Anatolian Eagle 2021, organized by the Turkish Air Force, saw the participation of Azerbaijan, Pakistan and Qatar Emiri Air Force combat aircraft that attracted aviation spotters from many foreign countries.
Anatolian Eagle (AE) does not need introductions: organized by the Turkish Air Force at Konya Air Base, in central Anatolia, south of Ankara, Turkey, AE is a very well-known series of exercises hosted by the Turkish and attended each year by several foreign air arms. It is inspired by the U.S. Red Flag and Maple Flag series, the aim of which is to train fighter pilots for the first few days of a modern conflict.
The exercise provides the participating Turkish and foreign nations air forces an interesting opportunity to perform joint combat training in real-world scenarios that include Combined Air Operations (COMAOs) on tactical and strategic targets defended by Aggressors aircraft and Surface to Air Missile (SAM) threats of all types. A wide array of missions are planned and executed during Anatolian Eagle, spanning from CAP (Combat Air Patrol), Fighter Sweep and SEAD/DEAD (Suppression/Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses) to AI (Air Interdiction), CAS (Close Air Support) and CSAR (Combat SAR).
Konya is an important base, the headquarters of the Anatolian Eagle Training Center Command, that plans, organizes and conducts the AE drills and has the important role of testing and validating TuAF’s aircraft and units’ ability and preparedness for combat, establishing a background knowledge to achieve the military aims at war in the shortest time and with minimum effort. In simple words, Konya is where tactics are developed and put to test. Moreover, it hosts the 131 Filo, the squadron that operates the E-7T (B737AEW&C); 132 Filo that flies the F-16C/D Block 50; 135 Filo, equipped with AS532AL, CN235M-100 and UH-1H helicopters and it is the homebase of the Turkish Stars, the TuAF display team.
The latest iteration of the exercise, AE 2021, was held at Konya between Jun. 21 and Jul. 2, 2021 and saw, for the first time, the participation of the Azerbaijan Air Force. Four Azerbaijani aircraft, two MiG-29s from Nasosnaya AB and two Su-25s from Kürdəmir AB joined the drills along with four Qatar Emiri Air Force Rafales from Tamim, Qatar, and five Pakistan Air Force JF-17 Thunder from Minhas/Kamra Air Base, Pakistan. The foreign attendees cooperated with the Turkish Air Force contingent, including 39 F-16C/D jets and several supporting assets (among them, at least one E-7T and one KC-135R). A NATO E-3A AWACS also supported the exercise.
While some countries still had Covid-19-related travel restrictions, many aviation spotters and photographers were able to be in Konya for AE 2021. Our correspondent Claudio Tramontin travelled to Turkey and took the photographs of some of the most interesting aircraft involved in the exercise (or simply visiting the base), that you can find in this article.