From June 21 to July 1st, the Turkish Air Force hosted the multi-national exercise Anatolian Eagle 2021 at the Third Main Jet Base, Konya, Turkey. Due to the significance of the exercise and the participants that this exercise normally attracts, MAR decided to attend the media days of Anatolian Eagle 2021 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 Trainings and Anatolian Pheonix 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 unexperienced 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 2021
This year, the deployment of aircraft and personnel commenced between 14th and 16th June followed by Mass-in Briefings on the 17th and also familiarization flights on the 18th. The actual missions and exercises were carried out between June 21st and July 2nd.
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 Manoeuvring 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 8x F-16s from 132 “Dagger” Squadron which were specially marked with red decals for the very first time.
Anatolian Eagle 2021 saw participation from the Turkish Armed Forces, Pakistan, Qatar, Azerbaijan and NATO. The most notable participant was the Azerbaijani Air Force that participated for the first time with aircraft, after being an observer nation for a number of years. Despite participating for the first time in Anatolian Eagle with aircraft, the presence of Azerbaijani jets in Turkey is very common, as Azerbaijani aircraft have been participating in the annual military exercise TurAz Falcon for quite a number of times in recent years.
In addition, for the second consecutive edition, the Pakistan Air Force participated with JF-17 Thunders. In addition, Pakistan Air Chief Zaheer Ahmed Baber Sidhu also visited the 3rd Main Jet Base in Konya, Turkey, to review the exercise. On the media day, the Air Chief was given a detailed briefing about the conduct of the exercise. While interacting with the participants, the Air Chief praised the operational readiness and professionalism of the participating aircrew. He also underscored the significance of training in air operations for synergetic and effective employment of assets in a real scenario. He further said, “Such exercises contribute immensely in achieving greater synergy and cooperation amongst friendly forces”.
The Qatar Air Force also made a welcome return and participated for the first time with Dassault Rafales, reported to be their first military deployment overseas. The participation of the Dassault Rafale was significant as it gave the Turkish Air Force a taste of the performance and characteristics of the Rafale, seeing that Greece will start operating the aircraft in the near future.
In this year’s international Anatolian Eagle-2021 Exercise, Azerbaijani Air Forces participated with 2x MIG-29s and 2x SU-25s, Qatar Air Force with 4x Rafale jets, Pakistan Air Force with 5x JF-17s, and NATO with 1x E-3A AWACS aircraft. Turkish Air Force also attended the event with 38x F-16C/D of the 113th (5), 132nd (10), 151st (6), 152nd (6), 181st (8), and 191st (3) Squadrons, 1x KC-135R of the 101st Squadron, 1x E-7T of the 131st Squadron, and 1x ANKA-S of the 302nd Squadron. Turkish Naval Forces also participated with 2x Frigates and 2x Fast Attack Crafts.
During the International Anatolian Eagle Exercise, the certification of the Turkish Air Force (TurAF) elements committed to the NATO Response Force (NRF) were also carried out for the first time. The combat readiness and interoperability of 6x F-16s, 1x KC-135R tanker aircraft, and 6x Stinger Air Defense Teams, committed by the Turkish Air Force to the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) as part of NRF were evaluated.
In addition, several countries visited the exercise to act as observers. These countries included Bangladesh, Belarus, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Georgia, Iraq, Sweden, Kosovo, Lebanon, Hungary, Malaysia, Nigeria, Romania, Tunisia, Ukraine, Oman, Jordan, and Japan.
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 (Air Combat Manoeuvring Instrumentation). The Command-and-Control Centre is the headquarters in which the information (location, position and flight information) of aircrafts 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 trainings 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 2021 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 along with a commemorative patch of the exercise, which was very welcome among the aviation enthusiasts. 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 2021, 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 next to the Eagle apron where all the participants where parked. To everyone’s surprise, a pair of F-4Es, each sporting a special livery performed a flyby followed by a touch and go followed by a full stop landing.
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 parade which was organised for the Pakistani Air Chief Zaheer Ahmed Baber Sidhu. A while later, Solo Turk and the Turkish Stars demonstration team entertained the visitors with an aerobatic display, which was spectacular to watch as the display line was directly above where all media representatives where located.
It was then time for the afternoon mission, which did not produce the same number of aircraft as the morning mission, since the nature of the mission was not the same. Nevertheless, both Su-25s of the Azerbaijani Air Force took off for this mission in spectacular fashion, producing some real great shots of the Su-25s, both sporting mission markings, most likely from the recent conflicts with Armenia. While waiting for the afternoon mission to recover back to base, several visiting aircraft such as the Pakistani & Turkish Citations departed while a pair of Casa Cn-235s arrived at Konya.
The day ended in style with a quick stop near one of the specially marked phantoms ’77-0288’ with a livery on its tail celebrating 70 years of NATO, of which Turkey has been a member since 1952. Protocol regarding Turkey’s membership to NATO was signed on 17 October 1951 whereas law on the accession of Turkey to the North Atlantic Treaty was endorsed on 18 February 1952 resulting in Turkey becoming a NATO member. Turkey has been a staunch Ally of NATO and considers the Alliance as the linchpin of the Transatlantic ties and Euro-Atlantic security. On the other hand, Turkey is a valuable asset for NATO. Turkey assumed the responsibility to protect southeastern border of the Alliance during Cold War period. As a result of Turkey’s proactive foreign policies and contributions provided to crisis management and peace-keeping missions, Turkey’s role within NATO has constantly increased since the end of the Cold War.
The following day, the Turkish Air Force organised an impromptu spotter’s day for Turkish citizens. Following a brief arrangement with the Turkish Public Affairs Office, MAR managed to obtain access to witness the morning mission, since our flights departed at 2pm. Since the morning mission was similar to the morning mission witnessed the previous day, MAR representatives opted to split positions to get pictures from different vantage points, as can be noted from the images below. Attendance on this extra day proved to be a wise decision as we managed to capture a rare C-130J-30 Hercules belonging to the Iraqi Air Force that picked up Iraqi observers that visited the base to get a better understanding of the exercise.
This brought to an end MAR’s visit to Anatolian Eagle 2021. Further below one may find a list of aircraft types that were seen on base during the time MAR was present to report the exercise. A big thanks 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 2022!
|Azerbaijan Air Force||Mikoyan-Gurevich Mig-29S||06 BLUE||MIQ-29 Eskadrilya|
|Azerbaijan Air Force||Mikoyan-Gurevich Mig-29S||07 BLUE||MIQ-29 Eskadrilya|
|Azerbaijan Air Force||Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot||09 BLUE||SU-25 Eskadrilya|
|Azerbaijan Air Force||Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot||23 BLUE||SU-25 Eskadrilya|
|Iraq Air Force||Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Hercules||YI-304||23rd Transport sq|
|NATO – Airborne Early Warning Force||Boeing E-3A Sentry||LX-N90448||NATO|
|Pakistan – Air Force||Cessna 560XL Citation Excel||J-754||12 (VIP) sq|
|Pakistan – Air Force||Chengdu JF-17 Thunder||17-244||16(MR)sq – Black Panthers|
|Pakistan – Air Force||Chengdu JF-17 Thunder||18-252||16(MR)sq – Black Panthers|
|Pakistan – Air Force||Chengdu JF-17 Thunder||18-255||16(MR)sq – Black Panthers|
|Pakistan – Air Force||Chengdu JF-17 Thunder||18-256||16(MR)sq – Black Panthers|
|Pakistan – Air Force||Chengdu JF-17 Thunder||19-257||16(MR)sq – Black Panthers|
|Qatar – Air Force||Boeing C-17A Globemaster III||A7-MAB||10 sqn|
|Qatar – Air Force||Boeing C-17A Globemaster III||A7-MAN||10 sqn|
|Qatar – Air Force||Dassault Rafale DQ||QA202||Al Adiyat Squadron|
|Qatar – Air Force||Dassault Rafale EQ||QA210||Al Adiyat Squadron|
|Qatar – Air Force||Dassault Rafale EQ||QA222||Al Adiyat Squadron|
|Qatar – Air Force||Dassault Rafale EQ||QA223||Al Adiyat Squadron|
|Turkey – Air Force||Boeing 737-7ES Peace Eagle||13-001||131 Filo – Dragon|
|Turkey – Air Force||Boeing 737-7ES Peace Eagle||13-004||131 Filo – Dragon|
|Turkey – Air Force||CASA CN-235M-100||92-056||135 Pk ve İHK Filo – Fire|
