Turkish Air Force F-16 fighters join NATO enanched Air Policing in Poland

Turkish F16 Air Policing Poland
Turkish F-16 fighters perform aerial maneuvers over Gdynia and Gdansk, Poland, on the occasion of the media flight organized by NATO/PoAF on August 26.

For the NATO Enhanced Baltic Air Policing (EBAP), four Turkish Air Force (Türk Hava Kuvvetleri, THK) Lockheed Martin F-16s deployed at Malbork airbase in Poland (ICAO code: EPMB). From July 2021 until mid September 2021, the Turkish F-16s were based in Poland. The F-16 from the 161 Filo (squadron), named ‘Yarasa’ (Bat) are normally based at 6th Main Jet Base Bandirma airbase (ICAO code:LTBG) in the northwestern Turkish province of Balikesir.

Malbork airbase (22 Baza Lotnictwa Taktycznego) is the homebase of the 41 squadron (41 Eskadra Lotnictwa Taktycznego, 41.ELT) flying with the Mikoyan MiG-29 (NATO name: ‘Fulcrum’) that were transferred in 2004 from the former German Air Force.

This is the second time the Turkish Air Force contributes fighter jets to NATO Air Policing in the region, and the first deployment to Malbork, Poland.

Colonel Ahmet Çandir is the Detachment Commander (DetCo) of the 80-strong Turkish Air Force detachment at Malbork airbase.

"My pilots and their Polish counterparts have the chance to train procedures for combined employment in support of the Alliance's mission to provide deterrence, defence and security" he said.

"We appreciate this great opportunity to fly with our Polish colleagues and to practice precision manoeuvres, formation flying and escort procedures," said Colonel Çandir, the Detachment Commander of 80 Turkish Air Force members at Malbork augmenting NATO's Air Policing mission in the Baltic region. "It is a challenge to plan, coordinate and execute such an activity that benefits my pilots and their Polish counterparts. They have the chance to train and exercise procedures for combined employment in support of the Alliance's mission to provide deterrence, defence and security," he added.

Turkish F16 Air Policing Poland

Southern support for the northern NATO flank

In the summer of 2021, there were three southern NATO countries (Spain, Italy and Turkey) protecting the northern region of the NATO airspace. They were supporting NATO's Baltic Air Policing in the north demonstrating Alliance cohesion and solidarity. Deployed in the Baltic region, they worked with each other and the hosting air forces to enhance cooperation and interoperability.

At the same time, Spanish Eurofighter Typhoons were based at Šiauliai Air Base (Lithuania) (ICAO: EYSA) , Italian Lockheed F-35s were based at Ämari Air Base (Estonia) (ICAO: EEEI) and Turkish F-16s were based at Malbork (Poland) (ICAO: EPMB).
 
Media Flight

On Thursday August 26th, 2021, a media flight was organized by NATO Allied Air Command and the Polish Air Force. From Malbork airbase, a Polish Air Force EADS CASA-295M transport aircraft flew towards the laguna near the Hel peninsula near Gdynia and Gdansk with 12 aviation reporters securely attached to the floor of the aircraft. Initially, a mixed formation photo session was planned with Polish and Turkish F-16s. Due to bad weather in the designated photo areas, the Polish F-16s were cancelled and eventually 2 Turkish F-16s flew for an hour behind the CASA-295M.

Turkish F16 Air Policing Poland

Turkish F16 Air Policing Poland

Turkish F16 Air Policing Poland

Turkish F16 Air Policing Poland

Turkish F16 Air Policing Poland

Turkish F16 Air Policing Poland

Big thanks

- NATO Allied Air Command
- Polish Air Force (General staff, Malbork airbase, CASA-295 crew)
- Turkish Air Force (161 Filo, DetCo Col. Çandir, F-16 pilots)
- Sławek ‘Hesja’ Krajniewski

Turkish F16 Air Policing Poland
 
Text and Photos: Alex van Noye and Joris van Boven

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