Russia equips bombers over Syria with air-to-air missiles for self-defense

Russian fighter jets performing combat missions over Syria are now equipped with air-to-air missiles for self-defense, Russian officials say, less than a week after one of its planes was shot down by Turkey.

Colonel Igor Klimov, a spokesman for the Russian Air Force, said the Sukhoi Su-34 planes that flew on a mission over Syria on Monday were equipped with short and medium range air-to-air missiles. "The missiles are equipped with homing devices and are capable of hitting targets at a distance of 60 kilometers (37 miles)," he said.

Klimov said the missiles were added to allow Russian aircraft to defend themselves, an apparent reference to last week's shootdown of a Russian plane over the Syrian-Turkish border. A Turkish F-16 fighter jet shot down the Russian plane after alleging that it had violated Turkish airspace for about 17 seconds, despite repeated warnings in the minutes prior to the incursion.

The Russian government has denied Turkey's claims, saying that its aircraft was shot down when it was about 1 kilometer (620 yards) inside Syrian airspace. The Russian aircraft crashed on the Syrian side of the border, where Syrian Turkmen rebels killed one of the two pilots as he attempted to parachute down. The second pilot was rescued, but one marine was killed during the rescue operation.

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