Turkish Air Force commander in fly-past near Aegean islands
One of the training flights was supervised by Air Forces Commander Akın ÖztürkThe commander of the Turkish Air Force, Gen. Akın Öztürk, has personally taken part in a training mission, piloting an F-16 in a low-altitude flight over international waters near Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, the Air Forces Command said in a written statement late on Feb. 19.
Öztürk led a group of eight Turkish warplanes to within six nautical miles of the islands of Lesbos, Chois, Psara, Icaria, Leros, Kos, and Rhodes.
The Turkish Air Forces’ training flights over the Aegean came after Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos visited the disputed Aegean islets of Imia/Kardak in a military helicopter on Jan. 30.
Greece’s new defense minister controversially started his term by leaving a wreath off the waters of the Aegean islets, which in the past have led Ankara and Athens almost to the point of war.
Dogfights occasionally occur between Turkish and Greek aircraft over the Aegean Sea, as the two countries are at odds over the boundaries of their airspace in the area due to a long-standing territorial dispute.
The number of such dogfights has recently shown an increase, after a relative decline amid talks between Turkey and Greece to resolve their disagreements on the continental shelf over the Aegean.
Greece unilaterally claims 10 nautical miles (19 km) of airspace, as opposed to the six miles of territorial waters that Turkey and other NATO countries accept. As a result, Athens considers any unauthorized flight in the airspace between six to 10 miles in the Aegean to be a “violation.”