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Syrian Warplanes Test British Air Defenses in Cyprus

RAF Typhoon fighters recently won a mid-air showdown with two Syrian warplanes heading towards Britain’s base in Cyprus.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 9/9/2013, 2:14 AM

F-15
F-15
Israel news photo: Flash 90

RAF Typhoon fighters won a mid-air showdown with two Syrian warplanes heading towards Britain’s main base in Cyprus, the Sunday People reports.

The dramatic confrontation came after President Bashar Al-Assad’s air chiefs sent two Russian-made Sukhoi Su-24s to probe British air defenses, the report said.

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 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, reported the Sunday People, which added that the moment the Syrians spotted the British planes on their radar they high-tailed for home.

If the bombers had pressed on into the British exclusion zone they would have been shot down, military experts told the newspaper.

The showdown happened on Monday before British Prime Minister David Cameron and U.S. President Barack Obama went to the G20 summit in Russia to press for strikes against Syria following a gas attack in the capital Damascus that killed nearly 1,500 civilians on August 21.

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, according to the report.

Asked about the incident, a Ministry of Defense spokesman told the Sunday People, “The MoD can confirm that Typhoon air defense 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,” said the spokesman.

A military source told the newspaper, “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,” said the source.

Recent reports indicated that warplanes and military transporters have begun arriving at the Akrotiri airbase, located less than 100 miles from the Syrian coast.

If an order to attack targets in Syria is given, Cyprus is likely to be a hub of the air campaign, those reports said.

Cameron was in favor of a strike in Syria in response to the chemical attack, but British MPs recently voted to reject possible military action against the Assad regime.

France has expressed a willingness to act in Syria as well. U.S. President Barack Obama recently began a round of media interviews aimed at boosting support in advance of a vote in Congress on the issue.