Turkish Air Force history Cont.

  • Published
  • By Mehmet Birbiri
  • Host Nation Adviser
(Editor's note: This is a continuation from last week's Ask Mehmet column.)

When the war of Independence ended in 1922, the Air Force consisted of one group composed of three companies, one at Izmir, Afyon and Bandirma. There was also a naval air company at Izmir.

Under the directives of Ataturk, considerable effort was given to strengthening the Air Force. French instructors were invited to teach at Izmir and orders were placed in various countries for modern aircraft.

In 1928 an Air Ministry was established with three battallions. These were raised to regiment level in 1932, and brigade level in 1939. There were three main bases: Eskisehir, Diyarbakir and Izmir. Ataturk's encouragement of aviation was perhaps most symbolically confirmed when one of his adopted daughters became a pilot.

In the years before World War II, an aircraft factory was built at Kayseri with a license to build Curtiss Hawk planes. But the Turks also acquired German Heinkel bombers, British Blenheim bombers, American Martin and Vultee bombers, Polish PZL fighters, and French Morane fighters. During the war, Turkey was frequently under pressure to join one side or the other. Until the last days of the conflict, she remained neutral.

Consequently she was able to obtain additional planes from both sides, such as German Focke-Wulf 190s, British Hurricanes, and American Tomahawks (P-40).

The Turkish Air Force even acquired a few American B-24 bombers which were interned in Turkey when they made forced landings after the Ploesti raid of 1943. As the fighting raged around her, Turkey built more air bases and support facilities. Because of all this expansion, the three battallions were raised to division level in 1943, and in the following year the Air Force was separated from the Army and became an independent service.

After the war Turkey bought Spitfires, Mosquitos and Beau fighters from the British. America soon replaced Great Britain as the major source of modern aircraft. In 1946, after President Truman's declaration of the "Truman Doctrine," the Joint American Mission for Aid to Turkey (JAMMAT, later called JUSMMAT) was established in Ankara.
It was a tri-service organization which administered the shipment of American equipment to Turkey and helped train Turkish personnel. The U.S. Air Force contingent
originally consisted of the 1172nd Foreign Mission Squadron.

In 1948 Turkey received P-47, B-26 and C-47 aircraft from the U.S. With this came American training, supply and maintenance systems.

In 1951 an Air Force Academy was opened in Istanbul and Turkey enetered the jet age with the receipt of F-84s. The next year Turkey joined NATO. It is noteworthy that the first female jet pilot in NATO was a Turk.

Since joining NATO the Turkish Air Force has also flown American: T-33, F-86, F-100, F-102, F-104, F-4, F-5, F-16, C-130, and KC-135R. Since becoming a member of NATO, the Turkish Air Force has undergone a number of changes.

Presently it is composed of the First Tactical Air force headquartered at Eskisehir, the Second Tactical Air Force headquartered at Diyarbakir, the Air Training Command headquartered at Izmir and the Air Logistics Command headquartered at Ankara.