Entries in Fighter Jets (8)


Top Syrian General Defects; Turkey Recovers Pilots Downed by Syria

Alessio Romenzi/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- There have been numerous defections by members of the Syrian military during the country’s 16-month-long uprising, but President Bashar al-Assad suffered a personal embarrassment on Thursday when a general who was once a close adviser reportedly defected.

The Telegraph reports Brigadier Gen. Manaf Tlas, the top commander of Syria’s elite Republican Guard who also served as a member of Assad’s inner circle, has fled to Turkey.

The newspaper says a pro-Syrian government website confirmed Tlas had fled to Turkey, but downplayed the significance of his defection.  A security official was quoted as saying, “His escape does not mean anything.”

The report says Gen. Tlas comes from one of the most famous families in Syria.  

Opposition forces claim 15 generals have defected and joined the rebels in recent months.

Meanwhile, Turkey says it has recovered the bodies of two pilots whose jet was shot down by Syria on June 22.  A nationally-televised state funeral for the two is set for Friday.  The downing of the jet has strained relations between the two countries.

The pilots’ bodies and part of their jet’s wreckage was located with the help of oceanographer Robert Ballard and his team aboard the deep-sea exploration vessel Nautilus.  Ballard, of course, is best known for locating the wreck of the Titanic.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Turkey Scrambles F-16 Jets to Syrian Border

iStockphoto/Thinkstock (file photo)(ANKARA, Turkey) -- The relationship between Syria and Turkey became further strained on Saturday, when the Turkish Air Force scrambled six F-16 fighter jets following sightings of Syrian helicopters near the border between the two countries, Turkish military officials said.  

Authorities in Turkey say there was no violation of Turkish airspace.

The deployment follows Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s warning that his country had changed its rules of military engagement and would now treat any Syrian military approaching the border as a threat.

The change came after June 22, when Syrian forces shot down a Turkish jet in the border area.  In response, Turkey announced this past Friday it was deploying rocket launchers and anti-aircraft guns in the region.

Syria says the Turkish F-4 jet was shot down by Syrian air defenses inside its airspace.  The plane crashed in the Mediterranean, and its pilots are still missing.  Turkey insists the jet was shot down in international airspace.

Turkey's government has been an outspoken critic of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s response to the 16-month uprising against his rule, which has resulted in more than 15,000 deaths and 30,000 Syrian refugees entering Turkey.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Syrian Official: Downed Turkish Jet Probably Mistaken for Israeli Plane

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- A high-ranking Syrian government official suggested on Wednesday that last week's shoot-down of a Turkish war jet was a mistake.

However, Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoebi likely started another controversy by stating that the military might have believed the plane was actually an Israeli aircraft.

Al-Zoebi told Turkish news channel A Haber in an interview that Syrian forces might have made the error because most war jets used by Turkey and Israel look the same because they're mostly made by the U.S.

Nevertheless, the Syrian minister insisted that his government did not intend to start a conflict with Turkey over the incident.

Acting on a request from Ankara, NATO has condemned Syria for the downing of the plane, but will take no military action to intervene. Turkey has said it would respond militarily if Syria moves its troops close to their shared border.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


NATO Won't Take Military Action in Response to Turkish Jet Downing

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BRUSSELS) -- Turkey may have to take matters into its own hands following last week's downing of one of its fighter jets by Syrian forces after NATO announced Tuesday that there would be no collective armed response to the crisis.

Ankara had requested a response from the alliance to the loss of its Phantom F-4 jet in which two pilots are still missing.  Turkey says the shoot-down occurred over international waters and was unprovoked.

In Brussels Tuesday, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen declared, "We stand together with Turkey in spirit of solidarity" and condemned the action by Syrian forces.

However, the NATO head said the alliance did not discuss invoking Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty that calls for an armed response on behalf of a member that has been attacked.

Frustrated by NATO's decision not to intervene, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoan made it clear that the downing of its plane would not go unanswered.

