Turkish Air Force 100th Anniversary

Izmir-«igli 

3-6 June 2011

 

If this gem does not end up as one of the best shows of 2011, if not the best, this writer does not know what will. The Turkish AIr Force celebrated its 100th anniversary form 3 till 6 June 2011 at its Izmir-«igli Air Base. Home to the 2nd Training Wing (2nci J‹UO) which sees to all Turkish Air Force training requirements. Despite only being used for training, the base is quite large thus being able to host all the visitors flocking through its gates to watch the proceedings. The THK (Turk Hava Kuvvetleri) proved to be a very healthy 100 year old, staging a large and varied display with all it posseses both on the ground and in the air. Beside that, Islamic Turkey proved to be a destination for aircraft from Algeria, Jordan and even Pakstan, the latter showing up with their new Sino-Pakistani JF-17 Thunder fighter.

Home based at Istanbul-Yesilkoy with 5 Filo are the Cessna T-41D's of the Hava Harp Okulu (Military Flight School) or HvHO. These provide ab-initio screening of prospective pilots. These than proceed on the SIAI-Marchetti SF.260D's of 123 Filo at Izmir-KakliÁ, just a few miles to the west of «igli. An example is shown centre. Very popular but now in the process of being superceded by newer equipment is the Cessna T-37C seen at right. They are being flown by 122 Filo for primary training. 

 

To the left, an example of the T-37C's replacement, the South Korean KAI KT-1T Woongbi. This Pilatus PC.9 look alike has been chosen to provide primary training in the THK. At centre, a Northrop T-38A Talon which still provides, and will continue to do so, advanced training services to the THK. A number of them is to be given a more modern cockpit to be more relevant to students who go on to fly the most modern of the F-16 family. The 2nd Training Wing does not forget its past, for it still maintains and flies a Beech T-34B Mentor. 

 

 

The sharp end of the THK is made up of the F-4 Phantom and F-16, with some Northrop F-5's still in service for lead in fighter training courses. An example of the single seat F-5A-2000, a modified straight F-5A is seen left during the mass flypast, with a two seat F-5B-2000 at centre. These oldies still fly with Konya's 133 Filo. A McDonnell Douglas F-4E-2020 Phantom, modernised from an F-4E with Israeli avionics during a time of better relations with Israel is seen taking off after the show, on its way back to Eskisehir where it is based with 111 Filo.

 

A further Phantom was this RF-4E/TM, a modified RF-4E, also belonging to 111 Filo. F-16's were represented in the static park by F-16C Block 50 94-0088 of 142 Filo from Akinci. A brand new F-16D Block 50+ is seen to the right, complete with conformal fuel tanks. 

 

Multi engined aircraft on show. Smallest of the transports is the CASA CN.235M-100 from 125 Filo at nearby Izmir-KakliÁ. More capacious are the C-160D Transall (centre) and the C-130E Hercules (right). Respectively flown by 221 and 222 Filo from Kayseri-Erkilet. 

 

A few Boeing KC-135R Stratotankers have been taken over from the USAF and two were on show. The example to the left was part of a mass fly past and belongs to 101 Filo at Incirlik. Airborne Early Warning and Control is a new game for the THK and for this, the Boeing 737-7EC AEW&C has been ordered. The example shown (centre) is not yet operational, judgeing by its civil registration. Another KakliÁ inmate is the AS.532UL Cougar seen to the right. It provides some extra transport muscle to 125 Filo.

 

On Saturday 4 June, the show was opened by a mass flypast featuring all types in THK service. All fighter and trainer types were represented by three ships, with singletons of all muti engine types. An example of the latter is the C-130E Hercules sprayed in the colours of the THK's demoteam, Turkish Stars. 

 

 For its centennial, the THK wanted to be able to display an F-16C in the same fashion as done by e.g. the Royal Netherlands Air Force. Known as SoloTurk, the team is from 4 Ana Jet Us from Akinci.

 

 

 Other branches of the Turkish Armed Forces were represented rather sparingly. Examples are the Army AH-1P Cobra to the left, the Navy S.70B-28 Sea Hawk at centre and the Coast Guard Agusta AB.412EP to the right. 

 

After all the Turkish types, it is time to review the foreign visitors to this great show. Bulgaria's Air Force showed up with no less than three types; a C-27J Spartan transport from 1/16 Transportna Avio Eskadrila based at Sofia-Vrazhdebna. The type is a replacement for the country's Russian made Antonov An.26's. 12 Utchebna Aviacionna Basa from Dolna Mitropolia is the owner of this black and gold Pilatus PC.9 seen here taxiing in for the static display. One of the few remaining MiG.29UB trainers with 2/3 Iztrebitelna Avio Eskadrila at Graf Ignatievo is also making its way into the static park. 

 

Eagerly awaited and for many the prime reason to go to Izmir to begin with; the Pakistani. The Pakistan Air Force was out at Izmir in a major way, with two each of its quarter of a century old F-16A Block 15's and its brand new Sino Pakistani Chengdu PAC JF-17 Thunder. The latter were from newly formed No. 26 "Black Spiders" squadron at Peshawar with the  F-16's being sent by 11 (OCU) sq at Mushaf. From each, one could be seen in the static park with the other gracing the skies during flying displays. All this took support effort, provided by a pair of 6 sq C-130E Hercules from Chaklala and an Ilyushin Il.78 tanker from 10(MRTT) sq from the same base. 

 

Supported by one of No. 3 sq "Guts Airline" C-130H Hercules, the Royal Jordanian Air Force brough two of its recently aquired ex Belgian F-16AM's to Izmir. One of the two can be seen landing here. Both could only be viewed in the static park however. The Algerian Air Force showed one of its C-130H's in the same static, it is seen leaving Izmir on the Monday after the show. In service now for some 20 years, but very rarely seen is the Romanian IAR.99 Soim. Two were on display, one flew in the air show, the other was firmly static bound. 

 

Other Eastern European participants were quite rare ones. What to think of a Serbian Air Force An.26  and a Croation Air Force An.32, 27 Eskadrila Transportnih Aviona at Zagreb-Pleso being the happy owner. In that light, a Slovak Air Force An.26 from 1 DopravnŠ Roj at Malacky-KuchyŮa may seem rather mundane.

 

Modern fighters from Western Europe were represented by a pair of Eurofighter EF.2000 from the German Luftwaffe's JG 73 at Laage which of course were not displayed in flight. An Italian EF.2000 from the RSV test unit was supposed to have flown on the Saturday but did in the end not take-off. The same RSV however flew this updated AMX-ACOL. As the THK has ordered ten Airbus Military A.400M transports. Prototype EC-404 was shown in the static park sporting THK roundels. These were applied immediately after arrival and removed prior to departure. 

 

 Display teams are the icing on the cake for Air Show organisers and Izmir had its share. Naturally, the home team Turkish Stars flew to the delight of the Turkish spectators. Other teams were e.g. Krila Oluja (Wings of Storm) from Croatia and their Pilatus PC.9's, The Polish Team Iskra and their TS.11's and the USAF's Thunderbirds and their F-16's. Apart from this, there were the usual suspects in the shape of the Red Arrows, Patrouille de France and Frecce Tricolori. 

 

All in all, Izmir-«igli proved a very succesful event. The spotters days on the Friday and Monday were well attended without becoming too crowded. The displays were well flown and commented in English, showing to what extent the Turkish aimed to please foreign visitors. The weather; splendid throughout! It could very well be that this show will divide the enthousiast community in those who went to Izmir and those who regret not having gone.

Many thanks go to the organisers of this great event.

All pictures (c) Hans Rolink

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