Six F-16 “Fighter Falcon” jets have been moved from a base in Italy to Incirlik airbase in Southern Turkey, 150 km from the Syrian border, to aid in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq, the Wall Street Journal reports. This brings the F-16’s within a 30 minute flight to IS targets, and missions will start as soon as possible.
Along with the F-16’s, 300 military personnel have also been moved to Incirlik, with Military.com adding that an elite Air Force search-and-rescue team with support helicopters and refueling planes will also be set up at the base.
This is all part of a NATO mission against IS, which Turkey has been further drawn into since a bomb hit a town in the border region in July. That attack killed 32 people and injured over 100. Up until then, Turkey had been reluctant to join the fight, but as the security situation has worsened, the country is being left with little choice but to increase its involvement, partially by allowing the F-16’s to set up operations on Turkish soil. Up until now, the base in Incirlik has been used to deploy unmanned drones, and the US and NATO have welcomed this decision to open up the base to further activity, including the use of these F-16 fighter jets.
The decision to move the F-16’s to Turkey was announced via a press release by US European Command (echoed by the US Department of Defense), according to Hurriyet Daily News.
“At approximately 0900 (GMT), the US Air Force deployed a small detachment of six F-16 Fighting Falcons, support equipment and approximately 300 personnel to İncirlik Air Base, Turkey, in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. The detachment is from the 31st Fighter Wing based at Aviano Air Base, Italy. This follows Turkey’s decision to host the deployment of US aircraft conducting counter-ISIL operations.”
— U.S. Dept of Defense (@DeptofDefense) August 9, 2015
Turkey’s worries have prompted the country, according to Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc, as reported by RT, to ask the US to create a no-fly zone over Syria and a “security zone” along the Turkish border. There are concerns that the fighting will spill over into Southern Turkey.
Security has become an even bigger problem since a peace deal between Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), who has been fighting for an independent Kurdish state, broke down. The deteriorating situation was highlighted today when two women attacked the US consulate in Istanbul, following a bomb attack on a police station overnight. Although the attacks are not directly associated with the PKK, they were associated with the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Army-Front (DHKP-C), who has often worked with the PKK.
Turkey hopes that stability will return to the immediate area with the presence of the F-16’s.
[Photo from Pixabay]