Having been away for two years, 2019 saw the return of the international “Anatolian Eagle” exercise. From June 17-28 2019, the exercise took place at the 3rd Main Jet Base Konya, Turkey and saw the participation of seven countries: Turkey, Italy, Jordan, Pakistan, Qatar and the USA (Azerbaijan attending as an observer only).

Dino van Doorn and Hans van der Wilt from Global Military Aviation Photography (GMAP) were invited by the Turkish Air Force (Türk Hava Kuvvetleri) to witness the operations during this major military exercise.


The history of Anatolian Eagle (AE) goes back to 2001, when the first exercise was held. Main goals of this multinational exercise are:

  • Provide realistic operational training domain
  • Enable fighters to execute their tactics
  • Provide a platform to exchange ideas
  • Keep fighters and GCI controllers current
  • Teach how to survive

The ambition is to become the most prestigious and preferred “Tactical Training Centre” in the world. It has become a great opportunity for not only European; but also Middle East countries to train their pilots. In essence, AE is held three times a year: two exercises will only see participants of the Turkish Air Force, while one yearly exercise will also involve international participants.

AE is somewhat similar to the well-known Red Flag exercises that are held in the USA at Nellis AFB; Nevada. Like Red Flag, the participants at AE are divided between Red Forces and Blue Forces. Red Forces are the “training aid” for the Blue fighters; where the visiting units for the Blue forces who will try to execute their game plan; supported by NATO AWACS and/or based E-7T aircraft. The based 135 SQN (or 135 Filo) is providing Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR).

An area as large as 50.000 Sq. mile (altitude range between ground level and 50.00 feet) stretching from the south of Ankara to the Mediterranean south of Alanya is at the disposal of AE to conduct their missions.

Konya Air Base (home to the third Air Wing – Ana Jet Üssü or AJÜ) is located in the center of the exercise-area in Central Anatolia and as such the ideal location to host AE. The base has a major ramp (the so called “Eagle Ramp”) specifically reserved for AE visitors. It houses various dedicated buildings for both Blue and Red forces; providing the participants of AE all the services they require.

So far, fifteen countries have participated in Anatolian Eagle training, including Belgium, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, U.S.A as well as NATO.


The 2019 edition of AE saw a variety of different types of aircraft and nations involved. Amongst them was the Pakistan Air Force who sent their “Joint Fighter-17” or JF-17 Thunder abroad; a unique aircraft developed jointly by Pakistan and China. Also new to the scene were the ageing AMX ground-attack aircraft operated by the Italian Air Force. As usual, various units of the Turkish Air Force deployed to Konya, including 111 Filo which is the last unit still operating the F-4E Phantom in service with the THK.

In total around 600 Turkish and over 450 foreign personnel participated in the 2019 version of AE. In total 389 sorties were flown during the duration of the exercise. Different type of missions were flown; amongst others combat search and rescue; tactical airlift; hostage rescue; dynamic targeting and anti-surface force attacks.


On 26 June, various high-ranking officers and VIPS visited Konya to witness the events of AE exercise; as well as a performance of the national demonstration team “Turkish Stars” who have their homebase at Konya.
Early in the morning, a C-12C of the Ankara US Embassy flight arrived; soon followed by a Ce-650 and Gulfstream IV from the Turkish Air Force; also stationed in Ankara. Amongst the vistors was Turkish Chief of General staff Yaşar Güler. All VIPS left Konya late afternoon, after having briefly inspected an F-16C with full equipment in front of one of the many shelters that reside on Konya Airbase.


Special thanks goes to the Turkish Air Force PAO for their excellent support and efforts, which made the visit of GMAP to Anatolian Eagle once more possible. Also a big “thank you” to the entire staff of Konya Air Base; which once again showed great hospitality. Teşekkür ederim!

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