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A ‘secret war’ between Turkey and Greece just turned deadly

A ‘secret war’ between Turkey and Greece just turned deadly after a long history of dogfights over the Aegean Sea

  • A Greek fighter jet crashed and the pilot was killed after intercepting two Turkish F-16 fighters that had intruded into Greek airspace.
  • While fatalities are unusual, Turkish jets have been violating Greek airspace for decades, and the incursions have increased over the years.
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has become more aggressive in his rhetoric towards the West, saying that he wants to renegotiate the treaty that defined Turkey’s borders after its war of independence.

Greek officials announced on Thursday that a Hellenic Air Force Mirage 2000-5 fighter jet crashed in the Aegean Sea, near the island of Skyros. The pilot, identified by the HAF as 33-year-old Capt. Giorgos Baltadoros, was returning from an aerial policing mission where he intercepted two Turkish Air Force F-16s.

“The mission had finished and it had been on its way back with another Greek plane,” a Greek official told the New York Times. Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said that Baltadoros was a “hero who fell defending national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

It is not known exactly what caused the Greek fighter jet to crash, but AFP reported that “the pilot may have blacked out during a combat exercise on the return home.” Turkish state-run news agency Anadolu quoted Turkish officials saying that there were no Turkish forces in the area.

While deaths from aerial interceptions over the Aegean are uncommon, violations of Greek airspace by Turkish aircraft happen with some frequency. Earlier this month, Greek troops fired tracer rounds at a Turkish helicopter that flew over the island of Ro with its navigation lights switched off.

The Greek military recorded 1,671 violations of its airspace by Turkish jets in 2016. To put that in perspective, NATO jets were scrambled 780 times to intercept Russian aircraft, the highest level since the Cold War.

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