|Turkey – Air Force||CASA CN-235M-100||94-067||212 Özel Filo – Hawk|
|Turkey – Air Force||CASA CN-235M-100||94-073||211 Filo – Globetrotter|
|Turkey – Air Force||CASA CN-235M-100||94-080||135 Pk ve İHK Filo – Fire|
|Turkey – Air Force||CASA CN-235M-100||96-113||135 Pk ve İHK Filo – Fire|
|Turkey – Air Force||Cessna 650 Citation VII||005||212 Özel Filo – Hawk|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed C-130E Hercules||63-13187||222 Filo – Flame|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed C-130E Hercules||71-01468||222 Filo – Flame|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 40||88-0033||152 Filo – Raiders|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 40||88-0036||151 Filo – Bronze (Vulture)|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 40||89-0028||132 Filo – Dagger|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 40||89-0039||152 Filo – Raiders|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 40||90-0009||152 Filo – Raiders|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 40||90-0010||132 Filo – Dagger|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 40||90-0013||182 Filo – Hawk|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 40||91-0005||182 Filo – Hawk|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 40||91-0016||182 Filo – Hawk|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 40||91-0017||132 Filo – Dagger|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 40||92-0002||162 Filo Markings|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 40||92-0010||151 Filo – Bronze (Vulture)|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 40||92-0013||152 Filo – Raiders|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 40||92-0021||151 Filo – Bronze (Vulture)|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 40||93-0003||151 Filo – Bronze (Vulture)|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 40||93-0005||182 Filo – Hawk|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 40||93-0008||No Sqn Markings|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 40||93-0009||182 Filo – Hawk|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 50||93-0658||132 Filo – Dagger|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 50||93-0663||113 Filo – Gazelle|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 50||93-0664||No Sqn Markings|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 50||93-0669||191 Filo – Cobra|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 50||93-0674||132 Filo – Dagger|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 50||93-0678||191 Filo – Cobra|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 50||93-0679||193 Filo – Öncel|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 50||93-0681||193 Filo – Öncel|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 50||93-0687||132 Filo – Dagger|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 50||94-0078||113 Filo – Gazelle|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 50||94-0084||113 Filo – Gazelle|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 50||94-0091||132 Filo – Dagger|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 50||94-0093||113 Filo – Gazelle|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16D Block 40||88-0014||193 Filo – Öncel|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16D Block 40||90-0023||152 Filo – Raiders|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16D Block 40||90-0024||152 Filo – Raiders|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16D Block 40||91-0022||151 Filo – Bronze (Vulture)|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16D Block 40||91-0024||132 Filo – Dagger|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16D Block 40||92-0022||182 Filo – Hawk|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16D Block 40||92-0023||132 Filo – Dagger|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16D Block 50||94-1557||191 Filo – Cobra|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16D Block 50||94-1560||113 Filo – Gazelle|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16D Block 50+||07-1017||181 Filo – Leopard|
|Turkey – Air Force||Lockheed Martin F-16D Block 50+||07-1018||181 Filo – Leopard|
|Turkey – Air Force||McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II||77-0288||111 Filo – Panter|
|Turkey – Air Force||McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II||77-0296||111 Filo – Panter|