He also warned, "Any military element that approaches the Turkish border from Syria by posing a security risk and danger will be regarded as a threat and treated as a military target."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


NATO Condemns Syria for Downing Turkish Plane

NATO(BRUSSELS) -- NATO condemned Syria on Tuesday for downing a Turkish fighter jet last Friday.

After holding an emergency session on the incident in Brussels, the North Atlantic Council issued a statement saying, "We consider this act to be unacceptable and condemn it in the strongest terms.  It is another example of the Syrian authorities’ disregard for international norms, peace and security, and human life."

Turkey claims Syria shot down the F-4 plane over international waters without provocation, and called on NATO last week to hold the emergency meeting under Article 4 of its founding charter, which entitles allies to request a consultation if they feel their territorial integrity, political independence, or security is threatened.

Two pilots were lost in the crash.

"Our thoughts at this difficult time are with the missing Turkish aircrew, their families and their loved ones," the North Atlantic Council said in its statement.  "We continue to follow the situation closely and with great concern, and will remain seized of developments on the South-Eastern border of NATO."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US Fighter Jets Intercept Korean Airlines Flight After Bomb Threat

SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images(VANCOUVER, British Columbia) -- Two U.S. fighter jets scrambled to meet a Korean Airlines Boeing 777 Tuesday night after a bomb threat was reported shortly after the plane took off from Vancouver, British Columbia.

With the help of F-15 fighter jets, the Seoul-bound plane made a safe emergency landing at Comox, a Canadian Forces base on Vancouver Island, around 5:30 p.m. local time.

No explosives were found and all 149 people on board Flight 72 were unharmed.

The incident comes at a time of heightened tension on the Korean Peninsula.

Korean Airlines is one of several airlines that are changing their flight paths to avoid a long-range rocket that North Korea is launching, possibly as early as Thursday.

On Wednesday morning, engineers began pumping fuel into the rocket.  North Koreans say the rocket is putting a satellite into space, but the U.S. and others don't believe it and are calling it a provocation and violation of U.N. resolutions prohibiting nuclear and ballistic missile activity.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


White House, Saudi Arabia Sign $30B F-15 Deal

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration Thursday finalized a $30 billion sale of new Boeing F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia in a deal meant to counteract Iran and support an estimated 50,000 U.S. jobs.

The deal, which was approved by Congress in late 2010, will send 84 advanced F-15SA combat planes to the Royal Saudi Air Force. It also provides for the modernization of 70 existing planes and a cache of munitions, spare parts and other logistical resources, the White House said in a statement.

“This agreement will positively impact the U.S. economy and further advances the president’s commitment to create jobs by increasing exports,” deputy White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in the statement. “According to industry experts, this agreement will support more than 50,000 American jobs, engaging 600 suppliers in 44 states, and providing $3.5 billion in annual economic impact to the U.S. economy.”

The plane package is roughly half of a larger $60 billion deal -- the biggest U.S. arms sale to Saudi Arabia ever -- that was brokered in September 2010.

In addition to the F-15 aircraft, the United States promised to sell 70 Apache attack helicopters, 72 Black Hawk helicopters, 26 Little Bird helicopters and assorted weapons systems (missiles and bombs) for the aircraft.

At the time, U.S. officials said the main trigger for the deal was Saudi Arabia’s concerns about Iranian threats in the region. Tensions between the United States and Iran have flared in recent days after an Iranian military official threatened to cut off the flow of oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz; the U.S. Navy pledged such a move would not stand.

Saudi Arabia, a longstanding U.S. ally in the region, also supports U.S. and international opposition to Iran’s nuclear program.

“This agreement reinforces the strong and enduring relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia, and demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a strong Saudi defense capability as a key component to regional security,” Earnest said.

The first new planes are scheduled for delivery in 2015, while the upgrades to the F-15 jets will start in 2014. The United States will also train up to 5,500 Saudi personnel through 2019, officials said.

“This deal sends an important message,” said Anthony Cordesman, a middle east analyst and military expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“This gives Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates really modern combat aircraft that are much more advanced than Iran has,” he said. “Iran cannot feel secure now if it attacks other Gulf Cooperation Council members in the region.”

The Obama administration Thursday also downplayed concerns that the arms sale could undermine Israel’s military superiority in the region.

“All sales to the region must be evaluated for the impact on Israel’s qualitative military edge,” assistant Secretary of State Andrew Schapiro told reporters. “We conducted that assessment, and we are satisfied that this sale to Saudi Arabia will not detriment Israel’s qualitative military edge.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Russia Unveils New Stealth Fighter

DMITRY KOSTYUKOV/AFP/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- Russia showed off its next generation stealth fighter for the first time at a highly-publicized air show Tuesday, as the best and most expensive stealth fighter jets America has to offer sit idle on the tarmac.

The Sukhoi T-50, also known as the PAK FA, made its public debut at the MAKS-2011 air show near Moscow Tuesday where Russian air force commander-in-chief Gen. Alexander Zelin said the plane is expected to enter mass production as early as 2014, according to Russian state news RIA Novosti.

The T-50, along with China's secretive stealth J-20 fighter, represents the next generation air-power challenge to America's own stealth F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The U.S. jets are currently the most advanced aircraft on the planet -- but the entire U.S. Air Force fleet of next-gen fighters, representing around 200 planes and billions of dollars, has been grounded due to separate technical problems.

The F-35s' electrical problems reportedly have been resolved and could be going back in the air relatively soon, but pilots for the F-22 have been out of a real cockpit for so long they may have to repeat grueling training just to fly the planes again. An Air Force spokesperson told ABC News it still looks like those jets won't be flying again for weeks, if not months.

The spokesperson declined to comment for this report on whether the USAF sees the T-50 as a competitor for the future of air domination, but it's clear that at least Russia's state news organization sees the match-up that way.

The T-50 "is meant to be a rival to the U.S. F-22 Raptor," RIA Novosti said on its website, which also hosted a chart comparing the T-50's capabilities with those of the F-22.

In an April report, a USAF spokesperson and a representative for developer Lockheed Martin told ABC News the Raptor, which specializes in high-tech air-to-air combat, was specifically designed to take on rival, sophisticated air fleets and air defenses such as those currently in development by Russia and China.

In 2009, before public sightings of the new Russian and Chinese fighters, Defense Secretary Robert Gates argued to cut funding for the F-22s, saying they did "not make much sense" in a world where U.S. adversaries were almost exclusively third world air defenses and insurgent groups.

"The F-22 is clearly a capability we do need -- a niche, silver-bullet solution for one or two potential scenarios -- specifically the defeat of a highly advanced enemy fighter fleet," Gates said then. "[But] the F-22, to be blunt, does not make much sense anyplace else in the spectrum of conflict."

Despite the U.S. Air Force's involvement in multiple major combat operations since the F-22s went operational in December 2005, the fighters have never been sent into combat.

In defense of the program, dozens of supporters in Congress and state governments wrote letters to President Obama in 2009 arguing the full force of F-22s would be needed to meet the future challenge of other nations like Russia and China. At the time, Gates dismissed those claims and said the U.S. next generation fighters would greatly outnumber any adversaries' for the next 15 years at least.

In the end, Congress halted funding for the F-22 program at $77 billion on 187 fighters, rather than the original full order for 648 jets. As far as the F-35s, the U.S. military has received and is testing 20 models from Lockheed Martin as part of a plan to acquire nearly 2,500 jets by 2035 at a total cost estimated at $385 billion -- the single most expensive defense acquisition program in U.S. history.

Though currently inoperable, the U.S. planes appear to greatly outnumber the handful of rarely seen T-50s and J-20s.

Until there are enough T-50s to fill out their air force, a Russian commander said Tuesday the country's famous MiGs could stand "as an equal" to America's F-35s, according to state news.

For their part, the Chinese said their jet, while a giant leap forward technologically, is not intended to be seen as a threat to the U.S.

"The People's Liberation Army has no ability, and even more than that, has no intention, to challenge America's territory and global military advantage, and does not have any aims to pursue military hegemony in the region," Rear-Admiral Yang Yi wrote in the overseas edition of the People's Daily in January.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio