The General Staff said in a statement posted online that five military vessels, including a frigate and a gunboat, as well as a CN-235 plane and four search and rescue helicopters, have been searching for the jet since Friday. The statement said teams have been working around the clock, but neither the pilots nor the wreckage have been located.
Minister of Transportation, Maritime Affairs and Communications Binali Yıldırım said on Tuesday that the pilots' helmets were found during search and rescue efforts, a sign experts say could indicate the pilots ejected before the aircraft crashed into the water.
A Turkish jet was shot down by Syrian forces while flying solo and unarmed 13 miles off the coast of Syria in international airspace last Friday. 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 that it has handed the tail section of the plane over to Turkey and that it bears visible bullet holes, evidence that it was shot down by short-range weapons and thus in Syrian airspace.
The General Staff also denied a media report, based on remarks made by an opposition deputy, that the codes of the downed plane were modified and that the aircraft was on a spying mission. Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy Mehmet Ali Ediboğlu was quoted by far-right newspaper Yeniçağ as saying that a Syrian plane recently hijacked and taken to Jordan by its defecting pilot was taken to Israel, where its data was decoded. Following the procedure in Israel, the plane's codes were installed in the Turkish jet so that Syrian radars would identify it as a Syrian aircraft, something that would facilitate its spying mission.
“This claim is a figment of the imagination,” the General Staff said in a separate statement.