The Russian movie “Sky” is based on the shootdown of the Russian Air Force Su-24 over Syria in 2015 and the pilot killed after successfully ejecting from the Fencer with the weapon system officer.
Almost 6 years ago, on Nov. 24, 2015, at 09.25LT, a Russian Sukhoi Su-24M2 Fencer bort number 83, was shot down by a Turkish Air Force F-16 near the border between Syria and Turkey. According to Turkey, the Russian attack aircraft, one of the 12 deployed at Khmeimim Air Base, near Latakia, in northwestern Syria, had violated the Turkish airspace flying to a depth of 2.19 kilometres (1.36 miles) for about 17 seconds. The Turkish authorities also claimed that the Russian jet had been issued 10 warnings in 5 minutes on the radio, before being shot down.
Following the incident, Ankara said that the warnings, on a dedicated mutually agreed radio channel and the international Guard (emergency) channel (243.0/121.5 MHz – that the Su-24M was not able to monitor with the current radio equipment), were not answered by the Russian plane that continued to fly towards the Turkish airspace, leading the Turkish Air Force to believe the intruding aircraft was not Russian but Syrian.
The Russian MOD denied the Turkish version, claiming the “swing-wing” supersonic, all-weather attack aircraft had always operated inside the Syrian airspace and that their satellite data showed that the Su-24 was about 1,000 metres inside Syrian airspace when it was shot down The U.S. State Department said that the U.S. independently confirmed that the aircraft’s flight path violated Turkish territory, and that the Turks gave multiple warnings to the pilot, to which they received no response and released audio recordings of the warnings they had broadcast.
The incident occurred as tension between Turkey and Russia was growing following episodes of Russian planes breaching into the Turkish airspace. In fact, on Oct. 3 and 4, 2015, a Russian Air Force Su-30SM and Su-24 aircraft had violated Ankara’s sovereign airspace in the Hatay region. NATO said that the Russian combat planes entered Turkish airspace despite Turkish authorities’ “clear, timely and repeated warnings.” In that case, TuAF F-16s in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) were scrambled to identify the intruder, after which the Russian planes departed Turkish airspace. Nevertheless, as if violating the airspace of a NATO member was not enough, the Russian Su-30SM maintained a radar lock on one or both the F-16s for a full 5 minutes and 40 seconds. According the Russians, the violation was due to a “navigation error.” Following the incident Ankara said it would shot down any aircraft violating their sovereign airspace as done in the past with the Syrian Mig-23 and Mi-17. And this is exactly what happened next.
On Nov. 24, 2015, the Russian Su-24M was hit by what is believed to have been an AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile) forcing the pilot, Lieutenant Colonel Oleg Anatolyevich Peshkov, and weapon system operator, Captain Konstantin Murakhtin, to eject. It was the first time a NATO aircraft had shot down a Russian or Soviet Air Forces warplane since the Korean War in 1953.
Both the Fencer’s crew members survived the ejection but they were shot at as they descended with parachutes by Syrian Turkmen Brigade militants (although the shooting of an ejecting aircraft pilot is in contravention of Article 42 of the 1977 Protocol I of the Geneva Convention. The pilot was killed while the weapon system operator was rescued thanks to a CSAR operation that involved several Mi-8 helicopters. During the mission, one of the Hip helicopters was hit by small-arms fire: the chopper was forced to perform an emergency landing, while one of the crew members, a naval infantryman was killed. All the surviving crew of the helicopter were later rescued and evacuated and the abandoned helicopter was destroyed using a US-made BGM-71 TOW missile.
The pilot of the Su-24, Oleg Peshkov, 45, was posthumously awarded the Hero of the Russian Federation, the country’s highest military honour, and was then buried with full military honours in the Alley of Heroes of the cemetery in Lipetsk with about 10,000 people attending; the surviving weapon systems officer, Konstantin Murakhtin, and the deceased rescuer, Alexander Pozynich, 29, received the Order of Courage.
Six years later their story has become a movie written and directed by Igor Kopylov and produced by a film company together with the Russian Ministry of Defense. “Sky” (Небо in Russian) will be released on Nov. 18, 2021.
The unofficial trailer below (done by a YT channel that applies music, voice-over and prepares the trailer for viewing in English) shows some of the scenes of the movie: along with CGI (used for the flying scenes) there’s a lot of real stuff filmed on the ground. Therefore, no matter the narrative used to recall the incident, and how much computer generated cinematography we will find in it, the upcoming war movie is probably going to be extremely interesting to all the aviation enthusiasts.
Take a look at the trailer by yourself:
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.