Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Syrian warplanes flee after testing defences at British air base in Cyprus

Bombers had refused to respond to repeated attempts by the control tower at the UK’s Akrotiri air base to make radio contact
RAF Typhoon fighters won a mid-air showdown with two Syrian warplanes heading towards Britain’s main base in Cyprus, the Sunday People can ­reveal.
The dramatic confrontation came after President Bashar al-Assad’s air chiefs sent two Russian-made Sukhoi Su-24s to probe our air defences.
The Syrian bombers refused to respond to repeated attempts by the control tower at the UK’s Akrotiri air base to contact them.
RAF pilots flying the world’s most advanced combat jet were scrambled before the Sukhois could enter our 14-mile air exclusion zone.
The Typhoons – which can scream from runway standstill to seven miles high in 90 seconds – soared into the sky to make visual contact with the Syrian pilots.
But the moment the Syrians ­spotted our planes on their radar they high-tailed for home.
If the bombers had pressed on into our exclusion zone they would have been shot down, military experts said last night.
And despite Parliament’s refusal to sanction military strikes against Syria, the RAF’s swift response is a warning to dictator Assad’s forces not to mess with Britain.
Defence analyst Edward Hunt told the Sunday People: “If they will not turn back then they have to be shot down.”
The showdown happened on Monday before David Cameron and US President Barack Obama went to the G20 summit in Russia to
press for strikes against Syria ­following a nerve gas attack in the capital Damascus that killed nearly 1,500 civilians.
Two Turkish F-16s were also scrambled from their Incirlik air base in Turkey.
But they arrived on the scene long after the British Typhoons.
And as the Syrian planes codenamed Fencer by Nato were still in international air space all the scrambled allied planes were recalled.
A military source said: “If there’s no communication between the guys on the ground and the aircraft then this is what we do.

“These guys were heading in our direction.”
Flying at 600mph the planes could have reached Cyprus within 15 ­minutes of taking off from their base at Tiyas in the east of the country.
But AWAC spy planes detected them on radar and signalled the red alert.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “The MoD can confirm that Typhoon air defence aircraft operated from RAF Akrotiri on Monday to investigate unidentified aircraft to the east of Cyprus.
“The aircraft were flying legally in international airspace and no ­intercept was required.”
The UK air base at Akrotiri is packed with US and French ­warplanes ready to strike Syria when President Obama gives the go-ahead.
A military source told the Sunday People: “Recent intelligence reports have warned of an attack
on Akrotiri.
“The RAF Typhoons were launched after sensitive airborne early-warning radar picked up the ‘contacts’ flying low and fast.” The British typhoons are part of a squadron of six sent to Cyprus to guard our bases there as the Americans prepare for an attack.
A Navy Type 45 anti-aircraft ­destroyer is also sitting off Cyprus to provide early warning of Syrian fighters or missiles launched against the island.
Two French Navy Atlantique spy planes have also been moved to RAF Akrotiri.
And US aircraft and special ­operations helicopters are on ­standby there as planning continues for Syrian strikes.
Officially Monday’s Syrian warplanes are still being classified as “unidentified aircraft”.
But the Su-24 is feared as the most dangerous aircraft in the former Soviet arsenal.
It is a low-level bomber with capabilities similar to those of the American F-111 but the Su-24 is lighter and more powerful.
It is capable of supersonic speeds at low level and is equipped with terrain-following radar and laser-designators for guided weapons. These features give the SU-24 the ability to streak towards enemy targets beneath radar and attack with pinpoint accuracy.
The Sukhoi Su-24s used by the Syrian Air Force are assigned to Assad’s 819 squadron and based at Tiyas air base.
Meanwhile International Development Secretary Justine Greening said countries opposed to military action against Syria should think about doing more to help the country’s two million refugees.
The Prime Minister welcomed offers of new humanitarian assistance from Canada, Italy and Qatar at the G20 summit, following his announcement of an additional £52million in British aid. But Miss Greening warned: “What we can agree on surely as an international community is the need for a humanitarian ­response and right now that response is not great enough.
“The UN appeal is not even half funded and it’s time to step up.”

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