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In 1998, the Turkish Armed Forces announced a program of modernization worth US$160 billion over a twenty-year period in various projects. $45 billion was earmarked to go to the overhaul of the Turkish Air Force, and includes commissioning new combat aircraft (consisting of TAI TFX and Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II) and helicopters (consisting of heavy lift, attack, medium lift and light general purpose helicopters).
After the Armistice of Mudros and the occupation of the Ottoman Empire by the Allies in 1919, some Turkish aviators tried to build new units in Istanbul, ?zmir, Konya, Elaz and Diyarbak?r with planes left over from World War I and tried to bring together flight personnel. During the Turkish War of Independence, Turkish pilots joined the Konya Air Station (Konya Hava ?stasyonu). With the formation of the Grand National Assembly (GNA) by Mustafa Kemal and his colleagues on April 23, 1920, in Ankara, and the reorganization of the army, the Branch of Air Forces (Kuva-y? Havaiye ?ubesi) was established under the Office of War (Harbiye Dairesi) of the GNA. A few damaged aircraft belonging to the GNA were repaired, and afterwards used in combat.
In July 1922, it was reorganized as the Inspectorate of Air Forces (Kuva-y? Havaiye Müfetti?li?i) at Konya.
Inspectorate of Air Forces
After the establishment of the Republic of Turkey on 29 October 1923, plans were made to form a modern air force. Originally consisting of three normal and one naval aviation units, and an air school, the number of units was increased to 10 normal and three naval aviation units. Starting in 1924, personnel were sent abroad for flight education. In 1925, the Air School was re-established in Eski?ehir and its first students graduated that same year. The Inspectorate of Air Forces was reorganized as the Undersecretariat of the Ministry of Defense in 1928 and new schools were found for non-pilot personnel. Some personnel were sent to the United Kingdom and France for training; others were sent to the United States and Italy in 1930.
From 1932, the air regiments were considered to be a separate combat arm and started training its own personnel. Turkish aviators wore blue uniforms from 1933.
The Air Machinist School (Hava Makinist Okulu) was reorganized as Aircraft Maintenance School (Hava Uçak Bak?m Okulu) on 2 January 1950 to unite schools responsible for training non-pilot Air Force personnel. In 1950 it also was decided to upgrade the Air Force fleet through the inclusion of jets. Eight pilots were sent to the United States for jet pilot training. They graduated in 1951 and started training jet pilots in the Turkish Air Force. In the same year, the 9th Fighter Wing (9uncu Ana Jet Üssü) was founded in Bal?kesir as Turkey's first fighter wing; the 191st, 192nd, and 193rd squadrons being the first ones which were established. Further training in the United States followed, usually involving jet manufacturers. In 1951 the Air Force Academy was formed with integrating some air schools in Eski?ehir and its first academic year started on 1 October 1951. In 1956 the Hava E?itim Kolordu Komutanl (Air Education Corps Command) was founded and all education was united under this command. The command was renamed as Hava E?itim Komutanl (Air Education Command) in 1957.
Upon Turkey's membership to NATO in 1952, the process of modernization was accelerated. In 1962 the Taktik Hava Kuvveti (Tactical Air Force) was founded by upgrading the Hava Tümeni (Air Division) units to corps-level organizations. In 1974 the Air Force was employed in the Cyprus War. With the arrival of 3rd generation fighter jets in 1980, the Air Force was reorganized.
Turkey is one of five NATO member states which are part of the nuclear sharing policy of the alliance, together with Belgium, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands. A total of 90 B61 nuclear bombs are hosted at the Incirlik Air Base, 40 of which are allocated for use by the Turkish Air Force in case of a nuclear conflict, but their use requires the approval of NATO. As of 2010[update], the United States is considering withdrawing these nuclear bombs from Turkey, and from several other foreign locations in Europe.
Aftermath of 2016 coup attempt
In the aftermath of the 2016 Turkish coup attempt, thousands of military officers were dismissed, with many arrested and jailed. As Air Force pilots had played a major role in the coup attempt (the headquarters of the coup attempt was at the Akinci base near the capital Ankara), more than 350 F-16 pilots were also jailed, leaving the Air Force with more airplanes than pilots. In response, the Turkish government has sought to compel retired pilots to return to the military and to strengthen its air defence systems. A former head of the Air Force was dismissed, as well as 42% of Air Force generals and several base commanders, including the commander of the important Incirlik Air Base.
Sabiha Gökçen was the first Turkish female combat pilot. She joined the Turkish Air Force in 1936 and in 1937 took part in the military operation to put down the Dersim Revolt, thus becoming the world's first female air force pilot with battle experience. Throughout her career in the Turkish Air Force, which lasted until 1964, Gökçen flew 22 different types of aircraft for more than 8000 hours, 32 of which were active combat and bombardment missions. She was selected as the only female pilot for the poster of "The 20 Greatest Aviators in History" published by the United States Air Force in 1996.
Turkey provided 18 F-16s for the NATO campaign against Serbia during Operation Allied Force in 1999. Of these, 11 TAI-built F-16s were stationed at the NATO base in Aviano, Italy, while the other 7 were based in Ankara, Turkey. All were equipped with laser-guided bombs using the LANTIRN night vision system. Turkish jets had previously patrolled Balkan airspace, providing protection for attacking aircraft. During this allied air campaign, TAI-built F-16s set a world CAP record by patrolling for 9 hours and 22 minutes above the Balkan theatre. Normally, CAP missions last between 3 and 4 hours.
On 8 October 1996 - 7 months after the escalation of the dispute with Turkey over the Imia/Kardak islands, a Greek Mirage 2000 fired an R.550 Magic II missile and shot down a Turkish F-16D over the Aegean Sea. The Turkish pilot died, while the co-pilot ejected and was rescued by Greek forces. In August 2012, after the downing of a RF-4E on the Syrian Coast, Turkish Defence Minister ?smet Y?lmaz confirmed that the Turkish F-16D was shot down by a Greek Mirage 2000 with an R.550 Magic II in 1996 after reportedly violating Greek airspace near Chios island. Greece denies that the F-16 was shot down. Both Mirage 2000 pilots reported that the F-16 caught fire and they saw one parachute.
In December 2007, the Turkish Air Force initiated Operation Northern Iraq, which continued until the end of February 2008, eventually becoming a part of Operation Sun. At the initial phase of this operation, on December 16, 2007, the TuAF used the AGM-65 Maverick and AGM-142 Popeye/Have Nap during a night bombardment for the first time.
On 22 June 2012, a Turkish RF-4E Phantom II reconnaissance aircraft was lost, reportedly due to Syrian anti-aircraft fire. The incident happened over the Mediterranean Sea, close to the town of Ras al-Bassit.
On September 16, 2013, Turkish jets shot down a Syrian Mi-17 helicopter on the Syrian-Turkish border.
On 23 March 2014, Turkish fighter jets shot down a Syrian MiG-23. The Syrian Arab Republic claims that its aircraft was in Syrian airspace on a mission to attack rebel held areas in the city of Latakia when it was shot down by Turkey in an act of "blatant aggression." The Syrian pilot successfully ejected from the aircraft. Turkish Prime Minister Erdo?an stated that Turkish F-16s shot down the aircraft for violating Turkish airspace and said that the Turkish "response will be heavy if you violate our airspace."
On 24 November 2015, a Turkish F-16 shot down a Russian Su-24 Fencer strike aircraft which, according to Turkish authorities, had violated its airspace. The Russian Government contests those claims, stating that the aircraft never entered Turkish airspace. One Russian pilot was killed, the other rescued in a Russian special forces operation.
Following a failed coup attempt in 2016 and subsequent purges, more than 300 pilots were dismissed from the air force, including the pilot that shot down the Su-24 Fencer a year earlier. This resulted in the TAF struggling to keep its F-16 fleet combat ready. The Turkish government started looking overseas to make up the shortfall.
