From the 1st of May till the 12th May, the Turkish Air Force hosted the multi-national exercise Anatolian Eagle 2023 at the Third Main Jet Base, Konya, Turkey. Due to the significance of the exercise and the participants that this exercise normally attracts, MAR attended the media days and spotters days of Anatolian Eagle 2023 and report on this very interesting exercise.
Anatolian Eagle is carried out every year at the Anatolian Eagle Training Centre in a realistic combat environment to improve the capabilities of national and foreign elements, test new tactics and techniques, develop joint and combined operational procedures, and maximize mission effectiveness by increasing mutual support between forces. With training aids such as the Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation (ACMI) System and the Post-Mission Analysis System, which are used to evaluate the training performance simultaneously or in a very short time, Anatolian Eagle provides an advanced joint training environment to the participating elements to increase their combat readiness level.
Anatolian Eagle Exercises are very similar to the Red Flag (RF) exercises which are carried out at Nellis Air Force Base in the US. The first Turkish training experience at Red Flag started in 1983 with a crew of 6 people consisting of 4 pilots and 2 WSOs going to the base as observers and flying 2 sorties in USAF aircraft. The Turkish Air Force participated for the first time between the 09th and the 23rd of August 1997 with the deployment of 6x F-16s and 57 personnel to Nellis Air Base. The following year consisted of RF-like Anatolian Flag (AF) bi-lateral training between Turkish and American squadrons in İncirlik, Turkey between 02-15 May 1998 and 21 September – 02 October 1998. Between 23rd January and 05th February 2000, the Turkish AF participated for a second time at Red Flag.
Following the participation of the Turkish Air Force in Red Flag exercises, ambitions for the Anatolian Eagle exercise to evolve grew. In June 2000 with the directive of Turkish Air Force Command, preparations were underway for the first Anatolian Eagle training exercise which was eventually held at Konya Air Base between the 18th and 29th of June 2001 involving the Turkish Air Force, United States Air Force and Israeli Air Force. The reason of setting up the exercise was to enhance the combat training of the Turkish pilots and to increase the interoperability with other air forces.
The International Anatolian Eagle Exercise is carried out every year at the Anatolian Eagle Training Centre, Konya in a realistic combat environment to improve the capabilities of national and foreign elements, test new tactics and techniques, develop joint and combined operational procedures, and maximize mission effectiveness by increasing mutual support between forces. Anatolian Eagle Training and Anatolian Phoenix Exercises are “the right and the best place to be at” to give the opportunity to compare/improve capabilities, tactics, techniques and procedures for all participants.
The main reasons behind AE Exercises and Command are to reduce the loss of inexperienced fighter pilots, decrease the loss of aircraft and to exchange experiences and increase interoperability. The mission of Anatolian Eagle is to provide a realistic operational training domain, enable fighters to execute their tactics, provide a platform to exchange ideas, keep fighters and GCI controllers ready and to teach how to survive in combat scenarios.
Anatolian Eagle’s vision is to be the most prestigious and preferred Tactical Training Centre in the world. With training aids such as the Air Combat Manoeuvring Instrumentation (ACMI) System and the Post-Mission Analysis System, which are used to evaluate the training performance simultaneously or in a very short time, Anatolian Eagle provides an advanced joint training environment to the participating elements to increase their combat readiness level.
Spanning from North to South 180NM, East to West 215 NM wide and covering an area of 50,000 square miles up to 50,000ft, Anatolian Eagle airspace is one of the largest military training areas in the world, allowing multiple assets to employ their tactics away from the effects of any traffic around. South of this airspace and extending north of Cyprus is another area reserved for Maritime Ops.
The participants of Anatolian Eagle have access to a training environment within a 300km by 400km area located between Konya and Ankara, which keeps transit time to a minimum. Within this training area are three air-to-ground ranges at Tersakan, Koc and Karapmar, deploying surface-to-air threats from SA-6, SA-8, SA-11 and ZSU 23-4 systems as to provide a realistic environment for the exercise scenarios. 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.
Anatolian Eagle’s simulated wartime environment increases difficulty using the normal building block approach, the complexity of each package growing over the two week training period with ‘package lead’ being rotated through all participating nations and units. This gives the aircrews the best training to prepare them for real world conflict.
On base, each team has an allocated area for their briefings. Located in the Red Building, Red Forces plan their tasks and have their briefings here. No one except the Red Forces can enter this building. Also in the same way, the Red Forces personnel cannot enter another building.
The national and foreign squadrons participating in Anatolian Eagle trainings are stationed in Blue-1, Blue-2 and Blue-3 buildings. Each building has briefing rooms for squadrons to have briefings and brain-storming. After each mission, the aircrews from both Blue and Red Forces debrief in the main briefing room to gather lessons learnt in order to improve their skills.
Anatolian Eagle 2023
Anatolian Eagle 2023 saw participation from the Turkish Armed Forces, Pakistan, Qatar, Azerbaijan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and NATO. The Royal Saudi Air Force were also planned to attend but cancelled a few days before the exercise commenced. The United Kingdom chose to participate from their base in RAF Akrotiri, but sent over two jets for the media day to show their presence among the participants.
|Royal Air Force||Eurofighter Typhoon||4|
|United Arab Emirates||F-16E/F||4|
The Qatar Emiri Air Force (QAEF) participated for the first time with five of their brand new Eurofighter Typhoons, operated by 7 squadron under Flying Wing 1 at Tamim Airbase. The first Typhoons were delivered last year on August 27th, 2022, in preparation for the FIFA World Cup. This marked the first overseas exercise for the type in service with the QEAF.
