In early June at the 3rd Main Jet Base in Konya, Turkey, aircraft from five nations, along with NATO, met to take part in the latest Anatolian Eagle exercise. Gordon Jones reports for GAR.
Large multi-national air exercises where combined air operations can be executed against strategic and tactical targets provide excellent training opportunities for all participants, but the requirements to host this type of exercise are such that there are only three training centres in the world where they can take place. Of these, the only one located outside North America is the Anatolian Eagle Training Centre (AETC) in Turkey.
Operating from the 3rd Main Jet Base in Konya, the participants of Anatolian Eagle have access to a training environment within a 300km by 400km area located between Konya and Ankara, keeping transit time to a minimum. Within this training area are three air-to-ground ranges at Tersakan, Koc and Karapmar which contain surface-to-air threats from SA-6, SA-8, SA-11, ZSU 23-4 and MIM-23 systems to provide a realistic environment for the scenarios to be played out against. The Konya Air Base has all the facilities you would expect of a world class training facility, but perhaps its best feature is its geographic location.
Turkey, often referred to as the gateway between East and West, is easily accessible for air forces from both Europe and the Middle East, allowing air arms which might not usually be able to train together, the chance to do so. The location is also reachable without the need to use air-to-air refuelling (although some air forces of course do) and this would have been a factor for the Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF), which was attending for the first time with its Mirage 2000-5 fighters (which doesn’t have an AAR probe).
The Anatolian Eagle exercises started in 2001 with Israel and the USA taking part in the first one. They are usually split into three separate exercises; some years have had two and others four, with one open to international participants and the others to the national force. As you would expect from its location, the attendance over the years has been a mix of both European and Middle Eastern air forces with the USA being a regular attendee until 2012.
This year’s international exercise (Anatolian Eagle 14-2) continued this trend with the attendance of Jordan (a regular which has been seven times before) bringing three F-16s, the Qatar Emiri Air Force attending for the first time with four Mirage 2000-5s, the Spanish Air Force, which brought six EF-18 Hornets and six EF-2000 Eurofighters, the RAF with six Typhoons (its last visit was also with Typhoon in 2009) and NATO providing the E-3A Sentry (currently operating out of Konya whilst work is carried out on the runway at Geilenkirchen). The Turkish Air Force (TUAF) deployed 11 F-4E Terminator 2020s, one CN-235, one C-160, one EW-7T Peace Eagle, 40 F-16s of various Blocks and a Turkish Air Force KC-135 provided AAR but didn’t operate from Konya.
The exercise has a similar structure as the Red Flag and Maple Flag exercises with the visiting nations along with national assets forming a Blue Force which will fly combat air patrol, escort, air-to-ground, SEAD, high-value airborne asset protection, recce and slow-mover protection missions as part of a training scenario. Providing the opposing side is the Red Force, made up primarily of the TUAF’s 132 Filo with Block 40 F-16s and F-4s.
Two sorties are flown a day called Eagle 1 and Eagle 2 with real-time feeds transmitted back to the White Force HQ at Konya via air combat manoeuvring instrumentation pods fitted to the fighters and from the Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft allowing events to be observed as they unfold and also to be analysed in the later debrief.
Little information is released about the missions flown or the results, but some information can be gleaned from the load out of the aircraft. The Qatari Mirage 2000-5s, Spanish Tranche 2 EF-2000s and Jordanian F-16s both operated with air-to-air missiles (practice rounds with live seeker heads) indicating they took part in providing force protection missions and air-engagement taskings. The Spanish Hornets were equipped with a LITENING targeting pod and an air-to-air missile which would allow them to provide a mix of air-to-ground, possibly recce, and air-to-air engagements.
The RAF chose to deploy Tranche 1 Typhoons as it did in 2009, but since then the Tranche 1 fleet will have all undergone the R2 upgrade to bring them up to a standardised Block 5 standard as well as the additional capabilities introduced by the Drop upgrades packages. In this configuration, these Typhoons have the ability to operate a ‘swing’ role of both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. The Typhoons flew with a mix of LITENING pods, air-to-air missiles and with some pilots using the Typhoon Helmet Mounted Symbology System, suggesting they operated a mix of air-to-air and air-to-ground in their 64 planned sorties.
The TUAF F-4s flew with a mix of weapons including air-to-air missiles, targeting pods, ECM pods and the massive AGM-142 Popeye standoff missile, reflecting the variety of roles flown by the type in the exercise. The TUAF F-16s were drawn from across their large fleet of Block 30, 40, 50 and 50+ aircraft with a number of different squadron markings on display. The most noticeable of the F-16s were the Block 50+ aircraft fitted with conformal fuel tanks and the twin-seat D version has the large dorsal spine. These are the newest additions produced locally by TAI under Peace Onyx IV, with deliveries completed in 2012.
The Block 50+ aircraft used a mix of SNIPER and LANTIRN pods with JHMCS helmets also being seen in use on the Block 50+ aircraft. Block 40 aircraft were also seen with SNIPER and JHMCS, the integration of these is provided under the Common Configuration Implementation Program (CCIP) upgrades which will see Turkey’s fleet brought up to a Block 50+ common standard (apart from the Block 30 aircraft used by the OCU which will have a partial upgrade and be used for training only). The CCIP upgrades are expected to be completed by 2016.
Since 2001, 2,376 aircraft have been involved in generating an impressive 20,258 sorties as part of the exercises. 28,250 people have taken part from a total of 13 countries. With the Qatari attendance this year the number of countries involved has risen to 14 and with Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bosnia Herzegovina, Algeria, Finland, Georgia, Republic of Korea, Kuwait, Macedonia, Romania, Chile and Greece all having observers attending this event, there is a lot of scope for this figure to keep growing.
The Turkish are very proud of this exercise and the training facility, and with the second biggest air force in NATO, after the USA, they have everything they need for this exercise to keep growing.
GAR would like to thank Hasan Saffet Çelikel and his team at the ATEC for their assistance with this article.