The Turk Hava Kuvvetleri (Turkish Air Force, or THK for short) became an important Phantom user during the 1970s. Turkey ultimately acquired 233 F-4Es and RF-4Es, obtained from new aircraft builds as well as from NATO transfers.
The first Turkish orders were for 40 new-build F-4Es acquired in fiscal year 1973 under the project name Peace Diamond I.
Completion of the order was delayed by an arms embargo imposed following the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in July of 1974. The Phantoms were delivered to Turkey beginning in August of 1974, initially equipping 161 Filo (squadron) of 6 Ana Jet Us (Jet Air Base, or JAB). This outfit later re-equipped with the F-16C Fighting Falcon, and its Phantoms were passed along to 7 Air Base at Erhac, where they replaced F-5As in Filo 171 and 172. Filo 173 later joined 7 JAB as the operational conversion unit.
Initial crew training took place at Eskisehir with the Simsek Kita (flight), but this unit disbanded by 1977.
An additional order for 32 more new-build F-4Es and eight RF-4Es was issued in Fiscal Year 1977, also under the terms of Peace Diamond III. These planes were issued to 111, 112, and 113 Filo of JAB 1 based at Eskisehir. 111 and 112 Filo got the F-4Es, which replaced F-100 Super Sabres, with 113 Filo getting the RF-4Es to augment their RF-84Fs.
15 former USAF F-4Es Phantoms were delivered from June 1981 to equip the newly-established 173 Filo of JAB 7. 15 more ex-USAF F-4Es arrived in mid-1984. The planes from the 1984 deliveries were used as attrition replacements and were distributed among both THK Phantom wings.
Subsequent to the delivery of the newly-built Phantoms to the THK, several batches of retired USAF F-4Es were obtained, starting with the Peace Diamond IV program of June-October 1987. A total of 40 planes were delivered under that program. These planes were intended to cover for attrition and to re-equip new squadrons. These planes were issued to Filo 131 and 132 of 3 JAB, based at Konya. This wing had previously flown F-100Ds and had been a training unit, and the arrival of Phantoms in 1988 allowed it to become an active-duty combat unit.
As payment for its support of US goals during the Gulf war, in which coalition forces were allowed to use Turkish bases, Turkey has received an additional 40 ex-USAF Phantoms, starting with an an initial delivery of four planes on March 25, 1991. These planes were used to re-equip 112 Filo and 172 Filo.
32 ex-Luftwaffe RF-4Es were delivered between 1992 and 1994. These were issued to 113 Filo at Eskisehir. During 1993-1994, 173 Filo ws re-equipped with RF-4Es and their F-4Es were transferred to 172 Filo. 172 Filo's F-4Es were transferred to 171 Filo. 171 Filo now has a ground attack mission, 172 Filo an interception role, and 173 a photographic reconnaissance role.
In August of 1995, Israel Aircraft Industries was awarded a $600 million contract to upgrade 54 THK F-4Es to Phantom 2000 standards. IAI got the contract after strong competition from Daimler Benz Aerospace which had offered an upgrade based on the Luftwaffe F-4F ICE program. The first 26 planes were to be upgraded in Israel, with kits to be provided for the remaining 28 upgrades to be done in Turkey. The radar is an Elta Electronics ELO/M-2032 radar originally developed for the Lavi, instead of the originally-proposed Norden APG-76. An Kaiser/El-OP wide angle HUD is also provided. A hands-on throttle-and-stick is provided for the pilot. An Astronautics air data computer is provided, along with Elsra SPS-100 and Elta passive/active electronic warfare systems. An embedded GPS INS is installed. A hands-on throttle and stick (HOTAS) is provided. Other changes involve structural reinforcements to improve fatigue life, a complete rewiring, and the addition of small strakes above the intake flanks to improve combat maneuverability. The THK unoffically calls the upgraded aircraft the F-4E 2020 "Terminator", which expresses the hope that the project will add 20 more years to the lives of the THK Phantoms.
The first 26 planes were to be upgraded in Israel, with kits to be provided for the remaining 28 upgrades to be done in Turkey. The first F-4E aircraft scheduled for upgrade (73-1025 and 73-1032) were delivered to Isreal in February of 1997. The first example completed as F-4E 2020 was 73-1025, which flew for the first time on February 11, 1999. First deliveries (68-498 and 71-1032) were made to the THK on January 27, 2000. The upgrades will go to 111 Filo and 171 Filo. The upgrade program is scheduled to end in 2003.
There is also a proposal to upgrade the THK's RF-4Es by adding new long-range oblique photography and sensor systems.
THK Phantoms initially had a code painted on their air intakes. The first digit in the code was the JAB (wing) to which the aircraft belongs, followed by the last 3 digits of the USAF serial number. For example, THK RF-4E "1-312" is RF-4E serial number 77-0312 belonging to the 1ci Ana Jet Us, based at Eskisehir. In early 1998, this code began to be removed from the intakes, to be replaced by a Filo emblem on the nose. On 22 June 2012, the Turkish government announced that Syrian antiaircraft had shot down a Turkish RF-4E from 113 Filo with two crew members over the Mediterranean. The aircraft is reported to have been conducting a reconnaissance flight off the Syrian coast. The Turkish release suggested that the Turkish government did not immediately view the Syrian action as provocative, and it acknowledged that Syrian assets were assisting efforts to find the aircraft and crew. The downing might have been an accident. The downing occurred at a time of heightened tensions between the two countries due to Turkish support for Syrian rebels opposed to the Bashar al-Assad regime On 24 February 2015, two RF-4Es crashed in the Malatya region in southeast Turkey, under unknown cumstances, killing all four crew members. On 5 March 2015, an F-4E-2020 crashed in central Anatolia, killing both crew members. Calls to scrap the F-4s and replace them with a newer fighter such as the F-35 were renewed.