Fighter and reconnaissance aircraft
In 1984 Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) was established and Turkey started to produce fighter aircraft locally under license, including a total of 232 F-16 Fighting Falcon (Block 30/40/50) aircraft for the air force. The air force had previously received 8 F-16s that were purchased directly from the United States, bringing the total number of F-16s received by the air force to 240. TAI is currently building 30 new F-16 Block 50+ aircraft for the TuAF and is applying a CCIP upgrade on the existing fleet of Block 30/40/50 F-16s, which will bring all of them to the Block 50+ standard. Dozens of TAI-built F-16s were also exported to other countries, particularly in the Middle East. A total of 46 TAI-built F-16s have been exported to the Egyptian Air Force under the Peace Vector IV Program (1993-1995), making it TAI's second-largest F-16 customer after the Turkish Air Force. Turkey is one of only five countries in the world which locally produce the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
A total of four Boeing 737 AEW&C Peace Eagle (Turkish: Bar Kartal?) aircraft (together with ground support systems) were ordered by the Turkish Air Force, with an option for two more aircraft. Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) is the primary subcontractor for the Peace Eagle parts production, aircraft modification, assembly and tests. Another subcontractor, HAVELSAN, is responsible for system analysis and software support.
Signed on 23 July 2003, the contract to Boeing valued at US$1.385 billion, which was later reduced by US$59 million because some of the requirements were not met. The down payment to Boeing amounted to US$637 million. The project consists of the delivery of 737-700 airframes, ground radars and control systems, ground control segments for mission crew training, mission support and maintenance support.
Peace Eagle 1 is modified and tested by Boeing Integrated Defense Systems in Seattle, Washington, USA. Peace Eagle 2, 3 and 4 are modified and tested at the facilities of TAI in Ankara, Turkey, with the participation of Boeing and a number of Turkish companies. As of 2006, the four Peace Eagle airplanes were scheduled to be delivered in 2008. As of mid-2007, systems integration was ongoing and airworthiness certification works continued. In September 2007, Boeing completed the first test flight of Turkey's AEW&C 737.
On 4 June 2008, it was announced that Turkish Aerospace Industries completed the first in-country modification of a Boeing 737-700 into an airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) platform for Turkey's Peace Eagle program.
The first Peace Eagle aircraft, named Kuzey (meaning North) was formally accepted into Turkish Air Force inventory on 21 February 2014. The remaining three aircraft will be named Güney (South), Do?u (East) and Bat? (West).
The six-year delay was a result of Boeing experiencing difficulties while developing some features required by the Turkish Air Force. Turkey demanded compensation of US$183 million from Boeing for the delay. The payment of the penalty is requested in the form of increased start-up support period from an initially planned two years to five years, as well as three years of software maintenance service and around US$32 million in spare parts.
In 1994 the Turkish Air Force signed a deal to lease two and purchase seven Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker aerial refueling tanker aircraft. Following the arrival of all seven purchased aircraft, the two leased KC-135Rs were returned to the United States. All seven KC-135R Stratotanker aircraft of the Turkish Air Force have received the Pacer CRAG (Compass, Radar And GPS) upgrade. The KC-135R-CRAG Stratotanker aerial refueling tanker aircraft of the Turkish Air Force are operated by the 101st Squadron, stationed at the Incirlik Air Base.
Turkey is a partner nation in the Airbus A400M Atlas production program. The Turkish Air Force has ordered a total of ten A400M Atlas aircraft. The first two A400M Atlas were delivered to the Turkish Air Force in 2014. All A400M Atlas deliveries to the Turkish Air Force are scheduled to be completed by 2018.Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) produces several components of the A400M Atlas, including the middle-front fuselage, emergency exit doors, rear fuselage upper panels, rear upper escape doors, ailerons and spoilers; which are sent to the Airbus Military factory in Spain for assembly.
Although the Airbus A400M Atlas is essentially a heavy tactical lift aircraft, it can also be transformed into an aerial refueling tanker aircraft at short notice.
Turkish Air Force operate an intelligence satellite named Göktürk-2, with plans to commission more in years ahead. These include a 0.8m resolution reconnaissance satellite (Project Göktürk-1) for use by the Turkish Armed Forces and a 2m resolution reconnaissance satellite (Project Göktürk-2) for use by the National Intelligence Organization. The production of Göktürk-2 is completed by the Turkish Aerospace Industries, while Göktürk-1 is still in the production stage. Some electro-optical parts that are required for the Göktürk-1 (0.8m resolution) satellite were beyond TAI's technological know-how, thus a foreign partner was sought. The official bidders for the project were EADS Astrium (U.K.), OHB-System (Germany) and Telespazio (Italy); and the contract was won by Telespazio of Italy.
For a long period of time the combat units of the Turkish Air Force were organized into a 1st Air Force (deployed in the western part of the country and headquartered in Eski?ehir) and a 2nd Air Force (deployed in the eastern part of the country and headquartered in Diyarbak?r). On August 5, 2014 the two have been fused into the newly formed Combatant Air Force and Air Defence Command with headquarters in Eski?ehir. After the 2016 Turkish coup d'état attempt and because of its involvement in it the 4th Main Jet Air Base Command near Ankara has been disbanded in disgrace and its F-16 dispersed to other bases.
AIR FORCE COMMAND HQ (Hava Kuvvetleri Komutanl Karargâh?) (Ankara)
112th Squadron "Devil" (112. Filo "?eytan") (temporarily disbanded in anticipation of F-35As)
113th Squadron "Gazelle" (113. Filo "Ceylan") - F-16C/D Block 50/50+ Fighting Falcon (SNIPER and DB.110 recon pods-specialised. The former 113th Squadron "Light" ("Ik") flying RF-4E has been disbanded in 2014, but the disbandment of the 4th Main Jet Base in Ankara-Ak?nc? has resulted in the relocation and rebadging of its reconnaissance 142nd Squadron "Gazelle" (142. Filo Ceylan) to Eski?ehir)
401st Test Squadron (401. Test Filosu) - F-16C/D Block 30/40, F-4E 2020 (weapons testing and evaluation squadron, took over this role from the 132nd Squadron)
201st Liaison and SAR Squadron "Attack" (201. ?rtibat ve Arama-Kurtarma Filosu "Atak") - CN-235M-100, AS-532UL Mk.1
3rd Main Jet Base Command (3. Ana Jet Üs Komutanl) (Konya)
132nd Squadron "Dagger" (132. Filo "Hançer") - F-16C/D Block 50 Fighting Falcon (in 2014 the unit has been designated as a weapons and tactics training squadron. However, after the 2016 restructuring of the TuAF units this might has changed, as the Turkish DHA news agency has reported, that 12 F-16s of the squadron have participated in bombing missions in Northern Syria as part of Operation Olive Branch in January 2018.)
152nd Squadron "Raider" (152. Filo "Ak?nc?") - F-16C/D Block 50 Fighting Falcon (relocated to Incirlik Air Base to free facilities at Merzifon for the relocation of 4th Main Jet Base's 143rd Squadron from Ankara-Ak?nc?, but retained as part of 5th Main Jet Base Command)
153rd Squadron "Forefather" (153. Filo "Öncel") - F-16C/D Block 30/40 Fighting Falcon (F-16 OCU, the former 4th Main Jet Base's (in Ankara-Ak?nc?) 143rd Squadron in the OCU role, relocated to Merzifon and rebadged as the 153rd.)
5th Main Jet Base Command SAR Flight "Angel" (5. Ana Jet Üs Komutanl Arama-Kurtarma Kolu "Melek") - AS-532UL Mk.1+
6th Main Jet Base Command (6. Ana Jet Üs Komutanl) (Band?rma)
On July 11, 2002 Turkey became a Level 3 partner of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) development program, and on January 25, 2007, Turkey officially joined the production phase of the JSF program, agreeing to initially purchase 116 F-35A Lightning II aircraft.
On 28 March 2013, the Turkish Secretary of the Defence Industry of the Ministry of National Defence of Turkey Murat Bayar announced intentions to replace the F-16 fighter with domestically produced fighters by 2023.
HAVELSAN of Turkey and Boeing of the United States are in the process of developing a next generation, high-altitude ballistic missile defence shield. It is envisaged that the system will be used by the U.S., Turkey and other NATO member states.
In June 2018 the US Senate passed a defense spending bill that now prevents the Turkish Air Force from obtaining the F-35 stealth fighter. Tensions between the US and Turkey are to blame for the denied contract, and now may put Turkey in a position to become the first customer for Russia's Su-57.
^1949 Temmuzunda Türk Silâhl? Kuvvetleri yeniden örgütlendirilerek, Genelkurmay Ba?kanlna ba?l? Kara, Deniz, Hava Kuvvetleri kuruldu., Genelkurmay Ba?kanl, Türk Tarihi, Silahl? Kuvvetleri ve Atatürkçülük, Genelkurmay Ba?kanl, 1973, p. 65.(in Turkish)