The annual international Anatolian Eagle exercise held at Turkey’s Konya air base took place in early/mid June against a backdrop of continued fighting against ISIL in Syria and Iraq, the conflict in Yemen between Shiite Houthi rebels and pro-government forces along with the constant unease in Libya. With so much uncertainly so close to Turkey’s doorstep the need to train and cooperate with NATO and its Middle East allies has never been more important.
The first Anatolian Eagle exercise was held in 2001 after the need for their own training facility arose with modernisation of the Turkish Air Forces fighter fleet. After the conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo, the Turkish Air Force gained experience and reached a performance level such that they could host their own exercises and provide training for other allied air forces. With Red Flag being the inspiration and basis for the Anatolian Eagle exercises, it is no wonder the facilities on base, such as the dining hall and ops buildings, are at the same level as the Red Flag or Maple Flag exercises. The Anatolian Eagle exercises are held three times a year of which two are classed as national exercises whilst during the third the Turkish Air Force invites Allied Air forces to give them the opportunity to join the exercise at Konya Air Base.
Anatolian Eagle can be compared with Red Flag – a simulated wartime environment which increases with difficulty using the normal building block approach, the complexity of each package growing over the two-week training period with ‘package lead’ being rotated through all participating nations and units. This gives the aircrews the best training to prepare them for real world conflict. The scenarios have both blue and red forces within the Combined Air Operations (COMAO).
Some of the key aims of Anatolian Eagle were outlined during the exercise and include:
- To systematically test and evaluate the fighters’ combat readiness statuses
- Manage tactical training progress
- Build a background and knowledge base in order to research tactical aeronautics
- Conduct research to allow fighter elements of the Turkish Air Force Command to reach the military goals in the shortest time and with minimum resource and effort
- Support the definition of operational requirements, supply, and research and development activities
- Allocate training environment in order to fulfil the requirements of the Turkish Air Force Command
- Support tests of existing/developed/future weapon/aircraft systems
The participants of Anatolian Eagle have access to a training environment within a 300km by 400km area located between Konya and Ankara which keeps transit time to a minimum. Within this training area are three air-to-ground ranges at Tersakan, Koc and Karapmar containing surface-to-air threats from SA-6, SA-8, SA-11 and ZSU 23-4 systems providing a realistic environment for the scenarios to be played out against. The Konya Air Base has all the facilities you would expect of a world class training facility, but perhaps its best feature is its geographic location.
During the mission all flight information is transmitted back to the Command and control centre via ACMI (Air Combat Manoeuvring Instrumentation) in real time. NATO E-3A AWACS and Turkish Air Force Boeing 737 AEW&C Peace Eagle aircraft provide data links to other aircraft passing them information such as targets, location of friendly forces in the area and to provide tactical information to defeat enemy forces. After the mission, the aircrews from both Blue and Red forces debrief in the main briefing room to gather lessons learnt in order to improve their skills.
Foreign participation for Anatolian Eagle 15-2 included Boeing E-3A AWACS aircraft from the NATO Airborne Early Warning Force (NAEWF) normally based at Geilenkirchen, Germany but forward deployed at Konya.
With most participants coming from southern NATO nations and the Middle East, Anatolian Eagle has always been guaranteed to attract regionally important air arms, however with the recent conflict in Yemen between Shiite Houthi rebels and pro-government forces the Saudi led coalition has been involved with an airstrike campaign the against the rebels along with the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan, Egypt, and Pakistan and as such only the Pakistani Air Force were able to attend.
The Pakistani Air Force attended with four F-16BMs and two F-16As from the 9th Squadron (Griffins) based at Mushaf Air Base. Transport was provided by three C-130Es from 6 Squadron (Entelopes) which is based at Nur Khan (OPRN) Islamabad International Airport.
The Royal Air Force brought along six Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4s and a composite team of 20 pilots from 11 Squadron based at RAF Coningsby along with 153 ground support staff including engineers and communications specialists. The United States Air Force brought twelve McDonnell Douglas F-15Cs from the 493rd Fighter Squadron based at RAF Lakenheath with the final foreign contingent provided by the Spanish Air Force who attended with six McDonnell Douglas EF-18A(M) Hornets from ALA15 based at Zaragoza.
