The Turk Hava Kuvvetleri (THK, or Turkish Air Force) is an important user of the F-16.
In September of 1983, the government of Turkey announced plans to buy 132 F-16Cs and 28 F-16Ds under the Peace Onyx I program, which operates under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. They were intended to replace the Lockheed F-104G/S Starfighter and Northrop F-5A/B that were serving with five tactical air forces. They would also eventually replace the McDonnell F-4E Phantom II.
The first eight aircraft in the order were to be built at Fort Worth, but the remaining 152 aircraft were to be assembled in Turkey at TUSAS Aerospace Industries (TAI) at Murted. TUSAS is an acronym which stands for Tusas Ucak Sanayii AS, or Turkish Aircraft Industries, which is a company owned jointly by Turkish and American shareholders. Under the terms of Peace Onyx I, TAI is not allowed to sell its aircraft to any air force, including the THK. Consequently, F-16s built at Murted have to be first delivered to the USAF, which then turns them over to the THK.
Turkey received its first two F-16s in knock-down kit form in March of 1987. Turkey officially received its first F-16D in a ceremony at Fort Worth in July of 1987. The first Turkish F-16C/Ds arrived at Murted AB in October of 1987. The first flight of a Turkish-built F-16C (86-0068) took place on October 20, 1987.
The first F-16C/Ds to be operated by the THK were handed over to 141 Filo and 142 Filo stationed at No 4 Base at Murted. In addition, an OCU at Murted was also equipped with the F-16C/D. These F-16s replaced the F-104G Starfighter. F-16s were later issued to 161 Filo and 162 Filo at Bandirma and 191 Filo and 192 Filo at Balikesir. At Murted, the F-16 units are assigned to air defense duties only, but the Bandirma's squadrons also have a secondary close air support role.
Although the initial F-16C/Ds for the THK were Block 30 aircraft, starting with the 44th aircraft (USAF serial number 88-0033), all THK F-16s were manufactured to the Block 40 standard. The Block 40 aircraft are powered by General Electric F110-GE-100 engines, which are built under license by TAI Engines at Eskisehir. The THK Block 40 aircraft are fitted with the GPS navigation system, APG-68(V) radar, automatic terrain-following radar, digital flight controls, new ECM equipment, more efficient chaff and flare dispensers, and the ability to carry AIM-7 and AIM-120 radar-guided BVR missiles. These Block 40 machines are also compatible with the LANTIRN low-level night navigation and attack system.
TAI completed a total of 152 Block 30/40 F-16C/Ds for the THK (plus 8 delivered directly from the USA), plus an additional 34 Block 40 Cs and 12 Block 40 Ds built for the Egyptian Air Force.
The last 20 of the F-16s delivered under Peace Onyx I were scheduled to replace the Starfighters of Diyarbakir-based 181 Filo. 181 Filo finally retired its last F-104Gs in April 1994. This marked the last use of the F-104G in THK service.
The Bandirma-based F-16s were scheduled to receive the NA/AAQ-13 navigation and AAQ-14 targeting pod of the LANTIRN system, being the first F-16s outside the USAF to be given this system. 161 Filo received its first LANTIRN-equipped Block 40 F-16C in February 1994. By May of 1994, seven F-16s had received LANTIRN modifications locally, and the F-16s of 161 Filo are scheduled to be fully LANTIRN-equipped by the end of 1996.
TAI has also been awarded a contract to build wings, center fuselages, and aft fuselages for USAF F-16s. They have also been awarded a contract to build 46 Block 40 F-16C/Ds for the Egyptian Air Force under the Peace Vector IV program.
In March of 1992, a follow-on order for two batches of 40 Block 50 F-16C/Ds (68Cs and 12 Ds) was placed under the Peace Onyx II FMS program. The funding of the first 40 planes was met primarily by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates. These Block 50 machines were equipped with the AN/APG-68(V5) radar, a secure-voice communication system, new radar warning receivers, and the ability to carry and launch the AGM-88 HARM antiradiation missile. The first of these TAI-built planes were delivered to the THK on July 19, 1996. The first of these planes re-equipped Filo 182 at Diyarbakir beginning in July 1996 as replacements for the group's CF-104 Starfighters. The remainder of the order replaced the the F-5A/B Freedom Fighters of 151 and 152 Filo at Merzifon, beginning in 1999.
The last license-built F-16 from TAI was delivered to the THK on November 13, 1999. TAI built a total of 278 F-16C/Ds for the THK, plus an additional 46 aircraft for Egypt.
The USAF has embarked upon a Coalition Force Enhancement (CFE) program in which older F-16s are offered for sale to foreign customers to generate cash for the purchase of newer models. Turkey is considering purchasing F-16A/Bs under this program rather than upgrading its fleet of Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighters.
Turkish AF F-16s participated in the support of United Nations operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo since 1993. Turkish F-16s have also appeared in incidents in the recurring tensions with Greece over territorial disputes in the Aegean Sea. On Jun 18, 1992, a Greek Mirage F-1 crashed during a dogfight with a Turkish F-16. On February 8, 1995, a Turkish F-16 crashed into the Aegean Sea after being intercept by Greek Mirage F-1 fighters. During the escalation over Imia (an unhabited island in the Aegean which had been the source of territorial disputes between Greece and Turkey), a Greek Mirage 2000 shot down a Turkish F-16D on Oct 8, 1996 using a R.550 Magic II missile. The pilot was killed, and the co-pilot ejected and was rescued by Greek forces. On May 23, 2006 two Greek F-16s intercepted a Turkish RF-4 reconnaissance aircraft and two Turkish F-16 escorts off the coast of the Greek island of Karpathos. A mock dogfight took place between the two sides, which restulted in a midair collision between a Turkish F-16 and a Greek F-16. The Turkish pilot ejected safely, but the Greek pilot was killed.
