Why can an F-16 pilot not look his children in the face?

Why can an F-16 pilot not look his children in the face?

Hasan Hüsnü Balıkçı who flies with the call sign “ASLAN 5” says, “We are going towards the target and dropping [the bomb].”

Mustafa Azimetli who flies with the call sign “ASLAN 1” says, “Okay,” and adds, “May God help you…”

The wish “May God help you” is not communicated in the skies of Northern Iraq in Kandil, but the airspace above the capital Ankara’s city center. 

If you look at the coordinates of the target that have been “OK’ed” in the recorded talks, you come across a green area facing Dikmen Avenue on the Turkish Grand National Assembly’s garden premises.  

Before going on to the phase of dropping the bomb, let’s meet the actors in these dialogues. 

The first actor is Staff Lieutenant Colonel Hüsnü Balıkçı, who has taken off in an F-16 and who is about to ignite the bomb. The second pilot in this plane is the Staff Captain Uğur Uzunoğlu from the 143rd Squadron.

In the F-16 that has taken off with the call sign “ASLAN 1,” flies the 143rd Squadron Commander Staff Lieutenant Colonel Mustafa Azimetli and Staff Captain Ekrem Aydoğdu from the 141st Squadron.

In the dialogues, the person we come across with the name of “FİLO” is the Staff Captain Ahmet Tosun, serving on the 141st Squadron, which was the operation center of the flights assigned to the coup. The task assigned to him in the coup attempt was to transmit the flight tracks and coordinates of the targets that they would be bombing to the pilots taking off from the base. Tosun received these orders from the Staff Colonel Ahmet Özçetin, the operations commander of the Akıncı Airbase in the 143rd Squadron that was the operations center of the coup. At that point, the coup’s civilian executive staffs, including Adil Öksüz, were also at the 143rd Squadron. The following dialogues that happened after 2 a.m. on July 16, 2016 and which were all recorded, took place between the pilots in the two F-16 planes flying above Ankara and Ahmet Tosun, directing them from the operations center at the Akıncı Air Base.

The critical parts of the dialogues are like this in summary:

“FİLO/TOSUN: I am giving a new target, are you ready?

ASLAN 1/AYDOĞDU: Understood, we are listening

FİLO/TOSUN: You will drop the GBU-10 [United States-made laser-guided smart bomb] on this target; drop the GBU-10 upon seeing the target

LION1/AYDOĞDU: If the coordinate is sensitive let’s drop the JDAM [Joint Direct Attack Munition]

FİLO/TOSUN: You will drop the GBU upon sight [of the target]. We are trying to find the coordinates for the green area close to the road by the Air Force, Naval Force and the parliament building; we will give them to you. 

ASLAN 1/Aydoğdu: Understood

ASLAN FİLO/TOSUN: I am about to give you the coordinates of the target I have just described, are you ready?

ASLAN 1/AYDOĞDU: We are ready

FİLO/TOSUN: 3954.7520, 3250.9308, 2927 feet

ASLAN 1/AYDOĞDU: Agreed, the green area next to the parliament, the bomb will be dropped at once, upon sight (of the target) 

ASLAN 1/AZİMETLİ: Aslan 5, I can give you the coordinate

ASLAN 5/BALIKÇI: Altitude?

ASLAN 1/AZİMETLİ: 2927 feet, there is an empty space in front of the parliament, a green area; no one appears to be there right now

FİLO/TOSUN: It is not important whether anyone is there, you may fire at will

ASLAN 1/AZİMETLİ: Understood, we are trying to drop it

FİLO/TOSUN: First determine the target, then definitely drop [the bomb] after that

ASLAN 5/BALIKÇI: We have entered with a right turn

ASLAN 1/AYDOĞDU: Understood, we are getting away

ASLAN 5/BALIKÇI: We are going towards the target and dropping [the bomb]

ASLAN 1/AZİMETLİ: Okay, may God help you 

ASLAN 5/UZUNOĞLU: [The bomb] was dropped in the green area in front of the parliament, we standby for the coordinates from the [Turkish] General Staff.”

In a statement later given to the prosecutor’s office, Lieutenant Colonel Hüsnü Balıkçı speaks of this bombing incident as follows: “Ahmet Tosun gave the coordinates for latitude and longitude and said, ‘The garden in front of the parliament.’ Later, Uğur Uzunoğlu studied this target on a device called a sniper via a monitor. He decided that the target was determined correctly. He asked Tosun, ‘Are we in agreement?’ to which he said, ‘We are in agreement.’ Later on, I dropped the bomb on the target.”

Balıkçı’s following statements explain his psychological state in the aftermath of the incident:

“Later on, I got on the shuttle and went home. I am very sorry about all that happened. I realized that I became a traitor in one night. I accept that I made a huge mistake by bombing the parliament… After the incident, on Saturday, my wife took our belongings and children and went to [the Central eastern province of] Konya. On Sunday, my wife came back to Ankara. She took me to Konya. Our house in Konya is two stories. My wife and children stayed downstairs. I stayed in the upper story of the house. When my wife asked me about what happened, I could not tell her that I had bombed the parliament. I told her something superficial. I stayed alone upstairs without seeing the children.

Balıkçı adds: “I could not face seeing my kids.”

Lieutenant Colonel Hüsnü Balıkçı has three children, two boys and one girl.

Why do you think Hüsnü Balıkçı could not look his children in the face?

Note: The Turkish Parliament was the target of the F-16 attacks twice on the night of July 16, 2016. Forty-five minutes after the first bomb mentioned in this article dropped in the garden, at 3:21 a.m. the parliament building was targeted directly this time. In the second attack, two MK-82 bombs were dropped.

 One of the bombs dropped on the section where the Prime Minister’s office was located on the second floor. The second bomb hit the hallway leading to the office. These bombs were dropped by the Staff Captain Hüseyin Türk from the 141st Squadron that flew the F-16 which took off from Akıncı Air Base with the call sign “ASLAN 6” and tail number 93-0663.