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Fri, Jun 29, 2012

Helmets And Boots From Turkish Pilots Found After Syrian Shoot-Down

No Sign Of The Airmen Themselves Near The Plane's Wreckage

The boots and helmets belonging to a pair of Turkish military pilots have been found with the wreckage of their airplane, which was shot down by Syrian forces last week. But what has not been found are parachutes, or the pilots themselves.

The helmets were found Wednesday, according to a report from the Turkish Hurriyet Daily and relayed by ABC News. Their boots had been found several days earlier.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that it was not known if the pilots managed to eject after their plane was hit, but even if they did, the reconnaissance variant of the F-4 Phantom they were flying is capable of speeds twice the speed of sound. He said the pilots may not have survived the ejection, or it may have pulled their helmets and boots off them as they exited the aircraft.

The BBC and other news sources report that Turkey claims the F-4 was on a training flight and "momentarily" strayed into Syrian airspace. They say it was shot down 15 minutes later 13 nautical miles from Syria in international airspace over the Mediterranean Sea. A Turkish military official said the plane was not spying on Syria, but rather testing the capabilities of Turkey's defense radar.

Syria says it "engaged the aircraft in its airspace" and hit it within a half nautical mile from the coastline. Syrian officials say it went down about 5 NM from the coast, well within Syrian territorial waters. They say it was a "defensive and sovereign act."

Turkey has sent a letter to Syria warning of possible military action and official condemnation from NATO over the incident.

The search for the missing pilots is continuing.

(Turkish F-4 Phantom file photo)

FMI: www.nato.int

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