June 12, 2014 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Three Turkish F-16s out of Diyarbakır conducted reconnaissance flights on Sunday over the rebel-held Iraqi city of Mosul where 80 Turkish citizens have been held by an al-Qaeda breakaway group for almost a week. The F-16s were armed in the event of a possible attack.
TuAF F-16D block 50 #07-1019 is taking off from Konya AB during exercise Anatolian Eagle on June 19th, 2013. [Photo by Hans Rolink
The self pro-claimed Islamic State in Iraq
and Syria (alternatively translated as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), already a formidable force inside Syria, has extended its reach into Iraq since Tuesday, when it seized Iraq's second largest city Mosul.
The ISIS militants, a breakaway group from Al Qaeda, has also threatened the Turkish territory of Suleiman Shah in the Syrian city of Aleppo as well as Turkey
's mainland borders from their northern Syrian stronghold.
Turkey in response threatened to carry out air raids on ISIS bases in Syria if they attacked the Suleiman Shah territory. Turkey's Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that Iraq has not taken the necessary security measures to combat ongoing violence affecting the country.
As ISIS rebels advance in Iraq and threaten Baghdad itself the Iraqi air force is getting its first F-16 fighter jets
. They will however not be able to use the advanced jets against the militants until later this year: The first of 36 F-16s ordered by Iraq won’t actually arrive there for some months, and even then it will take months to build combat effectiveness.
The Iraqi air force also lacks trained pilots who can fly the F-16s in combat. Eight pilots have completed basic training, but none are combat ready yet.
Iraqi state TV reported Thursday that government aircraft bombed ISIS positions around Mosul, without saying what airplanes were used — though they were most likely light trainer aircraft. The air force hasn’t had jet fighters since 2003, when the U.S.-led coalition that invaded the country destroyed the last remnants of Saddam Hussein’s once-large air force