Tag Archives: Turkish Air Force

President Trump Blocks Sale of F-35s to Turkey, Deepens Rift in Turkish/U.S. Relations.

Turkey Would Have Operated Both the F-35 and the Russian Engineered S-400 Missile System.

On Monday, August 13, 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump signed into law the new John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Named as a tribute to Arizona Senator John McCain, who is afflicted with brain cancer, the bill includes provisions that have significant implications for one of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s largest potential program participants.

In fact, the massive $716 billion U.S. Dollar defense bill, as currently written, will prevent U.S. weapons sales to Turkey for 90 days. Within the 3-month period, the DoD will have to detail how Turkey can be phased out of the production chain of the F-35 and how much this change of plans will cost the U.S. and other countries.

Turkey had planned to purchase 100 of the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II conventional takeoff and landing variants of the Joint Strike Fighter, the same version used by the U.S. Air Force. Other countries participating in the Joint Strike Fighter Program include Australia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom and South Korea. Ten Turkish companies are involved in the development and/or production of the 5th generation aircraft, with a total Turkish investment of more than $1 billion.

The move comes as Turkish pilots are already training in the United States to operate the F-35A at Luke AFB near Phoenix, Arizona. The training of the Turkish F-35 personnel will continue until the DoD report requested by the NDAA has been submitted to Congress for their decision on the way forward.

There are two Turkish F-35As based at Luke for the Turkish training program along with other international F-35 operators. According to a July 2, 2018 report by Air Force Times journalist Tara Copp, the Turkish F-35As, “will remain in U.S. custody for at least the next year.”

Chased by a LM two-seat F-16 the first F-35A destined to the Turkish Air Force flies over Ft. Worth. (Photo: High Brass Photo/Clinton White)

Pentagon spokesman U.S. Army Colonel Robert Manning told reporters, “Following established agreements, the U.S. government maintains custody of the aircraft until custody is transferred to the partner.” Manning added, “The U.S. government has not made a determination on Turkey’s future participation in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.”

The decision to delay the F-35A deliveries adds to increasing tension between Washington and the Turkish government in Ankara. Turkey is a key U.S. ally in the region for reasons including its geographic proximity to the middle east. Turkey has also been a member of NATO since 1952. The country is home to Incirlik Air Base, a massive international installation currently home to several thousand U.S. military personnel and an important base for U.S. aircraft operating over Syria and Iraq. The U.S. also stores nuclear weapons at Incirlik as a part of its deterrent strategy in the region. The proximity of the base also provides the U.S. with quick transit to Iran in the event of a crisis. Turkey also controls the passage of naval vessels transiting to and from the Black Sea, a key strategic chokepoint.

The F-35 embargo fans the flames of Turkish discontent after Washington included the country in the recent sweeping round of international trade restrictions issued by the Trump administration.

The tough trade rhetoric from Washington creates frustration not only for Turkey, but also within the U.S. and potentially for other Joint Strike Fighter program participants. Pentagon correspondent to ForeignPolicy.com, Lara Seligman, wrote that, “Several key components of the jet are manufactured by Turkish companies, and the U.S. Defense Department estimates it will take two years to find and qualify new suppliers to replace any Turkish firms that are kicked out of the program. Meanwhile, the main European hub for the F-35’s engine repair and overhaul is in Eskisehir, in northwestern Turkey.” As a result of the engine repair hub being located in Eskisehir, Turkey, maintenance delays for other European users of the F-35 could emerge while other engine repair facility provisions are arranged.

The analysis of Seligman, Copp and others reporting on the F-35 program suggest that the delay in continuing the Turkish F-35A program may be just that, a delay, as opposed to a cancellation. Seligman wrote for ForeignPolicy.com that, “Lawmakers also want the Pentagon to assess the ramifications of Ankara’s planned purchase of the S-400 system.”

A part of the controversy over Turkey’s involvement in the Joint Strike Fighter program is their use of modern Russian designed S-400 anti-aircraft missiles. (Photo: File/NOSINT)

The relatively new Russian-built S-400 “Triumf” Surface to Air Missile (SAM) system has been characterized as an “anti-stealth” air defense system that could specifically threaten the F-35A and its user nations should technology from the aircraft trickle back to Russia as they provide support to Turkey for their S-400 program. The two weapons systems being potentially operated by the same country makes for strange bedfellows. Turkey has a reputation as being a center of international intrigue, including espionage, both in fact and fiction dating back to pre-WWII years. This history underscores concerns about sharing information that may cross borders outside Turkey.

Top image: USAF F-35A. Turkey was slated to receive 100 F-35A Lightning IIs as part of the deal that has been put on hold. (Photo: Tom Demerly/TheAviationist.com)

Turkey’s First F-35A Lightning II Stealth Aircraft Makes Maiden Flight

Here’s the first Turkish F-35 stealth jet.

On May 10, 2018, the first F-35A destined to the Turkish Air Force performed its maiden flight at Lockheed Martin Ft. Worth facility, Texas. Piloted by US Navy test pilot Cmdr. Tony Wilson, the aircraft (serial 18-0001) took off at 14.47LT and landed at 16.00LT. The photo in this post was taken by Highbrass Photography’s Clinton White during Tukey’s F-35’s (designation AT-1) first sortie.

Turkey should be officially delivered the first of 100 F-35As on order, on Jun. 21, in the U.S.

Chased by a LM two-seat F-16 the first F-35A destined to the Turkish Air Force flies over Ft. Worth.

Two TuAF pilots are currently being trained in the U.S.; after the training is completed, and another stealth aircraft is delivered, the F-35 jets are planned to be brought to Turkey in September of 2019. The trained pilots will fly the two F-35s from the U.S., accompanied by a refueling plane, the Turkish Anadolu Agency reported.

It looks like the delivery of the first F-35 fighter will take place in spite a number of U.S. congressmen have urged the U.S. administration to suspend the procurement of these fighters to Turkey because of the latter’s decision to buy Russian S-400 advanced air defense systems:  indeed, there’s widespread concern that the Turkish procurement could give Moscow access to critical details about the way their premiere surface-to-air missile system performs against the new 5th generation aircraft. “If they take such a step at a moment when we are trying to mend our bilateral ties, they will definitely get a response from Turkey. There is no longer the old Turkey,” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told private broadcaster CNN Türk in an interview on May 6, according to Hurriyet Daily media outlet.

Make sure to visit Clinton White’s Flickr photostream for more cool shots!

9 Russian and 8 Turkish combat planes carry out the first joint air strike in Syria

The Turkish Air Force and the Russian Aerospace Forces have launched a joint raid against Islamic State targets in the Aleppo province.

Four Su-24Ms, four Su-25s and one Su-34 bomber of the Russian Air Force along with four F-16 and four F-4 jets belonging to the Turkish Air Force have carried out the first joint strike in Syria on Jan. 18: an interesting mix of aircraft for a quite rare COMAO (Combined Air Operation) made of platforms able to perform CAS (Close Air Support), BAI (Battlefield Air Interdiction), S/DEAD (Suppression/Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses) and Strike as well as Air Superiority and Aerial Escort.

The raid aimed at destroying 36 ground targets was previously agreed with Syrian authorities, said Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoy, the chief of the Russian General Staff Main Operational Directorate in a briefing in Moscow. Considered that Turkey is a NATO member hence the TuAF regularly trains with other western air forces and that the Russian Aerospace Force jets employ completely different procedures, standards, etc., it would be interesting to know something more about the preparation, coordination and execution of such joint raid.

Anyway, according to the first estimates provided by the Russian high-rank officer, the joint airstrikes near Al-Bab, in the Aleppo province, “have been highly effective.”

The raid came amid a nationwide ceasefire in Syria which came into effect on Dec. 30 and, according to the analysts, was in support of Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield, launched on Aug. 24, 2016 to clear the Syrian border town of Jarabulus and the surrounding area from Daesh terrorist group with the support of the FSA (Free Syria Army) and US-led coalition planes.

Al-Bab is one of Daesh’s last remaining strongholds near the Turkish border; the help of the Russians seems to be essential to prevent the Syrian Kurds from taking it.

The crisis between Moscow and Ankara that followed the downing of the Russian Air Force Su-24 by a TuAF F-16 on Nov. 24, 2015, seems decades away.

Image credit: Russia MoD

 

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Year 2016 in review through The Aviationist’s Top 5 articles

The five top stories of The Aviationist provide the readers the opportunity to virtually review the year that is coming to an end.

Ordered by pageviews, the following 5 posts got the most pageviews and comments among the articles published on the site, and can be used to review year 2016.

Needless to say, we covered many more topics during the past year, that saw us discussing F-35, Air War on ISIS, Russian campaign in Syria, Turkish Failed Coup, RC-135 spyplanes buzzed by Su-27s, Special Operations tracked online, A-10, North Korea, Eurofighter, and much more.

Please use the search feature or select the proper category/tag to read all what was written throughout the year.

