Anatolian Eagle 2016

The Turkish Air Force again in 2016 hosted Anatolian Eagle (AE). This exercise continues to attract foreign air arms, who clearly value this opportunity to assess their capabilities and readiness for an air war.

Anatolian Eagle is based on the USA’s famous Red Flag exercises (RF). RF was initially designed because of unacceptable performance by U.S. Air Force pilots and Weapon Systems Officers (WSO’s) in air combat during the ‘Vietnam War. It was shown through analysis that a pilot’s chances of survival in combat dramatically increased after he had completed 10 combat missions. Therefore in 1975, RF was created to offer USAF pilots and WSO’s the opportunity to fly 10 realistically simulated combat missions. These could be flown in a safe training environment and the results could be measured. The Turkish Air Force starting attending Red Flag (RF) at Nellis AFB, initially as observers in 1983. They sent a crew of 6 people consisting of 4 pilots and 2 WSOs and flew 2 sorties in USAF aircraft. This gave a valuable insight to these advanced training techniques.

The Turkish Air Force gained experience of multinational air operations in 1995, participating in ‘Operation Deliberate Force’. The NATO operation over Bosnia and Herzegovina. Later in 1997 they first deployed aircraft to RF at Nellis AFB , sending six F-16’s and 57 personnel. In 1999 the Turkish Air Force again supplied aircraft for a NATO operation, this time ‘Operation Allied Force’ and saw action against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia during the Kosovo War. After this build up of experience and a second participation in RF in 2000, the Turkish Air Force Command directed preparations for an internally run similar exercise. This first ‘Anatolian Eagle’ was run in June 2001 with participation from the Turkish, American and Israeli Air Forces. This was hosted by 3rd Main Jet Base Command at Konya. Konya (Turkey’s city of Whirling Dervishes) is located 162 miles South of Ankara. It is in the middle of the Anatolian steppe and use to be one of the most important trading centres on the Silk Road.

AE exercises simulate at different difficulty levels (to suit training) a wartime environment. It is planned, monitored and controlled by a ‘White’ headquarters force. The aim of the monitoring is to test the knowledge and abilities of all participants, to raise the level of the training to suit. It will also highlight any deficiencies. During exercise sorties, the position and flight information of all participating aircraft is transferred via an Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation (ACMI) system to a Command Control Centre (CCC). Simulated missile shots, radar tracks from AWACS aircraft and land based radars are also transferred to the CCC. Locking and shooting images of SAM and anti aircraft systems can also be observed. All of this can be observed in real time. It is also used extensively as a debrief tool.

A ‘Blue’ team (primarily the ‘people being trained’) will be tasked to attack targets in an area. This area is defended by a ‘Red’ team (described as a ‘training aid for the blue fighters’), using radar, surface-to-air missile systems and aircraft. The ‘Red team’ will carry out ‘Red’ tactics and punish ‘Blue’ mistakes. The Red team are located in a separate ‘Red building’ at Konya which is off limits to the ‘Blue’ forces and conversely ‘Red forces’ cannot enter ‘Blue’ areas. The realistic exercise flying area is 180 nautical miles North to South and 215 nautical miles East to West. The main air space (called the Salt area) is from ground level to 50,000 feet.

Therefore large diverse aircraft packages can safely carry out Combined Air Operations (COMAO) missions. With a varied array of aircraft and weapons systems within these COMAO’s, a series of missions are flown. These include; Offensive Counter Air, both air and ground (OCA-A, OCA-G), Suppression of Enemy Air Defences (SEAD), Destruction of Enemy Air Defences (DEAD), Reconnaissance (RECCE), High Value Air Asset both offensive and defensive roles (HVAA), Anti-surface warfare (ASuW-Maritime), Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR), Time Sensitive Target (TST), Combat Patrol (CP) and Combat Air Support (CAS).

AE is not just for aircrew though, ground defences are deployed to range areas along with Ground Controlled Interception (GCI). Threat systems included; SA-6 ‘Gainful’, SA-8 ‘Gecko’, SA-11 A/B ‘Gadfly’, ZSU 23-4 ‘Gundish’, Skyguard/Sparrow, Hawk and MTS. Radar Controllers therefore also receive valuable training.

Participation from foreign Air Forces with their associated different types of aircraft and weapon systems helps with Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT). To date Anatolian Eagle has attracted participation from 14 countries and NATO; Belgium, France (2 visits), Germany (2 visits), Netherlands (2 visits), Israel (5 visits), Italy (5 visits), Jordan (6 visits), Qatar, Pakistan (7 visits), UAE (6 visits), UK (4 visits), USA (14 visits), Spain (4 visits), and Saudi Arabia (4 visits). By 2015, AE had attracted 2674 aircraft flying a total of 22,869 sorties.

This exercise (AE-2016/2) saw foreign participation from the Italian Air Force with six Tornado’s. These were split equally from 6 Stormo at Ghedi and from 50 Stormo from Piacenza. A further eight Tornado’s were supplied by 11 Wing, Royal Saudi Arabian Air Force based at Dhahran.The Royal Netherlands Air Force sent a KDC-10 from 334 Sqn at Eindhoven. The Pakistan Air Force sent six F-16s from 11 Squadron at Mushaf and NATO supplied a E-3A to support with Airborne Early Warning.

The host nation was as expected well represented. Konya’s based units supplied varied assets. A Boeing E-7T from 131 Squadron (Ejder or Dragon) for Command and Control. 135 Squadron (Ates or Fire) supplied helicopter support with both AS532’s and UH-1H’s. 132 Squadron (Hançer or Dagger) with F-16’s. Further Turkish F-16’s came from units at Balikesir, Bandirma, Diyarbakir and Merzifon.

111 Squadron (Panter or Panther) at Eskisehir brought eight Phantoms. Combat Search and Rescue was performed by a 201 Squadron (Atak or Audacious) CN235 from Eskisehir and a 222 Squadron (Alev or Flame) C-130 from Kaysei/Erkilet. Turkish tanker support for both ‘Blue’ and ‘Red’ forces was present with a 101 Squadron (Asena) (KC-135 from Incirlik.

The vision of AE Command is ” to be the most prestigious and preferred Tactical Training Center in the world”. With excellent facilities at Konya, a realistic operational environment and largely good flying weather, participating countries are increasingly finding that AE meets their training objectives.

We would like to thank Col. Mustafa Erturk and his team for making this article possible.