Greece’s Russian-made S-300 air defense systems stationed on the island of Crete locked onto Turkish fighter jets as they crossed international airspace over the Mediterranean, Turkey’s Defense Ministry claimed, amid mounting tensions between the two NATO states.
The incident occurred on August 23, according to the Turkish statement, which came just days after Ankara leveled a similar accusation against Greek forces. Athens has disputed both alleged close-calls, with a Greek defense official calling the claims “fake news.”
Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported that Turkish F-16s were performing a reconnaissance mission west of Greece’s Rhodes island – located some 142 miles northeast of Crete – and were flying at an altitude of 10,000 feet when the radar lock occurred. “Despite the hostile environment,” the Turkish planes finished the mission and returned to their bases, the outlet added, citing military sources.
Under NATO’s rules of engagement, radar locks are deemed a hostile act. But the Greek Defense Ministry insists its “S-300 missile system has never put a lock on Turkish F-16 jets.”
Last week, the Turks summoned Athens’ military attache and filed a complaint with NATO over another disputed incident, in which Greek warplanes reportedly harassed five Turkish F-16s flying over the eastern Mediterranean.
While Ankara says its jets were participating in a NATO mission, Greece has rejected that version of events, instead claiming the Turkish craft appeared without notice to escort American B-52s which had been cleared to cross its airspace. According to Anadolu, Turkey gave the “necessary response” and warded off the Greek planes.
Relations between Turkey and Greece have long been strained, nearly going to war on three separate occasions over the last 50 years due to competing claims to territory and resources in the Aegean Sea.
Ankara has accused the Greeks of militarizing islands in the Aegean and violating limits established in peace treaties signed after World Wars I and II. In 2020, a naval standoff ensued between the NATO allies over exploratory drilling rights in Mediterranean waters, parts of which are also claimed by Cyprus.