On Wednesday 22 May we were expected at the gate at 09:30hr. We were a bit early, which gave us a chance to talk to the public affairs persons for the day. They talked us through the event of the exercise so far and the itinerary for the day. This was the official press day and besides our group there were also representatives of the Turkish media. Also, several distinguished guests from the participating countries were invited as well as representatives from a further thirteen countries. The latter were there to observe, network and talk about a possible future participation.
After everybody had arrived, we boarded the bus to the S-shaped ramp in the north-western edge of the airbase. This ramp was formerly occupied by fighter jets, but now helicopters have taken over. A great mix of Turkish Cougars, S70 and T129B ATAK helicopters, Romanian SA330L SOCATs and Azerbaijani Mi-17-1Vs and Mi-35Ms occupied the ramp. Here we were free to wander round and take all the pictures we wanted. The weather was sunny with several clouds, this would later, unfortunately, change to mainly clouds.
We boarded the bus to visit 134 Filo Turkish Stars, enjoyed a tea and got premium spots for a display by the Turkish Stars. This was followed by a lunch in the huge mess hall.
After conclusion a trip to the large briefing room followed for an extensive briefing of the afternoon mission. This was very interesting to witness and a good preparation, also for us, for the things to come that afternoon.
Now it was time to board the coach again for a small trip to the large gunnery range east of the airbase. Here we were positioned on the balcony top to the large control tower. A great spot with an overview of the exercise area. Several scenario’s were played to give the international crews a good feel of ‘the real thing’. First an Azerbaijani Mi-17 dropped the ‘ejected’ aircrew to the landingzone, which would put the process in motion. Soon afterwards an ANKA UAV appeared over the area to guide the proceedings. Two Turkish F-16s entered the combat zone and dropped several GBU-34 and Mk82 live bombs, very precise, on enemy vehicles. This was followed by several passes of strafing T129Bs. The flew very low and attacked their targets, also with great precision. A Turkish special operations S-70 entered the zone, together with a Turkish Army AS532UL and Azerbaijani Mi-17. The men in these choppers secured the area and picked up the stricken pilots. In the meantime, the T129Bs, stayed nearby for protection.
The next scenario was about the same, Turkish F-16s followed by T129Bs, but the extraction team now consisted of a northern Cyprus AS532UL and two Romanian SA330L SOCATS. Further protection was supplied by four Pakistani F-16s and two Azerbaijani Mi-35Ms.
This concluded the exercise part and now it was time for a nice parade. The Qatari C-130J-30 dropped eight parachutists, each with a flag of a participating country, and one from the exercise. After the landed and displayed the flags on the ground all the above mentioned aircraft and helicopters came by in a tight formation.
We went back to the base by bus. As we did not have a chance to take pictures of the participating Fighter jets we were allowed to go to the Turkish shelter area and take a couple of pictures there. The Pakistani were, unfortunately, of limits.
This concluded a great day. Could have been better if the weather had cooperated a bit more, but we were all very happy and were able to take unique pictures.