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The Turkish Air Force ( ) is a branch of the Turkish Armed Forces. It is one of the oldest air forces in the world and operates one of the largest combat aircraft fleets of NATOmarker. Supported by the TuAF's long-range in-flight refueling capability, the fighter jets of the Turkish Air Force can participate in international operations and exercises around the world.


Founding years

The roots of the TuAF date back to June 1909 when the Ottoman Air Force was founded. The Ottoman Air Force participated in the Balkan Wars (1912-1913) and the First World War (1914-1918). With the end of the First World War and the occupation of the Ottoman Empire by the Allies in 1919, the Ottoman Air Force was reduced to nothing more than a department. Turkish Air Force: 1918-1923 All personnel, including pilots and teachers, were either relieved of duty or disbanded, and all Air Force governmental buildings were closed. Some optimistic Turks tried to build new units in Istanbulmarker, İzmirmarker, Konyamarker, Elazığmarker and Diyarbakırmarker with planes left over from the First World War and tried to bring together flight personnel.
The Ottoman Air Force was closed by the Ottoman Ministry of War and all personnel were formally discharged. The Ottoman pilots were thus left without planes and proper assistance and the period of Ottoman military aviation ended. During the Turkish War of Independence, Turkish pilots joined the Konyamarker Hava Istasyonu (Konyamarker Air Station). With the opening of the Grand National Assembly in 1920 in Ankara and the reorganization of an ordered Army, the Kuva-yı Havaiye (Air Force) bound to the Harbiye Dairesi (Ministry of War bound to the TBMMmarker) was established. A few damaged aircraft belonging to the Grand National Assemblymarker were repaired, and afterwards used in combat.

In 1921, the Hava Kuvvetleri (Kuva-yı Havaiye) Şubesi air force section was renamed as Hava Kuvvetleri Genel Müdürlüğü, or the Air Force General Command.


Turkish Air Force pilots in 1933

After the proclamation of independence and sovereignty with the Treaty of Lausanne and the establishment of the Republic of Turkeymarker by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in 1923, approaches were made to form a modern Air Force. Originally consisting of 3 normal and 1 naval aviation units, and an Air Force Academy, the number of units was increased to 10 normal and 3 naval aviation units. Turkish Air Force: 1923-1944 Starting in 1924, personnel were sent abroad for flight education. In 1925 the Air Force Academy was reestablished in Eskişehir and its first students graduated in that same year. The Air Force was reorganized in 1928 and new schools were found for non-pilot personnel. Additional to the personnel sent to Englandmarker and Francemarker, other personnel were sent to the USAmarker and Italymarker in 1930.

On July 1, 1932, the Air Force became a separate combat arm and started training its own personnel. The blue uniforms worn by the Air Force were established in 1933. In 1934 the first Turkish airplanes were produced in Kayseri. Still in 1934 the Türkkuşu (Turkishbird) aviation and parachute society was established, and in 1936 Sabiha Gökçen joined the Turkish Air Force - she became the world's first female combat pilot in 1937. Throughout her career in the Turkish Air Force, Gökçen flew 22 different types of aircraft for more than 8000 hours, 32 hours of which were active combat and bombardment missions. She was selected as the only female pilot for the poster of "The 20 Greatest Aviators in History" prepared by the USAF in 1996. Another key event in 1937 was the establishment of the Hava Harp Akademisi (Air War Academy).

1940 - Present

Turkish pilots during the Second World War years (1939-1945)
By 1940, Turkish Air Force had more than 500 combat aircraft in its inventory, becoming the largest Air Force on the Balkans and the Middle East. The growing inventory of the Air Force required another structural change, which was made in 1940. The Air Force under the Milli Savunma Bakanlığı (Ministry of National Defense) for logistical affairs and the General Staff for educational affairs were united to form the Hava Kuvvetleri Komutanlığı (Air Force Command). Thus, the Air Force became a separate branch of the Turkish Armed Forces. The first commander-in-chief was General Zeki Doğan. Turkish Air Force: 1944-Today

