Turkey, US air forces conduct military exercise in Konya

March 13, 2012, Tuesday/ 20:46:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

Turkey and the United States began a joint military exercise, Anatolian Falcon 2012, in the Central Anatolian city of Konya last week as tensions escalate in Iran and Syria.

The combat exercise began March 5 and will continue until March 15, according to a statement released by the Press operations Center of the US Department of Defense. The point of the 11-day air combat exercise is to increase the interoperability of the two states' air forces.

“Training with the Turkish air force now ensures smooth communication and tactical effectiveness if we should ever have to go to war together,” said US Air Force Lt. Col. Paul Murray, commander of the 480th Fighter Squadron. “Our air forces pride themselves on adaptability and flexibility, and this exercise showcases those capabilities by allowing us to work with our international partner in fast-paced training scenarios.”

Turkey's joint military games with the US mostly were conducted in partnership with Israel and sometimes with other allies. Turkey cancelled several military drills with Israel both in Konya and in the eastern Mediterranean last year amid escalating tensions with the Jewish state, also prompting a US pullout from these war games.

The Press Operations Center statement explained that the most critical tactics being focused on during the military exercise are those used against surface-based air defense systems, as US pilots share their Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) techniques with Turkish pilots. SEAD, also known as "Wild Weasel" and "Iron Hand" operations, are military actions to suppress surface-based air defenses and anti-aircraft artillery.

Fifteen jets and 250 personnel attached to the US's 480th Fighter Squadron, currently stationed at a US air force base in Germany, came to Turkey for the joint exercises with the Turkish Air Forces (THK).

Military air exercises between Turkey and the US were intensely disputed in 2010. The US refused to participate in October 2010 as Turkey had cancelled an international segment of the Anatolian Eagle military training by excluding Israel from the exercise.

Turkey said it cancelled the military exercises because of a botched flotilla raid in which eight Turkish citizens and a US citizen of Turkish origin were killed on board the Mavi Marmara by Israeli special forces while attempting to deliver a shipment of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.

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