On March 1, 2020, two Syrian Arab Air Force Su-24 ‘Fencers’ were shot down by Turkish forces over the Idlib region, northwest Syria, where tensions had escalated after 33 Turkish soldiers were killed in an air strike by Syrian forces prompting the Turkish Government in Ankara to retaliate with attacks against the Syrian army as part of its cross-border Operation Spring Shield.
The Fencers were shot down as they attempted to attack Turkish aircraft, according to the Turkish ministry, without giving further details, although sources suggest that the two Syrian aircraft were shot down by Turkish Air Force F-16s. According to the Syrian Arab News Agency the four aircrew of the Syrian jets ejected and landed safely.
On the same day Turkey claimed to have destroyed Syrian armoured vehicles and anti-defence systems with armed Anka-S MALE UAVs, although one was shot down over Idlib. On 25 February a Turkish Air Force Anka-S had been shot down over Dadikah in Idlib province by the Syrians.
The multi-role Anka-S MALE, built by Turkish Aerospace, is equipped with ViaSat’s VR-18C SATCOM antenna and a national flight control computer. It can fly up to 24 hours and carry up a 200kg payload. The first weapon integrated in the Anka is the Roketsan MAM-L, a glide-bomb derivative of the laser-guided long-range anti-tank missile system (L-UMTAS) with a semi-active laser-homing (SALH) seeker that can be used to engage stationary and moving targets.
The Syrian Air Force was reported to have received 10 Sukhoi Su-24M2 ‘Fencer-D’ aircraft from Russia in 2017 augmenting an unknown number of existing Fencers.
In an effort to de-escalate the crisis that threatens to involve NATO, Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on 5 March.