US prevents sending of F-16 training pilots to Turkey
Cansu Çamlıbel – WASHINGTON
The United States has refused to send F-16 warplane trainers to Turkey after Ankara requested them in order to fill the gap in the number of Turkish jet pilots.
The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) has been trying to increase the number of its jet pilots after the Air Forces were hit by dismissals carried out after the failed July 15, 2016 coup attempt, widely believed to have been masterminded by the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ).
During the thwarted coup, 25 coup pilots flew with F-16 jets and 11 of them bombed strategic sites.
After the thwarted coup, it was revealed that a significant number of followers of the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fehullah Gülen were in the Air Forces Command and 1,752 personnel were dismissed with state of emergency decrees.
According to official numbers, between 300 and 350 of those dismissed were warplane pilots and as a result the ratio of number of seats and the number of pilots decreased to 1/0.8, when it should be 1/1.5.
The F-16 jets of American firm Lockheed Martin constitute a majority of Turkey’s warplane fleet with 240 jets.
The government, which has been focused on measures that would increase the number of jet pilots, is searching for F-16 trainers abroad. Pakistan was the only country to accept Turkey’s request.
However, the U.S. objected to Pakistan sending F-16 jet pilot trainers to Turkey, based on the agreement that U.S.-origin equipment’s purchase, sale, maintenance and training between third countries needed approval from Washington.
Upon the prevention of Pakistani trainers from coming to Turkey, Ankara renewed its request from the U.S.
According to information obtained by daily Hürriyet, the Pentagon has once again rejected Ankara’s request, saying “there is no program regarding training pilots abroad.”
“If you send your F-16 pilots to the U.S., we can train them here,” the U.S. response read, while Ankara insisted on pilots receiving treatment in the bases in Turkey and in their own geographical conditions.
The fact that a majority of U.S. jet pilots are on active duty against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq and Syria is reportedly among the reasons why Washington is reluctant to send pilots to Turkey at present.