Armed Forces Overviews
Turkey

Turkish Air Force / Türk Hava Kuvvetleri

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By Marco Dijkshoorn

 

The Turkish Air Force or Türk Hava Kuvvetleri (TurAF) celebrated its 90th birthday in 2001, making it one of the oldest air forces in the world. While still part of the Ottoman Empire, the TuAF was founded on the first of June 1911 and the first two pilots were trained in France that same year.


In 1951 the first jet propelled aircraft entered service with the TurAF when two ex USAF T-33's were delivered. In 1952 the TurAF received its first F-84Gs that were taken on charge at Balikesir AB. It that same year the TuAF entered the NATO and as a result of that the strike force of Turkey was greatly improved due to deliveries of a huge amount of jets like the Republic F-84, Canadair F-86 Sabre and North American F-100 Super Sabre. Turkey became part of the 6th Allied Tactical Air Force of the NATO Allied Air Forces of Europe. For more than 30 years, the T-33 has formed the backbone of the TuAF advanced training fleet. Primary training in that time was done on the locally produced MKEK (Makina ve Kimya Endustisi Kurumu - The National Foundation for Promoting Machinery and Chemical Industries) 4 Ugur that was developed from the Miles Magister and the Canadian Car and Foundry T-34A's that were donated by the RCAF in 1956. This role was also fulfilled by the Cessna T-41D when the delivery of 30 materialized in 1972. Most of the surviving The T-34's were donated to the Türk Hava Kurumu and some were sold to the civilian marked.

A significant event took place in May 1963 when the first Lockheed F-104Gs were delivered to 144 Filo that was formed that same year at 4 AJÜ - Mürted AB (later renamed to Akinci). Within a time-span of 23 years, more than four hundred Starfighters were delivered to the TuAF and remained operational until 1995 when they were replaced by the locally produced Turkish Aerospace Industries/Lockheed Martin F-16C/D that still form the backbone of the fighter force of the TurAF. For the advanced training role the TuAF operates the Northrop T-38M 'Ari' Talon and the TAI KT-1T serves as a basic jet trainer. Both types can be found at the Izmir based training units. In 1965 the Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter entered service. Over 200 F-5s were delivered from a number of countries like the United States, Norway, The Netherlands, Libya and Taiwan. Today only Türk Yildizlari (Turkish Stars) operates the type, sporting the two colours of the Turkish Flag. An aircraft that was only operational for a short period of time but that gained combat experience with the TuAF was the Convair F-102. Six years after it entered service it was involved in the Cyprus invasion in 1974. Due to an arms embargo the Delta Daggers could not be maintained and in 1979 the aircraft retired.

Next to the ~240 operational Lockheed Martin F-16C/D Block 30. 40, 50 and 50+, the McDonnell Douglas F-4E-2020 fulfils an important role within the TurAF as fighter/bomber. More than 200 Phantoms were delivered since it entered service in 1974. The latest delivery of Phantoms comprised of 46 ex German Air Force RF-4E's that were assigned to 113 Filo at Eskisehir AB and 173 Filo at Erhaç AB. All RF-4Es were withdrawn from use in 2015. 54 F-4Es were upgraded to the F-4E-2020 "Terminator" version from which some are still operating from Eskisehir.

The Transport fleet of the TuAF received a boost when the ageing Douglas C-54Ds got support from the Lockheed C-130E in 1965. The Hercs currently operate next to the C-160D Transall from Kayseri/Erkilet AB. Flying from Ankara/Etimesgut and Izmir is the TAI co-produced CN235M-100. Since 1992 more that 50 were delivered. The VIP transport role that was fulfilled by the Vickers Viscount 794D from 1971 until 1993 is taken over by the CN235s. From 2015 onwards the TurAF received the A400M.

In August 2014, the TurAF merged the two existing Tactical Air Force Commands (Taktik Hava Kuvveti Komutanligi, THKK) into one Muharip Hava Kuvveti Komutanligi or Combat Air Force Command. The 2nd Tactical Air Force Command centre in Diyarbakir has been closed and its operations moved to the Muharip Hava Kuvveti Komutanligi command centre in Eskisehir (where the 1st Tactical Air Force Command resided).

The TurAF serial system

In 1971 the TurAF went through a reorganization that put an end to the use of the square roundel of the aircraft. It was replaced by the circular roundel that the TurAF still uses today. In that same year all TurAF aircraft were assigned a "fiscal year" like we know from the USAF serial number system. The fiscal year assigned is derived from the (approximate) year of production or delivery of the aircraft.

Whilst most of the TurAF aircraft were delivered from the United States of America, the serials carried on the aircraft or used for TuAF records is the serial assigned by the Department of Defence. For example Lockheed F-104G 61-2623. The tail number that is painted on the aircraft is always derived from the DoD serial number. For example 12623.

When the aircraft was not assigned a DoD serial number like ex RCAF CF-104 104869, the possible serial number carried on the aircraft would be 62-869, hence the production year of 1962.

Another possibility that is used for serial number assignment is the aircrafts construction number. For example CN-235M-100 with tail number 052 was assigned construction number C-052 by CASA. And on F-104S with tail number 6888 both the construction number and the serial number are identical.