Now in its sixteenth year, the latest iteration of Turkey’s Anatolian Eagle exercise recently wrapped up at Konya Air Base in the Central Anatolia Region of Turkey. Chris Wood reports.
Konya is one of three Tactical Training Centres in the Western world, along with Nellis Air Force Base, home of Red Flag, in the USA and Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake, home of Maple Flag, in Canada. Anatolian Eagle is one of several exercises run from Konya throughout the year.
The roots of Anatolian Eagle go back to the 1980s when the Turkish Air Force started a modernisation programme, and recognised that training its personnel was as important as having the right equipment. However it wasn’t until June 2000 that preparations started in earnest. This followed the Turkish Air Force’s first participation in Red Flag in August 1997 with six F-16s, a pair of bilateral Anatolian Flag exercises with the United States Air Force at Incirlik in 1998 and a return trip to Red Flag in early 2000. The 3rd Main Jet Base at Konya, which is located on the edge of the vast and sparsely populated Konya Plain in Central Anatolia, was chosen as it is in an ideal location for this type of exercise. The infrastructure was completed on 12 June 2001, only a few days before the start of the first Anatolian Eagle exercise. Participants for this came from the Turkish, United States and Israeli Air Forces.
Improvements were made in 2003 with the deployment of Electronic Warfare (EW) systems, and in 2008 when a dedicated aircraft parking area, the Eagle ramp, was opened.
The exercise usually occurs several times a year, and the latest was its 38th iteration. 14 visiting nations from the USA, Europe and the Middle East, as well as NATO, have taken part, with overseas participation occurring predominantly in the June exercise.
Anatolian Eagle has many similarities with Red Flag. According to Colonel Mustafa Erturk, Operations Commander, one of its objectives is to provide a realistic operational environment to give inexperienced pilots exposure to being part of a large force in wartime conditions, with the aim of increasing their survivability, especially in the early days of a war. It also provides an opportunity for an exchange of experiences amongst participating aircrew and the facility to improve interoperability between different air forces operating different types of aircraft.
The action takes place in airspace spread over 50,000 square miles, and up to 50,000ft, centred roughly 70 miles East of Konya. There is also an area over the Mediterranean, North of Cyprus, for maritime operations. This allows room for 70 to 80 fast jet aircraft to operate safely.
Just like Red Flag, the visiting units form the Blue Force, and are augmented by the addition of Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft, either from the based Boeing E-7T Peace Eagles (callsign ‘Wiseman’) of 131 Filo or NATO Boeing E-3A Sentries (callsign ‘Magic’) from NATO’s AEW&C Force. Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) is provided by the based 135 Filo (callsign ‘Blaze’), using their Airbus AS532AL Cougars and Bell UH-1H Iroquois.
The opposing units form the Red Force, which is made up of the Konya-based 132 Weapons and Tactics Squadron (Filo), callsign ‘Dagger’, with their Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcons. They operate in the Aggressor role. Controlling their operations are Ground Controllers, callsign ‘Redeye’, whilst further threats are provided by a range of ground-based air defence systems, call sign ‘Hammer’. These are predominantly mobile radar and anti-aircraft missile and gun systems. The Red Force is seen as the training aid for the Blue Force.
Controlling the exercise is the White Force. They develop the scenarios, release the Air Tasking Orders (ATOs), monitor the missions and analyse the results. Under the auspices of the Air Boss, an experienced fast jet pilot, they provide Command and Control (C2) of the exercise using the Air Combat Manoeuvring Instrumentation (ACMI) system. This allows the White Force to track in real time every aircraft taking part, and to be able to monitor such parameters as their altitude and airspeed. It is the Air Bosses most valuable tool.
Fundamentally the Blue Force is given targets to attack in the Red lands using Combined Air Operations (COMAO), which are defended by the Red Force with aircraft and ground-based systems.
The Anatolian Eagle facilities are located in one area on the Western side of the base. Each Force has its own buildings within the complex; Blue Force has three buildings whilst Red and White have one each. Only members of the respective Force are allowed in their buildings. They are all situated close to the main briefing room, and nearby are accommodation blocks and other social facilities.
According to Col Erturk, who commanded the recent Turkish Air Force deployment to Red Flag 16-2, recent and current operations, particularly Operation Unifed Protector, are studied and lessons learned are applied to the exercise. Dynamic Targeting (DT) – prosecution of targets that were not included in the deliberate targeting process – and Time Sensitive Targeting (TST) – targets requiring immediate response because they pose (or will soon pose) danger to friendly forces or are highly lucrative, fleeting targets of opportunity – were the focus of the 2016 exercise. Additionally, CSAR was included in each mission.
Anatolian Eagle 16-2 ran from 30 May until 10 June. Units participating in this exercise were predominantly from the Turkish Air Force, with most fast jet squadrons being represented. There was also participation from the Italian Air Force with Tornados, Royal Netherlands Air Force with a KDC-10 and NATO with an E-3A, plus from further East the Pakistan Air Force with F-16s and the Royal Saudi Air Force, also with Tornados. A total of 45 Turkish aircraft and 22 aircraft from allied nations were allocated to the exercise along with 673 Turkish and 532 international personnel. However, most of the Turkish fast jet squadrons appeared to have brought extra aircraft.
Although it was spread over a three-week period, the first week involved arrival procedures, briefings and local familiarisation flights, with the first full mission not being flown until the Monday of week two. Two missions were planned for most weekdays, all daytime missions, with the last one being on the Thursday morning of week three. One group of aircrew would fly the morning mission whilst a second group would fly the afternoon one, whilst others would be planning the next day’s missions.
There was a leading scenario for the exercise, but the missions are planned with some flexibility to modify the scenario from mission to mission, depending on the outcome of previous missions. This allows the participants to maximise the training benefit.
After the final mission there was a mass debriefing, following which most of the Turkish aircraft and the Italian Tornados departed for their home bases. The remaining aircraft consisiting of the Pakistani F-16s, the Saudi Tornados, the NATO E-3s and the Dutch KDC-10 left for home on the morning of Friday 10 June. This just left a number of transport aircraft to pick up the support equipment, most unusual of which was an Ilyushin IL-76MF of Jordanian International Air Cargo, operating on behalf of the Royal Saudi Air Force.
Making up the Blue Force were the following units. The F-16s were employed as multi role assets.
From the 1st Main Jet base at Eskisehir, 111 Filo ‘Panter’ brought eight F-4E-2020 Phantoms for the air-to-ground role. Two of the aircraft carried the Vietnam era Pave Spike laser designator targeting pod and they all carried the ELTA EL-8222 Electronic Countermeasures pod.
From the 5th Main Jet Base at Merzifon, 151 Filo ‘Bronze’ brought seven F-16C Fighting Falcons plus one F-16D.
152 Filo ‘Raiders’ brought one F-16C and a pair of F-16Ds.
From the 6th Main Jet base at Bandirma, 161 Filo ‘Bats’ brought three Block 50 F-16Cs and three Block 50 F-16Ds, all fitted with Conformal Fuel Tanks (CFTs).
162 Filo ‘Harpoons’ brought four F-16Cs and an F-16D.
From the 8th Main Jet Base at Diyarbakir, 181 Filo ‘Hawks’ brought three F-16Cs and a pair of F-16Ds.
From the 9th Main Jet Base at Balikesir, 191 Filo ‘Cobras’ brought six F-16Cs and a pair of F-16Ds.
192 Filo ‘Tigers’ were represented by a single F-16D.
The Italian Air Force sent six Tornados; first off, three Tornado IDS from 6 Stormo at Ghedi.
Additionally three Tornado ECR from 50 Stormo at Piacenza participated, and they were employed in the Suppression of Enemy Air Defences (SEAD) role.
11 Squadron ‘Arrows’ of the Pakistan Air Force from Mushaf brought four F-16As and a pair of F-16Bs.
The Royal Saudi Air Force sent eight Tornado IDS from a variety of squadrons, predominantly from 7 and 75 Squadrons, all based at Dhahran with 11 Wing.
Additionally, in the AEW&C role the Konya based 131 Filo ‘Dragons’ contributed a single E-7T.
The NATO AEW&C Force at Geilenkirchen, Germany, provided a pair of E-3A Sentries.
CSAR was provided by Konya based 135 Filo ‘Fire’ with a pair of AS532AL Cougars.
They also contributed a single UH-1H Iroquois,
They were supported by Eskisehir-based 201 Filo ‘Audacious’ with a single CASA CN235,
Also joining them was 222 Filo ‘Flame’ from Erkilet with a single C-130E Hercules.
Air-to-Air Refuelling (AAR) was provided by a Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker from the Incirlik based 101 Filo.
The Royal Netherlands Air Force also provided a KDC-10 from 334 Squadron at Eindhoven in the AAR role.
The Red Force consisted of F-16Cs and Ds from the Konya-based 132 Filo ‘Daggers’, with six of their aircraft being listed for the exercise.
Anatolian Eagle is an important exercise that ranks with Red Flag as one of the premier training exercises for NATO and its allies. Given its location on the boundary between Europe and the Middle East it and the ongoing unrest in the region its importance cannot be underestimated.
The author would like to thank the Turkish Air Force Public Affairs team for their help and support.