August 10, 2015 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The U.S. Air Force deployed a small detachment of six F-16s to Incirlik Air Base in Ankara, Turkey. They arrived on Sunday to join the coalition fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.
Six F-16s from the 31st FW accompany approximately 300 personnel and cargo deployed from Aviano AB to Incirlik AB in support of Operation Inherent Resolve on August 9th, 2015. [USAF photo by A1C. Deana Heitzman]
Following a suicide bombing that killed 32 people and the killing of a soldier by IS militants Turkey
opened up Incirlik Air Base to the anti-IS combat efforts. At the same time Turkey started carrying out airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria.
Those moves ended months of reluctance by Turkey, giving it a more active role in the 60-plus nation coalition against the extremist group. The U.S. has repeatedly pushed its NATO
ally to allow it to conduct combat operations from Incirlik in the past, but has usually been denied permission to do so. Deny-flight missions over northern Iraq
were a notable exception during Operation Northern Watch that began in 1997 and ended with the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
The six U.S. F-16s belong to the 31st Fighter Wing and were dispatched from Aviano Air Base in Italy
, along with support equipment and 300 personnel. Turkish media reports say the U.S. is expected to deploy around 30 fighter jets at Incirlik for strikes against IS.
Incirlik is located close to IS strongholds across the border in Syria, allowing the U.S. to move more swiftly and nimbly against IS targets. Its use enables the U.S. -led coalition to conduct better surveillance over Syria and act quicker on intelligence than when it was limited to launching flights from places like Iraq, Jordan
and the Gulf states.
Turkey and the United States are planning joint military action to clear IS militants from an area of Syria near the Turkish border.
Last week marked one year since the start of US-led military action against the extremist group's strongholds in Iraq, before the campaign expanded to Syria.