Syrian state television has claimed to have shot down a Turkish F-4 fighter jet near their northern border. Now the Turkish government has formally acknowledged and confirmed this report. While the exact details surrounding the incident are still unclear, major implications are sure to follow.
The downing of the Turkish jet comes less than a day after a colonel in the Syrian Air Force defected to Jordan with his aircraft. While defections were somewhat common at the beginning of the Syrian uprising, this is the highest profile defection to happen during the civil war. The Syrian regime cannot afford these type of defections.
The situation surrounding the Syrian defection is an interesting one. Apparently the SAF colonel was on a training run when he dropped off radar and headed into Jordan. Some have speculated that this Syrian air force pilot was asked to bomb civilian targets,
Are Assad and the Syrian regime ramping up from artillery and tanks to attack helicopters and now also warplanes? So far indiscriminate shelling has devastated civilian neighborhoods like Homs. If warplanes and a fierce bombing campaign were to be introduced into the fray, the current death toll of around 15,000 people could become a weekly casualty figure. The colonel who defected is sure to undergo extensive debriefing, likely meeting with Jordan and American intelligence officials in the next few days.
Intelligence will also be gleaned from the downing of the Turkish warplane, which could add valuable insight regarding Syrian defence capabilities. The A-4 that was shot down is nothing special and just as much as a memento as Syria's anti-aircraft battery array. The large quantity of specialized F-16's that Turkey posses are perfectly suited to evade these pea shooters. If anything, this downing at least provides real-world data regarding Syrian air defence that may have not been available before.
Concerning the implications and ramifications Syria faces in light of this skirmish with the Turkey, a defected pilot may be the least of their worries. Turkey has repeatedly stated that it will defend itself against Syrian aggression. Furthermore, NATO has continued to support Turkey and may now have a legitimate point of entry to launch an intervention, or at least a Libya-like no-fly zone. Quite a bit of new and changing developments have happened in Syria in the past few days.
However one thing does remain a constant: the amount of civilian lives lost at the hands of Bashar al-Assad is completely unacceptable.