Exercise Report : Anatolian Eagle 2021
The Turkish Air Force (THK) hosted the Anatolian Eagle multinational exercise at the 3rd Main Jet Base in Konya for the first time again since the 2020 edition was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since its establishment in 2001 up to 15 countries, more than 33000 personnel and 2000 air assets participated at 43 Anatolian Eagle editions for a total of around 24000 sorties flown. Anatolian Eagle 2021 was held between June 21st and July 2nd.
Anatolian Eagle 2021 Participants
Besides the usual presence and numerous aircraft from the host nation, AE 2021 saw the participation of Qatari, Azerbaijani and Pakistani air forces. Apart from the Turks, no NATO countries were present with their own aircraft, the only exception being an E-3A Sentry AWACS. More impressive was the large number of nations observing the exercise: Bangladesh, Belarus, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Georgia, Iraq, Sweden, Kosovo, Lebanon, Hungary, Malaysia, Nigeria, Romania, Tunisia, Ukraine, Oman, Jordan, and Japan.
The Azerbaijan Air Force participated for the first time with fighter jets, sending a pair of MiG-29s from Sumqayit/Nasosnaya air base and two Su-25s from Kürdəmir air base.
Following their debut at Anatolian Eagle two years ago, the Pakistan Air Force JF-17 Thunders returned to Konya with five aircraft from 16 Squadron "Black Panthers" based at Minhas/Kamra air base.
The Qatar Emiri Air Force attended the exercise with four of its brand new Rafales from 1st Fighter Wing, Tamim air base. This marked the debut of the Qatari Rafale DQ/EQ in an international exercise abroad. These French-made fighters can become a usual presence at Konya air base, as it was reported that the Turkish military chief General Yasar Guler signed a technical agreement with his Qatari counterpart to undertake flight training in Turkey for the next five years with the possibility of a one-year extension. If the Turkish parliament signs the deal into law, Qatar will be able to permanently deploy up to 250 personnel and 36 aircraft on Turkish soil, with the large base of Konya as the most likely location due the presence of the Anatolian Eagle Training Center (AETC) and the large, dedicated air space available for training. Such a deployment could include the Qatari Rafale and Mirage 2000 fighter jets, C-17 and C-130 cargo aircraft, and AW-139 and AH-64 Apache helicopters.
The large Turkish component making up the Blue Force in the exercise consisted of 30 F-16C/D from 113, 151, 152, 181 and 191 Filo and support aircraft, including one KC-135R tanker from 101 Filo and one ANKA-S UAV of 302 Filo. A single E-7T AEW&C of the 131 Filo provided the battlefield situational awareness (along with the NATO E-3A Sentry).
The Turkish Air Force also acted as Red Air with surface-to-air assets along with 8 more F-16C/Ds of 132 Filo. Those aggressors were easily recognized due to the flashy red stickers applied on the tail and on the tailplanes.
A welcome surprise during the Media Day was the arrival of two F-4E-2020 Phantoms from 111 Filo, both with special tails. Despite not participating in the full exercise program, the two planes took part in an afternoon mission the following day before returning to their home base in Eskisehir.
The Turkish Naval Forces also participated with two Frigates and two Fast Attack Crafts operating off Turkey’s southern Mediterranean coast.
The training scenario consists of two imaginary nations: Blue (democratic, with a strong military power and allied with world-leading countries) opposed to Red (a poor country but with a good military power and growing as regional power, governed by military after a coup). Under the control of AETC operational command, the Blue forces conducted Combined Air Operations (COMAO), SEAD/DEAD, air superiority, CAP (Combat Air Patrol), CAS (Close Air Support) and CSAR (Combat SAR) operations against targets located within the Red country’s borders, heavily defended by different types of weapons from advanced SAM systems to 4-4,5 generation combat aircraft.
The objectives of the exercise are to prepare pilots and air defense personnel by working in an operational scenario that is as realistic as possible, developing joined and combined operational procedures, keeping attrition to a minimum, and increasing mission effectiveness by giving the opportunity to the fighter pilots to execute their planned tactics in large aerial packages. Finally, by training the participants as they fight the exercise is a useful forum to exchange ideas and lessons learned.
The exercise also serves the Turkish Air Force and NATO to supervise and evaluate the combat readiness and interoperability of 6 F-16s, 1 KC-135R tanker aircraft, and 6 Stinger Air Defense Teams committed to the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) that forms part of the NATO Response Force (NRF).
The Author would like to thank the Turkish Air Force, the Lt. Col. T. Tumer from AETC, the Lt.Col. Serdar Turk, the Air Attaché of Turkey in Rome, and the PAO, Capt. Emrah Akbay and M.Sgt. Tevfik Cimen for their help and the great organization.
Last Modified: 20 August 2021