1) “Here’s what I’ve learned so far dogfighting in the F-35”: a JSF pilot’s first-hand account

Mar. 1, 2016

A Norwegian pilot shared his experience flying mock aerial combat with the F-35.

As we reported last year, the debate between F-35 supporters and critics became more harsh in July 2015, when War Is Boring got their hands on a brief according to which the JSF was outclassed by a two-seat F-16D Block 40 (one of the aircraft the U.S. Air Force intends to replace with the Lightning II) in mock aerial combat.

Although we debunked some theories about the alleged capabilities of all the F-35 variants to match or considerably exceed the maneuvering performance of some of the most famous fourth-generation fighter, and explained that there is probably no way a JSF will ever match a Eurofighter Typhoon in aerial combat, we also highlighted that the simulated dogfight mentioned in the unclassified report obtained by WIB involved one of the very first test aircraft that lacked some cool and useful features.

Kampflybloggen (The Combat Aircraft Blog), the official blog of the Norwegian F-35 Program Office within the Norwegian Ministry of Defence, has just published an interesting article, that we repost here below under permission, written by Major Morten “Dolby” Hanche, one of the Royal Norwegian Air Force experienced pilots and the first to fly the F-35.

“Dolby”  has more than 2200 hours in the F-16, he is a U.S. Navy Test Pilot School graduate, and currently serves as an instructor and as the Assistant Weapons Officer with the 62nd Fighter Squadron at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona.

He provides a first-hand account of what dogfighting in the F-35 looks like to a pilot who has a significant experience with the F-16. His conclusions are worth a read.

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2) Russian Su-33 crashed in the Mediterranean while attempting to land on Kuznetsov aircraft carrier

Dec. 5, 2016

Less than three weeks after losing a MiG-29, it looks like the Russian Navy has lost another aircraft during Admiral Kuznetsov operations: a Su-33 Flanker.

Military sources close to The Aviationist report that a Russian Navy Su-33 Flanker carrier-based multirole aircraft has crashed during flight operations from Admiral Kuznetsov on Saturday, Dec. 3.

According to the report, the combat plane crashed at its second attempt to land on the aircraft carrier in good weather conditions (visibility +10 kilometers, Sea State 4, wind at 12 knots): it seems that it missed the wires and failed to go around* falling short of the bow of the warship.

The pilot successfully ejected and was picked up by a Russian Navy search and rescue helicopter.

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3) F-15E Strike Eagles unable to shoot down the F-35s in 8 dogfights during simulated deployment

Jun. 27, 2016

“0 losses in 8 dogfights against F-15E Red Air”

The U.S. Air Force F-35A fleet continues to work to declare the Lightning II IOC (initial operational capability) scheduled in the August – December timeframe.

Among the activities carried out in the past weeks, a simulated deployment provided important feedbacks about the goal of demonstrating the F-35’s ability to “penetrate areas with developed air defenses, provide close air support to ground troops and be readily deployable to conflict theaters.”

Seven F-35s deployed from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, to  Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, to carry out a series of operational tests which involved local-based 4th Generation F-15E Strike Eagles belonging to the 366th Fighter Wing.

In a Q&A posted on the USAF website, Col. David Chace, the F-35 systems management office chief and lead for F-35 operational requirements at ACC, provided some insights about the activities carried out during the second simulated deployment to Mountain Home (the first was in February this year):

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4) Exclusive: all the details about the air ops and aerial battle over Turkey during the military coup to depose Erdogan

Jul. 18, 2016

F-16s, KC-135Rs, A400Ms: known and unknown details about the night of the Turkey military coup.

Here below is the account of what happened on Jul. 15, when a military takeover was attempted in Turkey. It is based on the information gathered by Turkish defense journalist Arda Mevlutoglu, by analysis of the Mode-S logs and reports that have been published by several media outlets in the aftermath of the coup.

Shortly after 22.00 local time on July 15th, air traffic control (ATC) operator in Akinci 4th Main Jet Base (MJB), an airbase located to the northwest of Ankara, contacted his counterpart at Esenboga Airport ATC. Akinci airbase is the homebase of 141, 142 and 143 Filo (Squadrons) of the Turkish Air Force (TuAF) equipped with F-16Cs.

4MJB operator informed that two local-based F-16s were going to take off, fly at 21-22,000 feet and coordination with Esenboga ATC could not be possible.

Shortly after, two F-16s calsign “Aslan 1” (“Lion 1”) and “Aslan 2” (“Lion 2”) from 141 Squadron took off from 4MJB.

