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Turkey: Air Force
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > Armed Forces > Air Force

AIR FORCE


The Turkish air force is the youngest of the three branches of the armed services. Founded in 1911, it saw action in the Balkan Wars and World War I, as well as the War of Independence. The first Turkish pilots were trained in France. The air force has a high priority in Turkey's strategic planning because control of the air would be indispensable for successful defense against a ground attack by well-equipped forces. Moreover, reinforcement and supply of Turkish ground forces by Turkey's NATO allies would not be feasible without control of the air. The air force role in interdicting an invasion force would be to provide close support of ground troops in tactical defensive actions and to airlift troops and supplies. Upon declaration of a NATO reinforced alert, the Turkish air force would be committed to action as part of NATO's Sixth Allied Tactical Air Force (SIXATAF) headquartered at Izmir.

In late 1994, the air force was staffed by about 56,800 officers and enlisted personnel. It is organized around two basic combat elements operating east and west of the thirty-fifth meridian of longitude. The First Tactical Air Force has its headquarters at Eskisehir Air Base in western Turkey. It defends the Turkish straits and provides air cover in the First Army's area of operations. The Second Tactical Air Force, commanded from its headquarters at Diyarbakir in eastern Turkey, is charged with defending the Third Army and part of the Second Army. Separate air training and logistics commands with their own aircraft squadrons are headquartered at Ankara. The air transport units are assigned directly to specific air force commands. Air force headquarters is located at Ankara; the air force commander in 1994 was General Halis Burhan.

The air force in late 1994 was organized tactically into fourteen fighter-ground attack squadrons, six fighter squadrons, four transport squadrons, two reconnaissance squadrons, one antisubmarine warfare squadron, and three training squadrons. The fighter-ground attack squadrons and three of the four transport squadrons are assigned to NATO. There are eight surface-to-air missile (SAM) squadrons. In 1994 six of the SAM squadrons were equipped with 128 obsolete United States Nike-Hercules missiles; the remaining two were supplied with twenty-four Rapier SAMs of British manufacture. Many Turkish bases and large cities are within range of Russian, Chinese, and North Korean missile systems possessed by Syria and Iran. Iraq supposedly has relinquished its longer-range missiles but still may have some Scud-Bs from North Korea. Turkish officers acknowledge their limited ability to defend against these threats.

In the mid-1990s, Turkey was phasing in advanced F-16 fighter aircraft produced domestically under a cooperative program with the General Dynamics and General Electric corporations. An initial shipment of 160 aircraft was to be supplemented with a second package of eighty aircraft. The F-16s were to replace a combat fleet of obsolete F-5s and F-104s; the force also included somewhat more up-to-date F-4Es.

In 1994 the air force's fixed-wing transport squadrons consisted of United States-manufactured C-130E Hercules and German C-160D Transall medium transports and CN-235 light transports. Fifty-two CN-235s coproduced with a Spanish manufacturer have replaced the United States-manufactured C-47s for troop-transport and cargo missions.

Upon completion of the four-year air force academy program, air force pilots are trained for two to two-and-a-half years on a variety of United States propeller and jet training aircraft. The Italian SF-260 coproduced in Turkey is being introduced as an advanced combat trainer. Nonflying officers are trained by the Air Technical Schools Command. NCOs are also trained in twelve- to eighteen-month programs in administrative and technical skills at specialized institutions of this command.

Upgrading of the air force flight inventory is expected to include acquisition from the United States of two surplus KC-135A tanker aircraft -- scaled back from seven for financial reasons -- that would permit air refueling and thus dramatically increase the range of fighter aircraft. The air force also hopes to receive airborne early warning aircraft and airborne command and control aircraft. The planned transfer of fifty surplus United States A-10 attack aircraft for close support of ground troops was canceled because Turkey's tight foreign-exchange situation did not permit acquisition of the needed reconditioning and support equipment. Ankara considers the acquisition of United States Patriot missiles essential to reducing Turkey's vulnerability to conventional air and missile attack, but in early 1995 such an acquisition did not appear imminent.




Last Updated: January 1995


Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Turkey was first published in 1995. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on Factba.se.

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