Erdoğan did not refer to Syria directly, but his remarks came amid escalating tensions with Turkey's southern neighbor after an RF-4E Phantom, an unarmed reconnaissance version of the F-4 fighter jet, was shot down by Syria in the Mediterranean on Friday. “We will never avoid teaching a lesson to gang-run states that have no legitimacy in the eyes of their public, those who resort to state terrorism against their people and those who dare to test the limits of Turkey's might,” Erdoğan said at a ceremony in Ankara marking the primary and basic trainer aircraft HÜRKUŞ's first release from the hangar.
“We will never avoid teaching a lesson to gang-run states that have no legitimacy in the eyes of their public, those who resort to state terrorism against their people and those who dare to test the limits of Turkey’s might,” Erdoğan said at a ceremony in Ankara marking the primary and basic trainer aircraft HÜRKUŞ’s first release from the hangar.
“We will respond to hostile attitudes against us, attacks and threats in the strongest manner, using all the power and inspiration we derive from our history,” he said.
Erdoğan reacted strongly to Syria’s shooting down of the jet and warned Damascus in a speech on Tuesday that that the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) have been given instructions to treat any approaching Syrian military unit as a threat. Erdoğan also said that President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has become a “clear and present danger” to Turkey’s security. Ankara has long been saying that the Assad regime, facing a 16-month-long uprising, has been massacring its own people and that it has lost legitimacy, and insists that Assad should leave power. But in remarks following the jet crisis, Turkish officials have also rejected “warmongering,” saying Turkey will be measured in its response.
Speaking on Wednesday, Erdoğan said Turkey has no intention of attacking anyone. “We are investing in [the defense industry] to preserve peace and eliminate all threats against our unity and integrity,” he said. Turkey says the plane was hit in international airspace and without warning, while Syria claims the aircraft was well within its airspace and was flying fast and low when it was shot down by anti-aircraft fire.
The wreckage of the plane, which Turkish officials say is lying at a depth of 1,300 meters in the Mediterranean, is yet to be recovered. The fate of the two missing pilots of the jet also remains unknown. Minister of Transportation, Maritime Affairs and Communications Binali Yıldırım said the helmets of the pilots were found during the search and rescue efforts, something that experts say could indicate that the pilots ejected before the aircraft crashed into the water.
Turkish defense industry on track for growth
Manufactured by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), the HÜRKUŞ can fly up to a speed of 574 km/h. It has a maximum stall speed of 143 km/h in landing configuration, and its take-off climb speed is 22 meters at sea level. The maximum service ceiling of the jet is 10,577 km. The HÜRKUŞ jet can fly at 15,000 feet for a stretch of four hours and 15 minutes and has a 1,600-horsepower engine. The aircraft also has a system producing oxygen for pilots while flying. The jet takes its name from Vecihi Hürkuş, one of the first civil aviators of the Turkish republican era.
Erdoğan described the TSK as “one of the oldest, most experienced and powerful armies,” adding: “And today we get to equip this powerful army through our own technicians and engineers and with the devices these people create. Turkey is becoming a country that has more power, expertise and determination in the defense industry every single day. We, as a government, will continue having a visionary stance in the defense industry and supporting this industry with determination.”
US praises Turkey’s ‘measured response’ over downed plane
A spokesman from the White House has said that the United States has commended Turkey’s “measured response thus far” over the downing of a Turkish military plane by Syria last Friday.
“We will work with Turkey and other partners to hold the Assad regime accountable and as part of our efforts to promote a democratic transition in Syria. We commend Turkey for its measured response thus far,” Jay Carney told reporters on Tuesday.
Carney said that NATO has determined the shooting down of the Turkish fighter jet on June 22 to be an unacceptable act by Syria, condemning it in the strongest terms.
“The United States and NATO stand in solidarity with Turkey. We will work with Turkey and other partners to hold the Assad regime accountable and to continue to push forward for Syria’s needed political transition,” Carney said.
“I would note that recent high-level military defections to Jordan and Turkey are another testament to the regime’s loss of control over the situation in Syria. It is clear, however, that Assad is desperate to hang on to power at all cost, as evidenced by his continued use of air power and Shabiha gangs,” he said.Responding to a question about whether US President Barack Obama was concerned that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s “strong language” could increase the risk of escalation of the tensions along the border between Turkey and Syria, Carney said he considered Erdoğan’s remarks “measured.”
“I think the comments were more measured … and as the North Atlantic Council made clear, this was an unacceptable act. The United States remains in close contact in Turkey, with Turkish officials, as they continue to investigate the incident and determine Turkey’s response, including in the United Nations Security Council,” he said. İstanbul Today’s Zaman