The 'Secret' Dogfights Above The Aegean Sea We Rarely Hear About

news

For decades, a secret air war has been waged over the skies of southeastern Europe between two NATO allies: Greece and Turkey.


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.

Related: Navy Pilot: Here’s How I Got The U.S.’s First Air-To-Air Kill In 18 Years »

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.

A year later, the number of Turkish violations increased to 3,317, and 920 violations have already been recorded for 2018. The jets sometimes get into "dogfights" with one another — flying wildly in the sky while trying to get a missile lock before breaking off.

"Over the space of the past seventeen years, Turkish fighter jets – many of them equipped with combat arms – have been violating Greek airspace, resulting in interception attempts by Greek forces and, in many cases, dangerous air engagements and dogfights, even over inhabited islands of the Eastern Aegean," Panos Tasiopoulos, senior project manager at the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies, writes.

The dogfights can get quite intense, as this video from 2006 shows:

Despite being NATO allies, Greece and Turkey have had a rough history. Modern day Turkey came into existence after a war with Greece and other allied nations in the aftermath of WWI. Tensions were further inflamed during the Cyprus Crisis, and almost erupted into full-scale war after Turkey invaded the island in 1974.

At the heart of the tensions are territorial disputes. Greece and Turkey share a land border in the north, but the border disputes are centered on the hundreds of islands in the Aegean Sea. There is debate between the two countries over the extent those islands' airspace and territorial waters cover.

The disputes have gotten so intense, that war has almost broken out between the countries on three separate occasions — in 1976, 1987, and 1996.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said that he wants to revise the Treaty of Lausanne, the recognized the sovereignty of the Republic of Turkey and defined the borders after the Turkish War of Independence.  Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos responded that the treaty was in need "neither of revision nor of updating."

Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos said in February that Turkey was conducting "cowboy antics," and warned of escalations.

"We want peace, we are not looking for a fight or for trouble in the Aegean," he said. "But there won't be an aircraft which will not be intercepted."

Read more from Business Insider:

WATCH NEXT:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday told North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to "act quickly" to reach a deal with the United States, in a tweet weighing in on North Korea's criticism of his political rival former Vice President Joe Biden.

Trump, who has met Kim three times since 2018 over ending the North's missile and nuclear programs, addressed Kim directly, referring to the one-party state's ruler as "Mr. Chairman".

In his tweet, Trump told Kim, "You should act quickly, get the deal done," and hinted at a further meeting, signing off "See you soon!"

Read More Show Less

It is impossible to tune out news about the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump now that the hearings have become public. And this means that cable news networks and Congress are happier than pigs in manure: this story will dominate the news for the foreseeable future unless Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt get back together.

But the wall-to-wall coverage of impeachment mania has also created a news desert. To those of you who would rather emigrate to North Korea than watch one more lawmaker grandstand for the cameras, I humbly offer you an oasis of news that has absolutely nothing to do with Washington intrigue.

Read More Show Less

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia will return three captured naval ships to Ukraine on Monday and is moving them to a handover location agreed with Kiev, Crimea's border guard service was cited as saying by Russian news agencies on Sunday.

A Reuters reporter in Crimea, which Russian annexed from Ukraine in 2014, earlier on Sunday saw coastguard boats pulling the three vessels through the Kerch Strait toward the Black Sea where they could potentially be handed over to Ukraine.

Read More Show Less

There's a joke that Joey Jones likes to use when he feels the need to ease the tension in a room or in his own head.

To calm himself down, he uses it to remind himself of the obstacles he's had to overcome. When he faces challenges today — big or small — it brings him back to a time when the stakes were higher.

Jones will feel out a room before using the line. For nearly a decade, Jones, 33, has told his story to thousands of people, given motivational speeches to NFL teams and acted alongside a three-time Academy Award-winning actor.

On Tuesday afternoon, he stood at the front of a classroom at his alma mater, Southeast Whitfield High School in Georgia. The room was crowded with about 30 honor students.

It took about 20 minutes, but Jones started to get more comfortable as the room warmed up to him. A student asked about how he deals with post-traumatic stress disorder.

"I believe in post-traumatic growth," Jones said. "That means you go through tough and difficult situations and on the back end through recovery, you learn strength."

Read More Show Less

It didn't take long for a central theme to emerge at the funeral of U.S. Marine Pfc. Joseph Livermore, an event attended by hundreds of area residents Friday at Union Cemetery in Bakersfield.

It's a theme that stems from a widespread local belief that the men and women who have served in the nation's armed forces are held in particularly high esteem here in the southern valley.

"In Bakersfield and Kern County, we celebrate our veterans like no place else on Earth," Bakersfield Chief of Police Lyle Martin told the gathering of mourners.

Read More Show Less