Turkey to decommission RF-4E fighter jets after crashes
Uğur Ergan ESKİŞEHİRTurkish Combat Air Force Commander Gen. Abidin Ünal announced on March 11 that the fleet of RF-4E fighter jets, which have been involved in three accidents in less than two weeks, killing six pilots, will be decommissioned as of March 12.
Speaking at the Combatant Air Force and Air Missile Defense Command, Ünal announce that the flights of the RF-4E jets would be terminated from March 12, the “war reconnaissance codes” tests of F-16 fighter jets were finalized on March 10.
Two Turkish RF-4E jets crashed during a training exercise in the eastern province of Malatya on Feb. 24, killing four soldiers. At the same time, the jet that Syrian air defenses downed on June 22, 2012, killing two Turkish soldiers, was also an RF-4.
Another F-4 fighter jet crash in the Central Anatolian province of Konya on March 5 killed two Turkish pilots, leading to question marks over the continued use of the jets. This F-4 jet was a modernized version of the RF-4.
The Turkish Air Forces fleet has eight of the RF-4E fighter jets in its inventory, which will be decommissioned as of March 12.
The last flights on these jets will be conducted by Turkish Air Force Commander Gen. Akın Öztürk and Ünal.
Meanwhile, the military plans to keep the controversial F-4 fighter jets, which are the modernized version of RF-4s, in use until 2020.
On March 10, Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz said the latest jet crash was likely caused by pilot error, even though the report on the accident was not yet complete. Yılmaz had also stated that the F-4’s would remain in use until 2020.