Anatolian Eagle 2013/2 at Konya AFB Turkey
|Friday 6 June 2014||Text by Robert Nispeling - Karo Aviation under Defence & security|
At the end of 20th century it became clear that air forces would continue to play a major role in deterrence and in the determination of the outcome of future wars. Experiences gained in allied operations in Iraq, the Balkan conflict of the nineties, Afghanistan and more recently Libya has reconfirmed the necessity of controlling the air in order to eventually win the war on the ground.
Turkey plays a pivotal role in the region, based upon their geography, placing them between the East and the West. The Turkish Air Force, as one of the major air forces in the region has gained in numbers and strength from the beginning of the 1980s when Turkey as a rising power and important NATO member started to invest in infrastructure, modernization of weapons systems and training.
Birth of a new air exercise in Turkey
The new exercise, called “Anatolian Eagle” was initiated in 2001, to simulate air warfare scenarios in the context of national and multinational training. The Anatolian Eagle (AE) Training Centre was built at 3rd Main Jet Base at Konya, located in Central Anatolia in Turkey. It sits on the periphery of the vast Konya plain, a sparsely populated flat basin, an ideal location for a complex air exercise.
The extensive dedicated training area for AE was established between 1998 and 2001 and the air training area measures 100 miles in length and 95 miles in width. Turkey has held three to four AE exercises every year from 2001 to today, with a mix of participants from both from the West (eight NATO partners have already participated) and the East, including Jordan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, U.A.E. and – perhaps more surprisingly – Israel .
Almost forty AE exercises took place since 2001, with thirteen countries participating, besides the host nation. Worth noting is that in 2010 China took part in an air exercise in Turkey, most likely AE 2010/3, but given the complex relation between China and the West and Turkey being a NATO partner, no official confirmation was given related to PLAAF aircraft being in Turkey or participating in the AE exercise.
By now, AE has grown into one of the largest and most complex joint air force exercises in the world, paralleled only by Red Flag, held periodically at Nevada’s Nellis Air Force Base, and the annual Maple Flag exercise in Canada. Within ten years, the Turkish Air Force has grown into a level where it is able to perform on par with most and train air forces of other countries.
We visited the second AE of 2013, a multinational exercise with participants from Turkey, U.A.E., Saudi Arabia and NATO, bringing a total of almost sixty jet aircraft to Konya. The build-up to this exercise on unit level starts six to twelve months in advance, while the exercise itself lasts two weeks.
The Turkish air force participated with several F-16 and F-4 units, as well as some slow movers and CSAR helicopters. Saudi Arabia sent a detachment of F-15C/ D from 13 Sqn. The United Arab Emirates were represented with highly sophisticated F-16E’s from the Shaheen Sqn. NATO E-3 AWACS planes provided command and control support. In total more than 1.000 officers and soldiers were based at Konya to participate in AE 13/2.
Running the exercise today
AE provides an accurate simulated war environment, with its training grounds equipped with the latest technology, including an electronic warfare area, enabling real-time data concerning aircraft movement to be relayed to ground control through air combat manoeuvring instrumentation pods.
The ground units in the dedicated AE village on the base, consist of a command and control centre, a main briefing auditorium and separate buildings for the participant groups known respectively as the WHITE, BLUE and RED forces. The WHITE forces, composed of TUAF personnel and allied observers, are in charge of planning; they develop training and intelligence scenarios, establish levels of training, plan air tasking orders, monitor real-time executed training, and direct training from the ground. The BLUE forces are composed of allied air forces as well as Turkish Army and Naval units. The RED forces are composed of TUAF F-16 units, rotating in from across the country, along with surface-to-air missile units dispersed on the scorching hot Anatolian plains.
The base scenario consists of an attack by the BLUE team through a Combined Air Operation (COMAO) on the tactical and strategic targets in RED-lands which are being defended by RED force fighter aircraft and SAM systems. During the exercise, AWACS aircraft gave command and control support to BLUE forces while land-based radar systems supported the RED forces. From the base scenario, more complexity is added throughout the two training weeks, such as tighter operating envelopes, higher threat levels and reduced preparation time.
The heart of the operation is monitored in the Command Control Centre (CCC). Pride of the extensive facilities at Konya is the MASE (Multi Aegis Site Emulator) Operation Centre, where all AE sorties and all other military flights are controlled and commanded from. Also, the tracks detected by AWACS and land radars and real-time searching, locking and shooting images of SAM and anti-aircraft systems can be observed here. The main briefing hall, which is located in the same building as the CCC, has a capacity of 450 people enabling joint briefings and debriefings.
We visited Konya in the beginning of June, the period when the temperature on the ramp is already above thirty degree Celsius when the first mission starts. The press events on AE tend to be towards the end of the training period, so we were able to witness the integrated mission package at its fullest. The high level of the exercise combined with the hospitality of the Turkish Air Force and its staff has made AE into the regions’ most loved exercise as is proven by returning participants. This was also mirrored in the reception of the Turkish Air Force towards the visiting journalists, for which we thank them. We will certainly try and return to Konya when the opportunity arises.
Copyright: KARO Aviation Netherlands
Pictures by: Ronald de Roij and Peter Kooijman
Story by: Rob Nispeling