Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç has said Turkey will continue recovering the wreckage of a Turkish warplane downed by Syria and that Turkey has reached an agreement with a US-based company on assistance during the search and rescue operation.
He stated that the operation will be conducted by the TCG İnebolu and that the tools and equipment will be provided by US marine services contracting firm Phoenix International.
The bodies of two Turkish pilots killed in the crash and the wreckage were located by deep-sea exploration vessel the EV Nautilus in the Eastern Mediterranean earlier this month; however, the ship was forced to give up searching after a technical failure. The military had been conducting a search since the jet was downed on June 22 and brought in the specially designed vessel to recover the wreckage, which lies some 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) under the surface.
Syrian forces shot down a Turkish F-4 Phantom, an unarmed reconnaissance version of the F-4 fighter jet, which according to Ankara was on a solo mission to test domestic radar systems and was hit in international airspace after it briefly strayed into Syrian airspace. However, Syria still maintains the aircraft was in Syrian airspace when it was shot down.
Syria, which joined in Turkish efforts to locate the wreckage and pilots, earlier claimed to have handed the tail section of the plane over to Turkey, which bore visible bullet holes -- evidence that it was shot down by short-range weapons and thus in Syrian airspace.