Aerial wars on the night of the coup attempt
There was big chaos and a power struggle in the Turkish airspace on the night of the July 15, 2016, coup attempt.
Although the General Staff closed the airspace to military jets starting at 7:05 p.m., coup-plotting officers had seized control over some of the military bases of the Air Forces, with aircrafts taking off in an uncontrolled manner from these bases despite the flight ban.
The Combined Air Operations Center (BHHM) in the western province of Eskişehir was largely under the control of officers who were standing in line with the constitution and they were carrying out the orders of Air Force Commander Gen. Abidin Ünal, who gave the orders before his apprehension in Istanbul.
The Akıncı air base in Ankara, Erkilet base in Kayseri, İncirlik base in Adana, as well as the Balıkesir and Denizli- Çardak bases, which were all under the control of the coup-plotters, were not obeying the orders of the BHHM in Eskişehir.
As the F-16 jets taking off from the Akıncı base were terrorizing Ankara from above, an unexpected activity started at around the same time on the runway of the 12th Air Transportation Main Base Command in Kayseri after 11:30 p.m.
In total, eight military transport aircrafts took off from Kayseri during a period lasting until 02:00 a.m. and began flying toward different destinations in the Turkish airspace. These were the C-130 transport aircrafts. The Airbus A-400 M aircrafts, which entered the Turkish Air Forces in 2013, have the capacity to carry large weight.
An important part of the transfer capacity of the Kayseri Erkilet base was going to be activated on July 15 in order to support the coup attempt. After the Akıncı base, the second most intense activity was observed at the air base in Kayseri.
The mission given to Kayseri Erkilet during the coup planning was to take the Special Forces and commando units, who were under the command of the coup-plotting generals in the western and southeastern regions of the country, to the Etimesgut military airport in Ankara.
According to information in the indictment into the Akıncı base, the first aircraft took off at around 11:30 p.m. from the 221st Fleet under the command of Lieut. Yasin Göbütoğlu. The mission was to go to the Denizli Çardak base, which is used also for military purposes, and to transport 250 soldiers from the 11th Commando Brigade to Ankara. The aircraft under the command of Lieut. Burhan Yaranç from the 222nd Fleet took off at around 00:24 a.m. The mission was to launch two expeditions to the southeastern province of Şırnak to bring 80 soldiers and one Cobra helicopter from the Çakırsöğüt Gendarmerie Commando Brigade. The aircraft under the command of Lieut. Ferdi Pelen took off at 00:49 a.m. from the 222nd Fleet and headed to the southern border province of Hatay. His mission was to bring the 70 special forces members to Ankara. Similar missions were given to the other following aircrafts.
The coup plotters wanted to store a large amount of attack helicopters and commandos in Ankara. By 2:00 a.m., out of all the aircraft in the air, only one was able to land on the target base. None of the other seven aircrafts were able to land on their targeted air bases. One reason was that the BHHM in Eskişehir tried to obstruct these landings by doing a full-court press. And of course, some other developments, surprises and resistance also played an important role in this which the coup plotters could not predict beforehand. When everything came together, all of their plans ended up in failure.
Where was Brig. Gen. Cemal Akyıldız from the 12th air base during this time? Akyıldız was at a wedding in the Moda Deniz Klubü at the time. While many of the Air Forces generals were apprehended and taken away on the helicopters during the attack on the wedding, Akyıldız spent the night in a different atmosphere at the Fenerbahçe Officers’ Club.