© Mark Empson | Azerbaijan Air Force | Sukhoi SU-25's

Held in Konya, central Türkiye, since 2001, Anatolian Eagle exercises have always been well attended, both by participating nations from around the world and aviation enthusiasts alike. 2023’s edition was no exception with visiting participants including Azerbaijan and Pakistan drawing in plenty of enthusiasts to capture the action. This year’s access to the exercise was spread across one media day and two spotter’s days from May 8th – May 10th and, as always, excellently organised by the Turkish Air Force public affairs team.  

Situated at Konya International Airport, Anatolian Eagle Training Centre is one of four tactical training centres worldwide and the only facility of its kind located in Europe. The centre itself offers dedicated tactical air combat training facilities designed to test and train participating personnel in all areas of operations. The training centre was established with 3 key aims in mind; 1) reduce the loss of inexperienced fighter pilots, 2) decrease the loss of aircraft in operations and 3) to exchange experience and interoperability. Since the initial exercise in 2001 there have been 49 different exercises taken place with circa 3100 aircraft attending from fifteen different countries. These exercises have clocked up over 25,000 sorties between them totalling just over 40,650 flight hours. The training centre also boasts an impressive 50,000 square mile training area situated close to the airport which also includes a maritime training area.   

The Anatolian Eagle exercises are comprised of three main elements, a White HQ, a Blue Force undertaking the training and a Red Force acting as the defender. The White HQ are responsible for monitoring, command & scenario development; as well as assessing and analysing each training sortie. The Blue Force element, plan and execute weapons tactics to attack and survive against red air and ground threats. The Blue Force is comprised of both Turkish and international participants. NATO E-3 Sentry and Turkish 131 Filo E-7T aircraft also form part of this Blue Force with their objective to provide a good initial picture, Electronic Order of Battle updates and to assist the Blue Force fighters in executing their missions. Finally, the Red Force objective is to apply aggressor / enemy force tactics, whilst they defend their red force targets and punish any Blue Force mistakes. Konya based 132 Filo provided the Red Force aircraft, with the “Daggers” being the Turkish Air Force’s Weapons and Tactics Squadron. The primary objectives for this exercise were Composite Air Operations (COMAO), Time sensitive targeting, Dynamic targeting, High Value Airborne Asset protection and Anti-Surface operations. This exercise had a desired success rate of 80% for air to ground missions and a loss rate lower than 20% for the Blue Force for air to air operations. 

2023 saw attendance of twenty-two visiting aircraft from five different international participants. This comprised of recent regular attendees, the Azerbaijani Air Force, providing a pair of Su-25 Frogfoots, both of which were sporting a large number of mission marks beneath the cockpit from the recent engagements with Armenia. Pakistan also returned, attending with five Block 52 F-16C’s and D’s from 5 Squadron “Falcons”. Newer F-16s were present in the form of the United Arab Emirates “Desert Falcons”. The four UAE Block 60  F-16E’/F’s wearing a three-tone camouflage provided a look into the modern capabilities of the Block 60 F-16, with sorties flown with inert AGM-88 HARMs and AGM-65 Mavericks under the wings. The Qatar Emiri Air Force attended with five newly acquired Eurofighter Typhoons and the final international fighter participation was provided by the Royal Air Force who participated with four Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4s. These aircraft operated from Cyprus with Voyager air-to-air refuelling (AAR) tanker support. As previously mentioned, Airborne command and control from one of NATO’s E-3A’s complemented the fighters. 

Unsurprisingly Türkiye offered the biggest form of participation with forty-two different aircraft in attendance from twelve different units. The stars amongst the Turkish participants for many visitors were the four F-4E-2020 Phantoms from 111 Filo. The upgraded “Terminator 2020” Phantoms based out of Eskisehir AB have been extensively modernised and still provide a potent Air-to-Ground platform for the Turkish Air Force. F-16s from 132,151,161,181 and 191 Filos provided the remainder of the Turkish fighter complement, all adorned in striking squadron tail markings. As previously mentioned, Airborne command and control from 131 Filo’s E-7T complemented the Turkish fighter participation. There were also a number of personnel from other countries observing the exercise, including Libya, Georgia and Morocco.  

During the exercise there were also a number of surprise items captured away from the training sorties. The highlight being, the surprise of a third Azerbaijani Air Force Su-25 carrying out a live weapons trial. The aircraft (27 Blue) departed carrying two Turkish manufactured Tübitak Sage KGK wing guidance kits, designed for Mk82/83 bombs to significantly increase the munitions range. Support for this trial also offered the opportunity to see one of the newly indigenously upgraded F-16Cs, part of Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) project Özgür. The aircraft supported the trial as a chase plane and was seen wearing a digital camouflage paint scheme which went down well with the photographers in attendance. Finally, a UC-12 from the United States Air Force also paid a visit with the particular aircraft having quite the back story. UC-12 76-3239 was originally stationed in South Africa before it was found to have a cut out panel for cameras with it implied by local authorities that the aircraft had been used for spying! Since then, the aircraft has been allocated a new serial and is now based in Ankara in support of the US Embassy.  

Being able to get up close and personal with the action, whilst being flanked by mountains that provide plenty of photogenic backdrops, it’s easy to see why Anatolian Eagle exercises are always a popular choice for aviation media and enthusiasts to attend. Crucially though it also offers realistic, high value training to participating nations and as a result, I’m sure this will see the exercise permanently on the training agenda of many nations for many years to come. The Author’s would like to extend his thanks to the Turkish Air Force Public affairs officer and Lt Col. Hakan Girgіn, AETC for their help and support before and during the event well as Nick Thompson & Jimmi Richmond-Cole for their help towards the content and images.  

You can find out more about the work carried at Anatolian Eagle here: https://www.anadolukartali.tsk.tr/Portal/Page/AnadoluKartaliEN

Browse our article database here: https://www.aeroresource.co.uk/articles/