Even though Turkeymarker did not enter the Second World War on the side of the Allies until February 1945 (in accordance with the agreements made during the Second Cairo Conference), the Turkish Armed Forces went on full alert and was prepared for war following the military alliance between neighbouring Bulgariamarker and the Axis Powers which was in essence established with the Treaty of Craiova in September 1940 and formalized in March 1941, and the occupation of neighbouring Greecemarker by the Axis Powers in April 1941. Within a year, Turkey's borders were surrounded by German forces in the northwest and west, and Italian forces in the southwest. Turkish Air Force made daily reconnaissance flights over Bulgariamarker, Greecemarker, the Greek Islands in the Aegean Seamarker, and the Dodecanese Islands which then belonged to Italymarker, for controlling the positions of the Axis forces. The large cities in western Turkey were darkened at nights, and anti-aircraft guns, aided by spot lights, controlled the skies for possible enemy planes. A war economy was imposed, and basic commodities including food and bread were rationed in preparation for the worst-case scenario. Almost all available money in the Turkish Government Treasury was used to purchase new weapons from any available provider in the world. Turkish Air Force received large numbers of new aircraft in this period, including Supermarine Spitfire Mk.I/V/IX/XIX, Curtiss Falcon CW-22R/B, Fairey Battle-I, Avro Anson-I, Hawker Hurricane I/II, Morane Saulnier MS-406, Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk, Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk, Westland Lysander-I, Consolidated Liberator 3B-24D, Bristol Blenheim IV/V, Bristol Beaufort, Bristol Beaufighter Mk.I/X, Focke Wulf FW-190-A3, Martin Baltimore-187, De Havilland DH-98 Mk.III/IV, B-26B/C Invader, P-47D Thunderbolt and C-47A/B Dakota.

The Hava Teknik Okullar Komutanlığı (Air Force Technical School Command) was founded in 1950 to unite schools responsible for training non-pilot Air Force personnel. In 1950 it also was decided to upgrade the Air Force fleet through the inclusion of jets. Eight pilots were sent to the USAmarker to receive flight education. They graduated in 1951 and started training jet-pilots in the Turkish Air Force. In the same year, the 9th Fighter Wing (9uncu Ana Jet Üssü) was founded in Balıkesir as Turkeymarker's first fighter wing; the 191st, 192nd, and 193rd squadrons being the first ones which were established. Further training in the United States followed, usually involving jet manufacturers.

In the Korean War, Turkish pilots were assigned with reconnaissance missions.

Upon Turkeymarker's inclusion in NATOmarker in 1952, the process of modernization was accelerated.

In 1956 the Hava Eğitim Kolordu Komutanlığı (Air Education Corps Command) was founded and all education was united under this command. The command was renamed as Hava Eğitim Komutanlığı (Air Education Command) in 1957.

In 1962 the Taktik Hava Kuvveti (Tactical Air Force) was founded by upgrading the Hava Tümens (an air unit) to a corps-level organization.

In 1974 the Air Force was employed in the Cyprus War.

With the arrival of 3rd generation fighter jets in 1980, the Air Force was reorganized.

The Turkish Air Force took part in the Operation Deliberate Force of 1995 and Operation Allied Force of 1999, and later participated in the UN peacekeeping mission in Bosnia-Herzegovinamarker, employing two squadrons (one in the Ghedimarker fighter wing, and after 2000 one in the Avianomarker fighter wing). They returned to Turkeymarker in 2001. In 2006, 4 Turkish F-16 fighter jets were deployed for NATO's Baltic Air Policing operation.


NATO nuclear sharing

As of 2009, Turkey is one of five NATOmarker member states which are part of the nuclear sharing policy of the alliance, together with Belgiummarker, Germany, Italymarker and the Netherlands. A total of 90 B61 nuclear bombs are hosted at the Incirlik Air Basemarker, 40 of which are allocated for use by the Turkish Air Force.

NATO Allied Air Component Command Izmir

Since August 11, 2004, the headquarters of NATO's Allied Air Component Command for Southern Europe, formerly known as AIRSOUTH, is located in İzmirmarker, Turkeymarker.

The NATO CC-Air HQ Izmir is bound to the Allied Joint Force Command Naples based in Naplesmarker, Italymarker.

Modernization projects

Combat aircraft

F-16 fighter jets from various Turkish Air Force squadrons

In 1984 the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) was established and Turkey started to locally produce fighter aircraft under license; including a total of 232 F-16 Fighting Falcon (Block 30/40/50) aircraft for the Turkish Air Force. The TuAF had previously received 8 F-16s that were directly purchased from the United States, bringing the number of total F-16s received by the Turkish Air Force to 240. TAI is currently building 30 new F-16 Block 50+ aircraft for the TuAF and is applying a CCIP upgrade on the existing fleet of Block 30/40/50 F-16s, which will bring all of them to the Block 50+ standard. Dozens of TAI-built F-16s were also exported to other countries, particularly in the Middle East. A total of 46 TAI-built F-16s have been exported to the Egyptian Air Force under the Peace Vector IV Program (1993-1995), making it TAI's second-largest F-16 customer after the Turkish Air Force. Turkey is one of only five countries in the world which locally produce the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

The Turkish Armed Forces has initiated a $160 billion (excluding the yearly military budget) modernization program in 1997. $45 billion is earmarked to go to the overhaul of the Turkish Air Force. As part of this program, Ankara aims to commission new combat aircraft (consisting of F-16 CCIP Block 50+, F-35 Lightning II and possibly also the Eurofighter Typhoon) and helicopters (consisting of heavy lift, attack, medium lift and light general purpose helicopters).