The Azerbaijan Air Force participated with a pair of Sukhoi Su-25s Frogfoot attack jets from Kürdəmir Air Base. A third Su-25 was also noted on the base (serial ’27 BLUE’) that was conducting flight testing of a new KGK guided-kit weapon being delivered by Turkish company TÜBİTAK-SAGE. The KGK will add long-range and high-precision hit capabilities to Azerbaijan’s Su-25 aircraft. With the KGK wing-assisted guidance kit, MK-82 and MK-83 bombs have the capability of precision hitting of target from 100 km range, in all weather conditions, providing aircraft to complete the mission safely without entering into enemy air defense zone.
Anatolian Eagle 2023-2 saw the welcome return of the UAE which sent to Konya four of their F-16E/F Block 60 desert Falcon, the most advanced version of the F-16 ever built.
Pakistan has become a regular participant in Anatolian Eagle, and this year was no different. For Anatolian Eagle 2023, Pakistan Air Force sent five F-16C/D Block52 belonging 5 (MR) Squadron “Falcons” based at Jacobabad/Shahbaz Air Base.
The exercise was split into three teams:
White Team – Develop scenarios, release the Air Tasking Orders (ATOs), monitor the missions and analyse the results, provide Command and Control of the exercise using the Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation (ACMI) system. This allows the White Force to track in real time every aircraft taking part, and to be able to monitor parameters such as altitude and airspeed.
Blue Team (Training Audience) – The attack team which is made up of the visiting squadrons and foreign participants. Their role is to attack tactical and strategic targets in RED lands.
Red Team (Training Aid) – Act as “Aggressors” with the aim of defending RED land and giving the BLUE team a hard time. In each mission, the Red Team consisted of 8 F-16s from 132 “Dagger” Squadron. Unlike the 2021 edition, this time the daggers were not specially marked with red decals to distinguish them from other Turkish F-16s belonging to other squadrons.
During the exercise, SAM Systems in order to expose aircrews to the threat environment.
Two missions were flown every day (Eagle 1 and 2) with one morning wave and an afternoon wave. The Blue team, within the constraints of a scenario, attacks red enemy land, protected by airborne (Aggressors from 132 Filo) and ground-based assets. All aircraft airborne, all threat systems on the ground, and datalink and vocal communication are tracked, and assessed by Anatolian Eagle operations centre.
During missions all flight information is transmitted back to the Command-and-Control centre via ACMI . The Command-and-Control Centre is the headquarters in which the information (location, position and flight information) of aircraft can be observed in real-time. The tracks, locking and shooting images of SAM and anti-aircraft systems can also be observed. Furthermore, the MASE (Multi Aegis Site Emulator) Operation Centre, Anatolian Eagle sorties and daily base flights are controlled and commanded here.
Battlefield situational awareness was greatly enhanced by using a flying radar asset like the NATO E-3A AWACS (Konya is a Forward Operating Base for NATO’s AEW&C Force) or the Turkish Air Force Boeing 737 Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft operated by the resident 131 Filo. Both aircraft provided data links to other aircraft passing them information such as targets, location of friendly forces in the area and tactical information to defeat enemy forces. During the AE training the AWACS gives Command and Control (C2) support to Blue forces and the land radar located on the base gives Ground-controlled interception (GCI) support to Red forces whilst the Turkish KC-135 tanker aircrafts give AAR support to both forces.
Anatolian Eagle 2023 Media Day
The day started with a welcome meet and greet at the military gate of Konya, where the Turkish Air Force prepared and distributed the media passes. This was followed by a briefing of the exercise, where spokesmen of the Turkish Air Force explained in brief the types of missions being flown in Anatolian Eagle 2023, along with the role each participant had in the exercise.
It was then time for the witnessing of the morning mission take-offs, and the Turkish Air Force made sure to give us the best seat in the house by positioning us close to the main taxiway and runway next to the Eagle apron where all the participants where parked. To everyone’s surprise, the Turkish Air Force gave instructions to all pilots to use the closest runway for takeoff, which was welcomed by everyone as it gave us the chance to take the best possible shots of the morning mission with limited heat haze and the mountainous backdrop.
Following the morning mission, all media representatives were invited for lunch at the main cafeteria on site that is normally used by Turkish crew and pilots based at Konya. This was followed by a unique opportunity to take pictures of all the aircraft parked on the Eagle Apron. This allowed for some unique photo opportunities, especially for the exotic jets such as the Azerbaijani frogfoots and the Turkish phantoms.
The following two days, the Turkish Air Force organised two spotter days. This gave all photographers the opportunity to take pictures of the participating aircraft from different angles, as well as see some visiting aircraft bringing VIPs and distinguished guests to Konya. On both days, in between the morning and afternoon missions, the Turkish F-16 Demo Team ‘Soloturk’ together with the Turkish Stars performed role demos, entertaining all photographers present at the event. In the afternoon of the first spotter day, most participants participated in a special unique flypast alongside the Turkish Stars. It was truly a unique sight to behold, despite the gloomy weather.
This brought to an end MAR’s visit to Anatolian Eagle 2023. A big shout out goes to the Turkish Public Affairs Office who organised a superb event where every detail was taken care of and where everyone felt safe. Roll on 2024!