The home team, the Turkish Air Force ( Türk Hava Kuvvetleri – THvK), included elements drawn from the following frontline fighter units: 132 Filo “Dagger (Hançer)”, 141 Filo “Kurt (Wolf)”, 143 Filo “Oncel”, 151 Filo “Bronze (Tunc)”, 152 Filo “Raider (Akinci)”, 161 Filo “Bat (Yarasa)”, 162 Filo “Harpoon (Zipkin)”, 182 Filo “Hawk (Atmaca)”, 191 Filo “Cobra (Kobra)”, 192 Filo “Tiger (Kaplan)” all operating various versions of the Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon.
The Turkish Air Force F-16s were drawn from across their large fleet of Block 30, 40, 50 and 50+ aircraft with a number of different squadron markings on display. The most noticeable of the F-16s were the Block 50+ aircraft fitted with conformal fuel tanks and the twin-seat D version which has the large dorsal spine. These are the newest additions produced locally by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) under Peace Onyx IV, with deliveries completed in 2012.
McDonnell Douglas F-4E 2020 Terminators flown by crews from 111 Filo “Panther (Panter)” and 171 Filo “Pirates (Korsan)”.
The upgraded F-4E-2020 is capable of deploying a number of modern munitions including laser-guided bombs and AGM-65 Maverick missiles. It is still a formidable platform despite being significantly less agile than more modern types and the addition of Rafael’s Litening III advanced targeting pod increases its effectiveness. During the exercise a few of the F4-Es were equipped with the AGM-142 Popeye missile. Interestingly though, the F-4s also flew with the indigenous TÜBITAK-SAGE SOM cruise missile in this exercise unlike in AE 2014-2.
During the exercise two missions were flown every day (Eagle 1 and 2) with one morning wave and an afternoon wave, each with up to 60 aircraft involved in the exercise. Throughout the missions the Turkish Air Force provided air refueling and also tactical transport with C-130 Hercules and CASA 235s. The resident search and rescue flight, 135 Filo, with its Eurocopter AS532UL Cougar helicopters, was not actively engaged in the exercise but remained on CSAR standby throughout the period.
In total the exercise involved some 1350 international personnel who gained experience in a high-impact, mind-concentrating environment, exercising in the relatively uncluttered air space offered by the range coordinators at Konya. The freedom afforded at this central Turkish location enabled package commanders to follow the ‘train as you fight’ doctrine that normal everyday training perhaps cannot provide. By the end of the exercise some 1022 missions had been flown by the participating aircraft and crews.
The value of exercises like Anatolian Eagle cannot be overstated. Turkey’s location, on the frontier of Europe and Asia, makes it easily accessible to participants from both continents. Excellent facilities like those offered by Red Flag in the United States or Maple Flag in Canada with their sophisticated high threat-based scenarios are an option but in these times of dwindling defence budgets it is easy to see how Turkey and its Anatolian Eagle exercise might be attractive to nation that want excellent training in clear airspace at a fraction of the cost of deploying to North America.
Anatolian Eagle 2015-1 ran from the 8th June 2015 through to the 19th June 2015. Below is a list of aircraft and corresponding units that took part in the exercise:
|Boeing E-3A AWACS||E-3A Component||Germany (NATO)|
|Airbus A310||Flugbereitschaft des Bundesministeriums der Verteidigung (FBS BMVg)||Germany|
|General Dynamics F-16A & F-16BM||9 Squadron (Griffins)||Pakistan|
|McDonnell Douglas EF-18A(M) Hornet||152 Esc.||Spain|
|McDonnell Douglas F-15C/D Eagle||493rd FS (Reapers)||United States|
|Eurofighter EF-2000 Typhoon FGR4||11 Squadron||United Kingdom|
|McDonnell Douglas F-4E 2020 Terminator||111, 171 Filo||Turkey|
|Lockheed Martin (TUSAS) F-16||132, 141, 142, 143, 151, 152, 161, 162, 181, 182, 191, 192 Filo||Turkey|
|B737 AEW&C Peace Eagle||131 Filo||Turkey|
AeroResource would like to extend its sincere thanks to the Turkish Air Force, the Public Affairs Office and all the staff at the Konya Air Base for their great hospitality.