On July 11, 2002 Turkey became a Level 3 partner of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) development program, and on January 25, 2007, Turkey officially joined the production phase of the JSF program, agreeing to initially purchase 116 F-35A Lightning II aircraft.

Aerial refueling tanker aircraft

A TuAF KC-135R-CRAG Stratotanker refueling F-16s

In 1994 the Turkish Air Force leased two KC-135R Stratotanker aircraft from the United States, and signed a deal to purchase seven KC-135R-CRAG Stratotanker aerial refueling tanker aircraft. Following the arrival of all seven purchased aircraft, the two leased KC-135Rs were returned back to the United States. The KC-135R-CRAG Stratotanker aerial refueling tanker aircraft of the Turkish Air Force are operated by the 101st Squadron, stationed at the Incirlik Air Basemarker.

Turkey is also a partner nation in the Airbus A400M program. Although the A400M is essentially a heavy tactical lift aircraft, it can also be transformed into a tanker aircraft for aerial refueling at short notice. The TuAF has ordered a total of ten A400M aircraft.

Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) aircraft

The first TuAF Boeing 737 AEW&C MESA in Seattle

A total of four Boeing 737 AEW&C MESA Peace Eagle aircraft (together with ground support systems) were ordered by the Turkish Air Force, with an option for two more aircraft. Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) is the primary subcontractor for the Peace Eagle parts production, aircraft modification, assembly and tests. Another subcontractor, Havelsan, is responsible for system analysis and software support.

Peace Eagle 1 is modified and tested by Boeing Integrated Defense Systems in Seattle, WA, USA. Peace Eagle 2, 3 and 4 are modified and tested at the facilities of TAI in Ankara, Turkey, with the participation of Boeing and a number of Turkish companies. As of 2006, the four Peace Eagle airplanes were scheduled to be delivered in 2008. As of mid-2007, systems integration was ongoing and airworthiness certification works continued. In September 2007, Boeing completed the first test flight of Turkey's AEW&C 737.

On 4 June 2008, it was announced that Turkish Aerospace Industries completed the first in-country modification of a Boeing 737-700 into an Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) platform for Turkey’s Peace Eagle program.


Turkey plans to acquire new military/intelligence satellites in the short term. These include a 0.8m resolution reconnaissance satellite (Project Göktürk-1) for use by the Turkish Armed Forces and a 2m resolution reconnaissance satellite (Project Göktürk-2) for use by the Turkish National Intelligence Organization. Göktürk-2 is currently being produced by the Turkish Aerospace Industries, while Göktürk-1 is in the tender stage. Some electro-optical parts that are required for the Göktürk-1 (0.8m resolution) satellite are beyond TAI's technological know-how, thus a foreign partner is being sought. The official bidders for the project are EADS-Astrium (U.K.), OHB-System (Germany) and Telespazio (Italy).

High altitude ballistic missile defence shield

Havelsan of Turkey and Boeing of the United States are in the process of developing a next generation, high altitude ballistic missile defence shield. It is envisaged that the system will be used by the U.S., Turkey and other NATO member states.

Operational experience

The Turkish Air Force has taken part in numerous battles and operations, including:


  • Sabiha Gökçen was the first Turkish female aviator and combat pilot. She joined the Turkish Air Force in 1936 and in 1937 took part in the military operation to put down the Dersim Revolt, thus becoming the world's first female air force pilot with battle experience. Throughout her career in the Turkish Air Force, which lasted until 1964, Gökçen flew 22 different types of aircraft for more than 8000 hours, 32 of which were active combat and bombardment missions. She was selected as the only female pilot for the poster of "The 20 Greatest Aviators in History" published by the United States Air Force in 1996.

  • Turkey provided 18 F-16s for the NATO campaign against Serbia during Operation Allied Force in 1999. Of these, 11 TAI-built F-16s were stationed at the NATO base in Aviano, Italy, while the other 7 were based in Ankara, Turkey. All were equipped with laser-guided bombs using the LANTIRN night vision system. Turkish jets had previously patrolled Balkan airspace, providing protection for attacking aircraft. During this allied air campaign, TAI-built F-16s set a world CAP record by patrolling for 9 hours and 22 minutes above the Balkan theatre. Normally, CAP missions last between 3 to 4 hours.

  • In December 2007, the Turkish Air Force initiated Operation Northern Iraq, which continued until the end of February 2008, eventually becoming a part of Operation Sun. At the initial phase of this operation, on December 16, 2007, the TuAF used the AGM-65 Maverick and AGM-142 Popeye/Have Nap during a night bombardment for the first time.


Chief of the Turkish General Staff: General İlker Başbuğ
Commander of the Turkish Air Force: General Hasan Aksay
  • 1st Tactical Air Force Command, Eskişehirmarker
    • 1st Main Jet Base Group Command
    • 4th Main Jet Base Group Command
    • 6th Main Jet Base Group Command
    • 9th Main Jet Base Group Command
    • 15th Missile Base Group Command
    • 1st Air Control Group Command
  • 2nd Tactical Air Force Commands, Diyarbakırmarker
    • 5th Main Jet Base Group Command
    • 7th Main Jet Base Group Command
    • 8th Main Jet Base Group Command
    • 2nd Air Control Group. Command
  • Air Training Command, Gaziemir, İzmirmarker
    • 2nd Main Jet Base Group Command
    • 3rd Main Jet Base Group Command
    • Air Force Academy Command
    • Air Corps Schools and Technical Training Center Command
    • Air Language School and Airmen Training Brigade Command
  • Air Logistics Command, Etimesgut, Ankara
    • 1st Air Supply and Maintenance Center Command
    • 2nd Air Supply and Maintenance Center Command
    • 3rd Air Supply and Maintenance Center Command
    • Air Museum Command

These commands consist of:

Main equipment

Fighter aircraft
0 F-35A Lightning II (order for 116 F-35A approved by the Turkish Ministry of Defence on 12/12/2006, memorandum of understanding signed on 25/1/2007)
0 F-16C/D Block 50+ (30 new F-16 aircraft will be built by TAI)
210 F-16C/D Block 30/40/50 (all of them will reach the Block 50+ standard with the CCIP upgrade program. TAI has delivered the first two F-16 CCIP aircraft to the Turkish Air Force under the Peace Onyx III program on May 20, 2008.)
52 F-4E 2020 Terminator (upgraded by IAI with enhanced air-to-ground capabilities)
104 F-4E Phantom II (48 will be upgraded by TAI for optimization in air-to-air capabilities)
39 RF-4E Phantom II
43 F-5 2000 (upgraded by IAI with enhanced capabilities)
24 F-5A/B Freedom Fighter
12 NF-5A/B Freedom Fighter (Turkish Stars Aerobatics Team)
Tactical transport aircraft
0 Airbus A400M (+10 ordered)
13 C-130B/E Hercules (with ELINT/SIGINT equipment)
17 C-160T Transall
50 CN 235-100M
VIP transport aircraft
1 Airbus A319-115-XCJ (VIP Transport)
3 Grumman Gulfstream G550 (VIP Transport / Command & Control)
3 Grumman Gulfstream-IV (VIP Transport)
2 Cessna 550 Citation II (VIP Transport)
2 Cessna 560 Citation V (VIP Transport)
2 Cessna 650 Citation VII (VIP Transport)
1 Beech King Air 200 (Comms)
Tanker aircraft
7 KC-135R-CRAG Stratotanker
Early warning aircraft
4 B-737-700 AEW&C MESA (option for 2 more)
Unmanned aerial vehicles
0 TIHA MALE Attack/Surveillance UAV (+18 under construction)
10 Heron MALE Attack/Surveillance UAV (1000/3300 km)
4 MQ-9 Reaper
1 MQ-1 Predator
6 RQ-7 Shadow 600
3 Aerostar Tactical UAV (200 km)
1 Searcher II Surveillance UAV (300 km)
16 I-GNAT ER Surveillance UAV
6 GNAT 750
107 Harpy Attack UAV (500 km)
Trainer aircraft
69 T-38A Talon (received structural upgrade)
61 Cessna T-37B/C (received structural upgrade)
38 Aermacchi SF-260D
26 T-41D Mescalero
0 KAI KT-1 (40 on order to replace T-37s)
20 AS 532UL Cougar Mk1 (14 SAR + 6 CSAR)
81 Bell UH-1H Iroquois (SAR/ECM/Utility)
Air-to-air missiles
107 AIM-120C AMRAAM (Under Delivery)
314 AIM-120A/B AMRAAM (176 AIM-120A + 138 AIM-120B)
367 AIM-7E Sparrow
457 AIM-9X Sidewinder (225 + 127 + 105)
210 AIM-9B Sidewinder
500 AIM-9M Sidewinder
640 AIM-9L/I Sidewinder
310 AIM-9S Sidewinder
750+ AIM-9P3 Sidewinder
Air-to-ground missiles
99 AGM-142 Popeye/Have Nap
50 AGM-154A-1 JSOW Block-II
54 AGM-154C JSOW-C / Broach
274 AGM-65G1 Maverick IIR
550 AGM-65A/B Maverick
1200 GBU 10/12 Paveway I-II
n/a CBU 105 Sensor Fuzed Bomb
523 BLU-107 Durandal
n/a AN/AVQ 23 Pave Spike (laser designation pod for F-4E)
30 AN/AAQ-33 Sniper XR
Anti-aircraft missiles
48 I-Hawk XXI (1x3) launchers
72 MIM-14B Nike Hercules
86 Rapier FSB1 (85 launchers updated to Rapier B1X level. 840 additional Mk2B missiles under delivery)
32 Zipkin KMS (1x4 FIM-92 mounted Stinger)
108 FIM-92C Stinger RMP

See also

External links


  1. Turkish Air Force: Foundation years
  2. Turkish Air Force: 1911-1918
  3. Der Spiegel: Foreign Minister Wants US Nukes out of Germany (2009-04-10)
  4. NRDC: U.S. Nuclear Weapons in Europe • Hans M. Kristensen / Natural Resources Defense Council, 2005.
  5. NATO Allied Air Component Command İzmir
  6. NATO Allied Air Component Command İzmir: Structure of NATO forces
  7. Turkish Aerospace Industries: Programs
  8. NTV-MSNBC: F-35 uçakları. October 31, 2006.
  9. Hürriyet: İlk F-35'te dört Türk parçası uçtu. December 24, 2006.
  10. Tayyareci: Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker
  11. Airbus Military: A400M
  12. Peace Eagle (PE) - Turkish Airborne Early Warning & Control System, Havelsan.
  13. "Boeing Installs MESA Antenna on First Peace Eagle Aircraft", Boeing, March 2, 2006.
  14. "Boeing Successfully Completes First Test Flight of AEW&C Peace Eagle Aircraft", Boeing, September 6, 2007.
  15. Frontier India: Turkish Aerospace Industries completes modification of Peace Eagle AEW&C aircraft
  16. Undersecretariat for Turkish Defence Industries: Electro-Optical (EO) Reconnaissance and Surveillance Satellite System (GÖKTÜRK)
  17. Goliath: Boeing and Havelsan announce missile defence partnership. February 10, 2003.
  18. Boeing: Boeing and Turkey's HAVELSAN Renew Missile Defense Partnership. April 22, 2008.
  19. Undersecretariat for Turkish Defence Industries: Long Range Air and Missile Defence System Project
  20. TRT documentary on Sabiha Gökçen
  21. Scramble on the Web: Turkish Air Force - Order of Battle
  22. Turkish Air Force Aircraft Types
  23. Electronic Aviation: Despite JSF Pact, Turkey Doesn’t Rule Out Eurofighter Buy. January 31, 2007.
  24. Turkey Signs F-35 Production MoU
  25. Turkish Air Force - Errors and Omissions: Peace Onyx III & IV (Levent Özgül, Turkish Defense News)
  26. Turkish F-16 numbers and casualties
  27. Tayyareci: Turkish F-16 numbers and casualties
  28. TAI - Tusaş-Türk Havacılık ve Uzay Sanayi A.Ş
  29. Tayyareci: Turkish Air Force F-4Es. 54 F-4E Phantom II aircraft were upgraded by the IAI to the F-4E 2020 Terminator standard, two of them have been lost.
  30. Aeroflight: Turkish Air Force inventory. 52 F-4E 2020 Terminators plus 104 F-4E Phantom IIs (Total: 156). Inventory last revised on August 1, 2008.
  31. Aeroflight: Turkish Air Force inventory. Last revised on August 1, 2008.
  32. Tayyareci: Turkish Air Force F-5s. 45 F-5s were upgraded by the IAI to the F-5 2000 standard, two of them have been lost.
  33. Turkish Stars official website
  34. Aeroflight: Turkish Air Force inventory
  35. Flight Global: Turkey picks G550 for Command & Control mission
  36. Turkey reveals MALE UAV details-01/08/2006-Flight International
  37. Eastand West Studies
  38. NATO Unmanned Aircraft Systems - Operational
  39. Israel to deliver two UAVs to Turkey in late November
  40. Flight International: Turkey to receive 108 radar-busting Harpys (10/09/2002). Turkey received 108 Harpy attack drones, one of them was used during the Anatolian Eagle 2006 military exercise.
  41. Defense Security Cooperation Agency

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