist says:

    “Russia in Syria: Russian Radar Locks on to Turkish Fighter Jets”

    I like this headline better. Russia in Syria: Russian Radar Locks on to Turkey Fighter Jets

  19. Karl says:

    I spent four years designing radar target-acquisition algorithms

    “radar locking on” sounds so ominous. In fact, it merely means that (for example) your average doppler during the last 10 skinpaints, were well-matched to your average distance movement over the last 10 skinpaints – so the radar is fairly sure that you’re not a thunderstorm cell – you’re a real object. So, the radar continues to throw skinpaints at your anticipated next location. After all, it knows the average of your last ten dopplers, which is a pretty valid estimate of your next few. It points its beam at those anticipated locations for a few microseconds.

    All of this stuff can be found in applied-probability discussions since the 1920’s, when skinpainting was done with actual arc lights

    • Replies: @LSWCHP
  20. LSWCHP says:

    I have spent 25 years doing the same thing in a military environment, and I believe you’re…errrmmm…confused about the terminology. At best, you’ve mixed up search and fire control processing.

    A fire control radar “lock-on” refers to lighting up the target with a Continuous Wave Illuminator (CWI) which is a prerequisite to launching a missile. Once launched, the missile homes in on the reflected CWI emissions. This is how ESSM works, for an example from current technology,

    Locking on to an aircraft with a fire control radar is the equivalent of pointing a loaded gun at someone with the hammer back, safety off and finger on the trigger. It means “I have you in my sights and I’m now capable of shooting you”. The radar warning receiver in the targeted aircraft will detect the CWI signal and produce an alarm of some kind in the cockpit to alert the pilot that he has been targeted.

    Fire control radar lock-on is a very, very serious thing.

    And for what it’s worth, pointing a beam anywhere for “a few microsends” in an air defence environment would be fruitless. Two way propagation time is 150m per microsecond, so for say 4 microseconds dwell you would only have an unambiguous range of 600m.

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