An Anatolian Eagle exercise takes place over a two-week period. In the week preceding the exercise the participants arrive, mass briefings and familiarization flights are conducted. In the first week, two missions are flown daily, called Eagle-1 and Eagle-2. On Friday only one mission is flown. The second week has the same daily schedule, however on Thursday only one mission is flown, followed by a mass briefing to conclude the exercise. On Friday the participants return home.
A typical flying day for Anatolian Eagle starts with the briefing for Eagle-1 at 07:30. This lasts until about 09:00, after which Eagle-1 is launched, starting at 09:30. Recovery is between 12:00 and 13:00. While the participants in Eagle-1 are returning to Konya, the participants in Eagle-2 are briefed. This is followed by the debriefing of Eagle-1, during which Eagle-2 takes to the sky. Eagle-2 lasts from 14:30 until 17:30, followed by a debriefing. The training day ends at 20:30. As mentioned before, there are three elements involved in Anatolian Eagle: Red Force, Blue Force and White HQ. The latter is tasked with the preparation of the training scenario, releases the Air Tasking Order, monitors and directs the exercise and evaluates and analyses the training, using ACMI-facilities (Air Combat Manoeuvring Instrumentation). Blue Force is a combined force of both Turkish and international participants. AWACS support to the Blue Force is provided by NATO E-3s, which operate from the Forward Operating Location Konya, as well as 131 Filo B737s. Red Force is all-Turkish and is the training aid for the Blue Force. Its task is to provide the opposing force. For this task, Red Force is equipped with both air and ground based assets. 132 Filo provides the aerial component, forces on the ground comprise Ground Based Air Defences (such as SA-6 Gainful, SA-8 Gecko, SA-11 Gadfly, ZSU 23/4 and HAWK systems) and Ground Controlled Intercept-facilities.
The goals for Anatolian Eagle 2014/2 were the following:
- Providing the most realistic operational training area for combat-ready fighter pilots.
- Enabling fighter pilots to execute their tactics to deploy in large composite forces.
- Providing a forum to exchange ideas and lessons learned.
- Train as you fight, fight as you train (the motto of Anatolian Eagle).
- Teaching participants to survive aerial combat.
To achieve these, the following mission types were flown:
- Combat air patrol / Fighter sweep / Fighter escort.
- Suppression/destruction of enemy air defences.
- High value asset protection.
- Close air support.
- Slow mover protection.
- Combat search and rescue.
After visiting in 2011 and 2013, 4Aviation visited Konya again during Anatolian Eagle 2014/2. This year the Turkish Air Force organised three press days. In addition to a massive number of Turkish Air Force aircraft, the exercise again housed a variety of participating units from both NATO countries (the United Kingdom and Spain) and the Middle East (Jordan and Qatar). For Qatar it was the first time that it participated in AE, making it the sixteenth nation to do so. Qatar sent four of its twelve Mirage 2000-5s, supported by two C-130J-30s and two C-17s. It is interesting to see how the scenario for an exercise like AE can quickly become reality, with the current operations against the Islamic State involving a multitude of forces from all over the world. In addition to the flying participants, numerous observers could be seen wandering around the complex including, according to the AE briefing, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Algeria, Finland, Georgia, South Korea, Kuwait, Macedonia, Romania, Chile and Greece.
Turkish Air Force participation included almost every F-16 unit in the THK. Only aircraft of the two Diyarbakir-based squadrons were not noted among the fifty (!) F-16s seen over the three days of our visit. Six of the Merzifon-based 5.AJU aircraft were operating from the AE ramp while most of the remaining aircraft flew from the former 133 Filo ramp or the 132 Filo shelter area. It was interesting to see that the delivery of the new block 50+ aircraft to 4.AJU at Akinçi in 2011 appears to have resulted in a reshuffle of aircraft within the THK. For example, 152 Filo at Merzifon appears to have shifted from block 50 to block 30 aircraft previously assigned to 143 Filo, while 132 (Konya) and 143 Filo (Akinçi) received block 50 aircraft from Merzifon. The new F-16C/D-50+ are confirmed as being operated by both 141 and 142 Filo. 141 Filo also flies the block 40, 142 Filo also the block 30.
In addition to the F-16s, no fewer than eleven F-4E-2020 Terminators took part in the exercise. They came from 1.AJU at Eskisehir and 7.AJU at Malatya-Erhaç. During the exercise some of the Phantoms were seen carrying the impressive AGM-142 Popeye missile.
The authors express their gratitude to the Turkish Air Force for the hospitality that was given. Many thanks go to staff at Konya air base, in particular Major Hasan Saffet Çelikel, for the virtually limitless opportunities provided to take photographs from the best possible vantage points. Finally, the authors thank the staff of the Turkish Air Force Headquarter’s Public Affairs Office, in particular 1st Lt Mehmet Aslan, for their guidance, patience and company during the visit.