IAF reconnaissance aircraft over Hungary spark a storm

No connection seen to hit on Syrian in Budapest.

March 25, 2010 22:43
1 minute read.
THE IAF Gulfstream jets over Hungary were on a dip

plane illustrative 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Mystery continues to surround the sortie two Israel Air Force reconnaissance craft made over Hungary last week.

On March 19, reports surfaced regarding a flight by two IAF Gulfstream jets – equipped with sophisticated intelligence gear – over Budapest, at the same time that a Syrian national was gunned down next to his luxury car in the Hungarian capital.

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While some Hungarian press reports tried to link the IAF flyover and the murder in Budapest, the two are likely unconnected.

Nevertheless, the appearance of Israeli military aircraft in Hungarian airspace triggered a political controversy that culminated this week in the dismissal of the head of the air traffic department at Hungary’s Transportation Ministry. Disciplinary action was also being taken against four other officials.

Israeli officials said on Thursday that the incident was “blown way out of proportion” and that the IAF jets had permission to fly over Hungary. “We have agreements with a number of European countries to use their airspace,” one official said.

The Israeli Embassy in Budapest was quoted as saying that the planes were on a diplomatic mission. “Of course, they were not spy planes,” Ambassador to Hungary Aliza Bin Noun said.

On Tuesday, the flyover made its way to the Hungarian parliament, where Defense Minister Imre Szekeres said his country’s military was aware of the two Israeli aircraft flying through its airspace. Opposition lawmakers slammed the government for not taking the issue seriously.

“Any claim that the military had not expected the jets or is not in control of the airspace is unfounded,” Szekeres said. The planes also apparently flew over Bulgaria.

The IAF’s Nachshon squadron operates Gulfstream G550 jets, which serve as airborne warning and control systems (AWACS) as well as intelligence-gathering planes.

Due to the limited airspace within Israel, the IAF routinely flies overseas to drill long-range flights, mainly aimed at preparing for a possible military strike on Iranian nuclear sites. In recent years, the IAF has stepped up its training abroad.

“We are always looking for opportunities to be able to fly overseas to long distances,” a top IAF officer said recently.

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