The following THK units are equipped with Phantoms:
The following is a list of the USAF serial numbers of the planes known to have been delivered to Turkey. This list includes both Phantoms delivered to Turkey as new builds, plus those used Phantoms transferred to Turkey from USAF stocks. This list is probably not complete. I would appreciate hearing from anyone who has any additions or corrections to this list.
66-284/297 McDonnell F-4E-31-MC Phantom 292 to Turkey in 1991-92 293 to Turkey in 1981 297 to Turkey in 1987 66-298/338 McDonnell F-4E-32-MC Phantom 298 to Turkey in 1987 300 to Turkey in 1987 301 to Turkey in 1987 303 to Turkey in 1987 304 to Turkey in 1987 305 to Turkey in 1984 307 to Turkey in 1984 309 to Turkey in 1987 312 to Turkey in 1981 314 to Turkey in 1987 317 to Turkey in 1987 318 to Turkey in 1984 320 to Turkey in 1987 323 to Turkey in 1987 328 to Turkey in 1991-92 333 to Turkey in 1987 334 to Turkey in 1991-92 336 to Turkey in 1987 66-339/382 McDonnell F-4E-33-MC Phantom 339 to Turkey in 1987 341 to Turkey in 1987 345 to Turkey in 1987 346 to Turkey in 1987 351 to Turkey in 1987 354 to Turkey in 1987 355 to Turkey in 1987 359 to Turkey in 1991-92 361 to Turkey in 1987 370 to Turkey in 1987 373 to Turkey in 1981 374 to Turkey in 1981 379 to Turkey in 1987 67-208/219 McDonnell F-4E-33-MC Phantom 208 to Turkey in 1984 210 to Turkey in 1987 215 to Turkey in 1982 216 to Turkey in 1984 217 to Turkey in 1984 67-220/282 McDonnell F-4E-34-MC Phantom 221 to Turkey in 1984 222 to Turkey in 1981 226 to Turkey in 1987 227 to Turkey in 1981 230 to Turkey in 1987 233 to Turkey in 1984 242 to Turkey in 1981 248 to Turkey in 1984 251 to Turkey in 1981 252 to Turkey in 1987 258 to Turkey in 1984 259 to Turkey in 1981 262 to Turkey in 1981 265 to Turkey in 1991-92 268 to Turkey in 1987 269 to Turkey in 1987 272 to Turkey in 1987 273 to Turkey in 1986 274 to Turkey in 1987 280 to Turkey in 1987 67-283/341 McDonnell F-4E-35-MC Phantom 285 to Turkey in 1987 290 to Turkey in 1984 298 to Turkey in 1991-92 301 to Turkey in 1991-92 302 to Turkey in 1987 304 to Turkey in 1981 316 to Turkey in 1984 319 to Turkey in 1991-92 331 to Turkey in 1991-92 334 to Turkey in 1986 336 to Turkey in 1981 338 to Turkey in 1981 67-342/398 McDonnell F-4E-36-MC Phantom 342 to Turkey in 1984 344 to Turkey in 1987 353 to Turkey in 1991-92 354 to Turkey in 1987 360 to Turkey in 1991-92 372 to Turkey in 1991-92 376 to Turkey in 1991-92 382 to Turkey in 1991-92 387 to Turkey in 1984 391 to Turkey in 1991-92 395 to Turkey in 1991-92 396 to Turkey in 1991-92 398 to Turkey in 1991-92 68-303/365 McDonnell F-4E-37-MC Phantom 305 to Turkey in 1991-92 307 to Turkey in 1982 313 to Turkey in 1987 319 to Turkey in 1987 342 to Turkey as 7-342 in 1991-92 346 to Turkey in 1991-92 347 to Turkey in 1991-92 348 to Turkey in 1991-92 350 to Turkey in 1987 351 to Turkey in 1991-92 374 to Turkey in 1991-92 383 to Turkey in 1991-92 68-400/409 McDonnell F-4E-38-MC Phantom 400 to Turkey in 1991-92 403 to Turkey in 1991-92 409 to Turkey in 1991-92 68-418/433 McDonnell F-4E-39-MC Phantom 427 to Turkey in 1991-92 68-438/451 McDonnell F-4E-39-MC Phantom 446 to Turkey in 1991-92 448 to Turkey in 1987 68-458/468 McDonnell F-4E-40-MC Phantom 461 to Turkey in 1991-92 68-473/483 McDonnell F-4E-40-MC Phantom 473 to Turkey in 1991-92 474 to Turkey in 1991-92 482 to Turkey in 1991-92 68-495/498 McDonnell F-4E-41-MC Phantom 497 to Turkey in 1991-92 498 to Turkey in 1991-92 68-503/518 McDonnell F-4E-41-MC Phantom 504 to Turkey in 1991-92 68-526/538 McDonnell F-4E-41-MC Phantom 528 to Turkey in 1991-92 532 to Turkey in 1991 69-7579/7589 McDonnell F-4E-45-MC Phantom 7585 to Turkey in 1991-92 73-1016/1027 McDonnell F-4E-56-MC Phantom new builds for Turkey, 1973 73-1028/1042 McDonnell F-4E-57-MC Phantom new builds for Turkey, 1973 73-1043/1055 McDonnell F-4E-58-MC Phantom new builds for Turkey, 1973 77-277/300 McDonnell F-4E-65-MC Phantom new builds for Turkey, 1977 77-301/308 McDonnell F-4E-66-MC Phantom new builds for Turkey, 1977 77-309/316 McDonnell RF-4E-66-MC Phantom new builds for Turkey, 1977
The following is a list of THK F-4 losses of which I am aware: