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Syria, Turkey, Jordan and air supremacy.

F 4 Phantom

Turkey.-

Turkey’s government has held an emergency security meeting amid reports that one of its fighter jets was shot down by Syrian security forces.

The F-4 Phantom disappeared over the Mediterranean, south-west of Hatay province, not far from Syria’s coast. The F4 Phantom was -possibly- a reconnaissance aircraft.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was initially quoted as saying: “The other side have expressed regret”.

Later he could not confirm what brought the jet down but said rescue teams were searching for the crew.

Relations between Turkey and Syria, once close allies, have deteriorated sharply since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011.

The Turkish military said it lost radio contact with the F-4 at 1158 (0858 GMT) on Friday while it was flying over Hatay, about 90 minutes after it took off from Erhac airbase in the province of Malatya, to the north-west.

The private news channel, NTV, later cited unnamed military sources as saying that the plane had crashed off Hatay’s Mediterranean coast, in Syrian territorial waters, but that there had been no border violation.

Jordan.-

A Syrian pilot has been granted political asylum after landing his MiG fighter jet in neighbouring Jordan, in the first such defection during a revolt that activists say has left more than 15,000 people dead.

“The council of ministers has decided to grant the pilot, Colonel Hassan Merei al-Hamade, political asylum,” Jordanian Information Minister Samih Maaytah told the AFP news agency after a government official said the Russian MiG-21 had made an emergency landing at a base in Mafraq near the border.

Syria’s state television said the warplane was flying near the border on Wednesday when contact was lost at 07:34 GMT, with Jordan saying it had crossed the frontier minutes later.

The opposition Syrian National Council said: “The plane took off at high speed and flew at low altitude from a military base between Deraa and Sweida in the south of the country… to avoid detection by radar.”

“The pilot is from Deir Al Zor [in eastern Syria] and his family is known for its opposition” to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, spokesman George Sabra added.

The F 4 Phantom in Turkey.-

in 2009, Turkey disbanded its first squadron of McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom strike aircraft, under a transition plan leading to its future operation of Lockheed¬†Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The Turkish air force’s 172nd Sqn, based in Malatya Erhac, had flown the F-4E for more than 32 years. It is planned to reform in 2014 following first deliveries of the JSF. Ankara expects to receive its first two F-35s that year, although these will first be used at a training centre in the USA. The air force’s first conventional take-off and landing F-35As should arrive in Turkey in 2015, with the nation planning to buy 100 of the aircraft.

The 172nd Sqn retirement leaves Turkey with five Phantom units, including the 112th Sqn at Eskisehir, which operates “classic” F-4Es introduced from 1974. Two squadrons fly F-4E 2020 “Terminator” bombers, which were upgraded in the late 1990s in co-operation with Israel Aerospace Industries. The air force also has two squadrons of RF-4 reconnaissance aircraft.