Turkish F-16s have recently been active in carrying out airstrikes against Kurdish separatist rebels in Turkey and in northern Iraq. During the Syrian civil war, Turkish F-16s have acted in airspace protection against incursions of Syrian aircraft. A Turkish F-16 shot down a Syrian MiG-23 in March of 2014 for violating Turkish airspace.
The following THK units are currently equipped with the F-16C/D:
86-0066/0072 General Dynamics F-16C Block 30B Fighting Falcon for Turkey under Peace Onyx I first two built by Fort Worth, rest by TAI 86-0191/0196 General Dynamics F-16D Fighting Falcon built by Fort Worth for Turkey 87-0002/0003 General Dynamics F-16D Block 30E Fighting Falcon built by TAI for Turkey, Peace Onyx I 87-0009/0018 General Dynamics F-16C Block 30B Fighting Falcon Built by TAI for Turkey, Peace Onyx I 87-0019/0021 General Dynamics F-16C Block 30E Fighting Falcon Built by TAI for Turkey, Peace Onyx I 88-0013 General Dynamics F-16D Block 30E Fighting Falcon built by TAI for Turkey, Peace Onyx I 88-0014/0015 General Dynamics F-16D Block 40A Fighting Falcon built by TAI for Turkey, Peace Onyx I 88-0019/0032 General Dynamics F-16C Block 30E Fighting Falcon built by TAI for Turkey, Peace Onyx I 88-0033/0037 General Dynamics F-16C Block 40A Fighting Falcon built by TAI for Turkey, Peace Onyx I 89-0022/0033 General Dynamics F-16C Block 40A Fighting Falcon built by TAI for Turkey, Peace Onyx I 89-0034/0041 General Dynamics F-16C Block 40D Fighting Falcon built by TAI for Turkey, Peace Onyx I 89-0042 General Dynamics F-16D Block 40A Fighting Falcon built by TAI for Turkey, Peace Onyx I 89-0043/0045 General Dynamics F-16D Block 40D Fighting Falcon built by TAI for Turkey, Peace Onyx I 90-0001/0009 General Dynamics F-16C Block 40D Fighting Falcon built by TAI for Turkey 90-0010/0021 General Dynamics F-16C Block 40F Fighting Falcon built by TAI for Turkey 90-0022/0024 General Dynamics F-16D Block 40F Fighting Falcon - built by TAI for Turkey 91-0001/0005 General Dynamics F-16C Block 40F Fighting Falcon Built by TAI for Turkey, Peace Onyx I 91-0006/0021 General Dynamics F-16C Block 40J Fighting Falcon Built by TAI for Turkey, Peace Onyx I 91-0022/0024 General Dynamics F-16D Block 40J Fighting Falcon Built by TAI for Turkey, Peace Onyx I 92-0001/0017 Lockheed/General Dynamics F-16C Block 40L Fighting Falcon built by TAI for Turkey, Peace Onyx I 92-0018/0021 Lockheed/General Dynamics F-16C Block 40P Fighting Falcon built by TAI for Turkey, Peace Onyx I 92-0022/0024 Lockheed/General Dynamics F-16D Block 40L Fighting Falcon built by TAI for Turkey, Peace Onyx I 93-0001/0014 Lockheed F-16C Block 40P Fighting Falcon MSN 4R-123/4R-136. Built by TAI for Turkey, Peace Onyx II 0002 (8 AJU) crashed during emergency landing at Cigli Jun 5, 2002. Pilot killed 0014 (181 Filo) crashed on approach to Diyarbakir Jan 30, 2006 following engine failure. Pilot ejected safely. 93-0657/0690 Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 50 Fighting Falcon MSN HC-1/HC-34 93-0691/0696 Lockheed Martin F-16D Block 50 Fighting Falcon MSN HD-1/HD-6 94-0071/0096 Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 50 Fighting Falcon MSN HC-35/HC-60. Built under license by TAI in Turkey To Turkey as 94-071/096, Peace Onyx III 0081 (THK 191 Filo) missing Jan 16, 2004 during sortie from Balikesir AB. Wreckage and body of pilot discovered 2 days later near Domanic. AFM 1/2006 0087 (THK 191 Filo) crashed on Mount Kazdaglari, Turkey Sep 11, 2006 following suspected engine failure. Pilot ejected safely. AFM Nov 2006 94-0097/0104 Lockheed F-16C Block 50 Fighting Falcon MSN HC-61/HC-68. Under license by TAI To Turkey as 94-097/104. Contract cancelled 94-0105/0110 Lockheed F-16D Block 50 Fighting Falcon MSN HD-7/HD-12. Under license by TAI To Turkey as 94-105/110, Peace Onyx III 0107 crashed while attempting to land at Balikesir AB Jul 13, 2007. Both crew ejected safely. (AFM 10/2007) 94-1557/1564 Lockheed F-16D Block 50 Fighting Falcon MSN HD-13/HD-20. Built under license by TAI for Turkey, Peace Onyx III. THK serials 94-1557/1564 07-1001/1014 Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 50 Fighting Falcon MSN NV-1/NV-14. Built under license by TAI for Turkish AF, Peace Onyx IV 07-1015/1030 Lockheed Martin F-16D Block 50 Fighting Falcon MSN NW-1/NW-16. Built under license by TAI for Turkish AF, Peace Onyx IV
The following is a list of THK F-16 write-offs of which I am aware: