The Türk Hava Kuvvetleri Turkish Air Force, or TurAF, celebrates the centennial of its air force this year with the creation of an F-16 demonstration team called Solo Turk. The single-ship team with three demo pilots flies an F-16C Block 40 from 141 Filo or Squadron (also known as Anatolian Wolves), which is based at 4th Main Jet Base at Akinci near Ankara. In its centennial news release, TurAF officials said that, “The aim of our 100th year recognition is not just to celebrate our age, but to generate trust and interest in the Turkish Air Force from our citizens, especially from the youth of our country.”
The specially painted black, gold, and silver F-16 flown by the demo team was unveiled on 15 April at Akinci, where the first public demonstration flight was performed in front of Abdullah Gül, the president of Turkey; military officials; and a large contingent of invited guests.
After the performance, Gül commented, “The Turkish Air Force shines like a star in our skies. It is a foundational element to the deterrent capability of our defense power. With its equipment, training, discipline, and operational capability, our air force is without doubt among the most powerful elements of our armed forces. It fills our citizens with pride. Many of our youth desire to become fighter pilots. Solo Turk will kindle their excitement.”
The demonstration program consists of eighteen breathtaking maneuvers, including a series of nine-g turns and a negative three-g push-up. The three team pilots are Maj. Murat Keleş, Capt. Yalın Ahbab, and Capt. Fatih Batmaz. The pilots and aircraft are supported with a handpicked maintenance team of twelve.
Solo Turk made one additional appearance in Samsun, Turkey on 19 May 2011 after its debut. The team flew demonstrations in France in early July. It appeared at the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford in the United Kingdom on 17 July 2011. The RIAT demonstration so impressed the crowds at Fairford that the team received the King Hussein Memorial Sword for the Best Overall Flying Demonstration. The team will round out the 2011 show season with two additional demonstration flights in Turkey as well as with appearances at airshows in Belgium and the Netherlands in mid-September.
In addition to the creation of the demonstration team, the centennial also consists of international conferences, exhibitions, training, exercises, and artistic and cultural projects.
The TurAF is the second largest air force in NATO with more than 1,000 aircraft in its inventory, including 240 F-16 Fighting Falcons, the most of any non-US operator. The TurAF, one of the oldest military aviation organizations in the world, traces is history to 1 June 1911 when its military formed an aircraft committee to establish a flying force. On 28 June of the same year, two volunteers were sent to France for pilot training.
Katsuhiko Tokunaga, a frequent contributor to Code One, is a freelance aviation photographer and writer based in Japan.