Home COVER FILE Red F-16s Revealed in Anatolian Eagle-2021 Training

Red F-16s Revealed in Anatolian Eagle-2021 Training

by Buse Köse

Onur KURÇ / onur@removebeforephotos.com Tayfun YAŞAR / tayfun@removebeforephotos.com

International Anatolian Eagle-2021 Training was held in Konya between 21 June-2 July under the 3rd Main Jet Base Command. Among the firsts observed during the training, red stickers were affixed to the horizontal and vertical tail surfaces of F-16 aircraft playing the role of enemies. MSI Turkish Defence Review team attended the Distinguished Observer’s Day of the training held on June 30.

Azerbaijan, Pakistan and Qatar Air Force and NATO AWACS units also participated in the training in addition to the Turkish Air Force and Navy units (Table 1). In addition, participants from Bangladesh, Belarus, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Georgia, Hungary, Jordan, Iraq, Japan, Kosovo, Lebanon, Malaysia, Nigeria, Oman, Romania, Sweden, Tunisia and Ukraine participated in the training as observers.

F-16s, F-4s, and Su-25s are on the formation flight.

Table 1. Units Participated in Anatolian Eagle-2021 Training

Country/Force Units
Turkish Air Force Command 39 x F-16 1 x E-7T 2 x KC-135R 1 x ANKA-S
Turkish Naval Forces Command 2 x frigates 2 x fast patrol boats
Azerbaijan 2 x Su-25 2 x MiG-29
Qatar 4 x Rafale
NATO 1 x E-3A
Pakistan 5 x JF-17

The training was mainly carried out in Anatolian Eagle airspace in a generic scenario where the operation environment from simple to difficult was simulated. The objectives of the training are listed as follows:

  • To increase the operational training level of the pilots and air defence personnel in a most realistic operational environment.
  • To exercise and develop joined and combined operational procedures.
  • To decrease the attritions to a minimum level and to increase mission effectiveness to a maximum level in real operation environment.
  • Give a chance to fighter pilots to execute their planned tactics in large force compositions.
  • Provide a forum to exchange ideas and lessons learned.
  • Train the participants as they fight and teach them how to survive.
Rafale aircraft of the Qatar Air Force.

A total of 57 aircraft and 537 personnel served during the training. The number of sorties flown was 450.

Firsts of this Year

The training was also the scene of important firsts this year.

During the training, the certification assessment of Turkey’s capabilities, committed to the NATO Response Force (NRF) was performed for the first time. The Combat Readiness and interoperability capability of the 6 F-16 aircraft, 1 KC-135R aircraft and 6 Stinger air defence teams, committed by the Turkish Air Force to the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force within the scope of NRF, was supervised by NATO and Turkish authorities.

MiG-29 aircraft of the Azerbaijani Air Force.

Another first was when Azerbaijan joined the Anatolian Eagle for the first time. The shooting of a target with laser marking by the F-16 aircraft of the Turkish Air Force by the Su-25 aircraft of the Azerbaijani Air Force was one of the most important indicators of the contribution of the exercise to the joint operation during the training. The fact that the weapon used by Su-25 was QFAB-250 LG guided bomb developed jointly by ASELSAN and the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defence further increased the value of this exercise.

Red F-16s on the Stage

One of the first introduced in training was the performance of F-16s with red stickers on horizontal and vertical tail surfaces. These F-16s were aircraft attached to the 132nd Dagger Squadron, playing the role of enemies in training.

HAVELSAN EHTES at Work

Electronic Warfare Testing and Training Field (EHTES) developed by HAVELSAN was also used in the training. A number of operational scenarios were performed at EHTES, which provides electronic warfare training for pilots and aircraft in a fully instrumented and near-real threat environment. EHTES is being used by the Turkish Air Force as well as the Republic of Korea and Pakistan.

Su-25 aircraft of the Azerbaijani Air Force. The markings on the nose of the plane show its accomplishments on the battlefield.

National Combat Aircraft Briefing to Allied Countries

A number of details about the Turkish National Combat Aircraft (TF-X) were also shared with the participants during the press briefing held on the Distinguished Observer’s Day.

TF-X is planned to remain in the inventory until the 2070s according to the information provided. ASELSAN (radar and electro-optic systems), TÜBİTAK-BİLGEM (integrated processing unit), and BAE Systems (cooperation partner) were named as the main subcontractors as well as the main contractor of the project, Turkish Aerospace, in the briefing.

F-16 aircraft attached to the 132nd Squadron assumed the role of enemies in the training.

The preliminary design review meeting of the project is scheduled for September 17, 2022. Thereafter, the detailed design and qualification phase, which will last until the end of 2029, will begin. 3 planes are planned to be used at this stage. It is aimed to supply more than 10 Block 1 TFXs in the first stage at the beginning of the 2030s. It is planned to supply more aircraft in the consequent blocks in the following years.

The critical capabilities of TF-X are listed as follows:

  • Improved aerodynamics and propulsion
  • Ability to reach supersonic speed without afterburner
  • Adequate and optimized operation radius
  • Advanced and internal multi-spectrum sensors (radio frequency, infrared, electronic warfare)
  • Low observability
  • Sensor fusion and autonomy
  • Advanced data link for networked combat
  • Precision and long-range weapons
2 F-4E 2020 Phantom aircrafts under the 111th Squadron Command of the Turkish Air Force also attended the demonstration flights by making a special surprise for the Distinguished Observer’s Day. The tails of both aircraft were carrying images of special anniversaries.

The aircraft will have a design in which a range of performance criteria are optimized to have each of these capabilities. This means that the aircraft cannot be the best in its class in some parameters. Examples were given in the briefing. For example, it is predicted that the operating radius of the aircraft will be better than that of the 4th and 4.5th generations; it will be slightly lower than that of the 5th generation. Its maximum speed will be slightly lower than that of 5th generation aircraft with TF-X’s ability to reach supersonic speed without afterburner.

The TF-X will have an integrated infrared search and track sensor. In addition, infrared surveillance and missile warning system will be part of the aircraft’s equipment in a 360-degree coverage area, day and night.

39 F-16s from different squadrons participated in the training.

The TF-X is projected to have an integrated gun. The weapons and other systems that the aircraft can carry at the internal and external hard points are listed as follows (expressions in brackets are examples given in the briefing):

  • Ramjet engine, long range air-to-air missiles (like METEOR)
  • Solid engine long range air-to-air missiles (GÖKDOĞAN)
  • Short range air-to-air missiles (BOZDOĞAN)
  • Mini cruise missile (like SPEAR)
  • SOM B1/B2/J
  • HGK-82/83/84
  • KGK-82/83
  • LGK-82/84
  • TEBER-82/83
  • Penetrator Bomb (NEB)
  • Miniature Bomb
  • AKBABA (Vulture) missile
  • GBU-10/12/24/31/38/54
  • MK-82/83
  • Reconnaissance pod
  • 600 gallon fuel tank
  • 370 gallon fuel tank
HAVELSAN officials were together in the training where HAVELSAN EHTES also participated.

The information that TF-X can carry a load of 1,000 lb (approximately 450 kg) at the internal weapons bay was also shared in the briefing.

Anatolian Eagle Training
 Anatolian Eagle (AE) Training Centre, located in the 3rd Main Jet Base, Konya, is a high level tactical training centre, providing realistic combat training opportunities to Turkish Air Force’s wings and friendly countries in a high threat environment, more sophisticated than the unit level trainings on aspects such as the size of airspace, tactical ranges, threat emitters and number of participants. The AE airspace, 120 nm-216 nm wide long, allows to more than 60 assets to employ their tactics away from the effects of any traffics around.
 Since its establishment in 2001, 43 AE Trainings have been performed. More than 33,000 personnel and 2,000 air platforms participated and around 24,000 sorties were flown in these trainings. Up to this year, 15 countries participated in AE Trainings.
 The AE Training is not only an important step taken in meeting the training requirements of Turkey, allies and friendly countries but also taking the initiative to contribute the international reliance and cooperation by sharing the resources it possesses, gifted by its unique geographic situation.

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