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5) Russia has just deployed its most advanced spyplane to Syria

Feb. 15, 2016

A Russian Air Force Tu-214R is about to land at Latakia, Syria.

The Tu-214R is a Russian ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) aircraft. In other words, a quite advanced spyplane.

As we have already explained here in the past, it is a special mission aircraft equipped with all-weather radar systems and electro optical sensors that produce photo-like imagery of a large parts of the ground: these images are then used to identify and map the position of the enemy forces, even if these are camouflaged or hidden.

The aircraft is known to carry sensor packages to perform ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) and SIGINT (Signal Intelligence) missions: the antennae of the Tu-214R can intercept the signals emitted by the enemy systems (radars, aircraft, radios, combat vehicles, mobile phones etc) so as it can build the EOB (Electronic Order of Battle) of the enemy forces: where the enemy forces are operating, what kind of equipment they are using and, by eavesdropping into their radio/phone communications, what they are doing and what will be their next move.

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Note: the Tu-214R has carried out two deployments in Syria throughout the year, the first one lasting just a couple of weeks and ending on Feb. 29, the second one from Jul. 31 to Dec. 9, 2016.

 

Turkish “Anatolian Eagle 2016” exercise retrospective

Less than two months before the failed coup, the Turkish Air Force hosted its traditional medium-scale high-tech exercise at Konya airbase, in Anatolia.

Held at Konya, in central Anatolia, south of Ankara, Turkey, Exercise Anatolian Eagle, is a very well-known series of exercises hosted by the Turkish Air Force three times a year (with one edition open to allied air forces) and attended each year by several foreign air arms. It is inspired by the U.S. Red Flag and Maple Flag series, the aim of which is to train fighter pilots for the first few days of a modern conflict.

The exercise provides the participating Turkish and foreign nations air forces an interesting opportunity to perform joint combat training in real-world scenarios that include Combined Air Operations (COMAOs) on tactical and strategic targets defended by Aggressors aircraft and Surface to Air Missile (SAM) threats of all types.

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The latest AE took place between May 24 and Jun. 9 and saw the involvement of about 55 Turkish combat planes, including F-16C/Ds from the 132, 141, 151, 152, 161, 162, 182 and 191 Filo (Squadron) and 8 F-4E-2020 Phantoms belonging to the 111 Filo; as well as 6 Tornado (IDS and ECR) of the Italian Air Force, six F-16AM/BM of the 11 Squadron “Arrows” of the Pakistani Air Force, a unit with a multi-role task that serves also as the Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) of the Viper; and 8 Tornado IDSs from the RSAF (Royal Saudi Air Force) 11 Wing.

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The focus of the latest edition of AE was dynamic and time-sensitive targeting, as well as close-air support missions, types of missions that are part of the ATOs (Air Tasking Orders) of most of the real combat operations conducted by all the participating air forces: the TuAF against the Kurdish PKK separatists, the Saudi against Houthi rebels in Yemen and the Pakistani against militants in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, whereas the Italians support Operation Inherent Resolve against ISIS (previously with the Tornado IDSs and currently with AMX ACOLs) although the ItAF jets perform reconnaissance missions only. Interestingly, among the aircraft that the Italians flew to Konya there were also three Tornado ECR, that are highly-specialised aircraft capable to perform SEAD/DEAD (Suppression/Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses) tasks.

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As happened in the previous years, the AE attracted thousands of aircraft spotters and media representatives, eager to take some cool shots of the aircraft (including some rather “exotic” ones) taking part in the exercise. Among them, there was Remo Guidi, who took the photographs you can find in this post.

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It’s not clear what role Konya airbase and some of its officers played in the failed coup on Jul. 15-16. There are still many conflicting reports about the air operations over Turkey in the night of the attempted military takeover. For sure, some TuAF officers, including the base operations commander, were arrested on Jul. 17 under suspiction of being involved in the coup attempt.

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Konya is an important base, the headquarters of the Anatolian Eagle Training Center Command, that plans, organizes and conducts the AE drills and has the important role of testing and validating TuAF’s aircraft and units’ ability and preparedness for combat, establishing a background knowledge to achieve the military aims at war in the shortest time and with minimum effort. In simple words, Konya is where tactics are developed and put to test.  Moreover, it hosts the 131 Filo, the squadron that operates the E-7T (B737AEW&C); 132 Filo that flies the F-16C/D Block 50; 135 Filo, equipped with AS532AL, CN235M-100 and UH-1H helicopters and it is the homebase of the Turkish Stars, the TuAF display team.

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Image credit: Remo Guidi

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