162 Filo was the second squadron at Bandirma AB to receive the new F-16. This happened almost simultaneously with 161 Filo, who converted in the same year. Like most squadrons within the Turkish Air Force, these are of the block 40 version. The F-16 replaced the F-104G Starfighter, as in most European NATO countries. The mission of the squadron thus was conventional attack as primary role, with a secondary air defence role. This did not change with the introduction of the F-16. It was just replacing an obsolete aircraft with a newer one with more capabilities. However, since the vintage F-104s were of the specialised reconnaissance version, this task wasn’t retained.
With the block 40 came new capabilities, resulting in the possibility to conduct night-time operations. In the first years of operating the F-16, this was not easy since the Turkish Air Force didn’t order targeting pods together with the aircraft. An order for LANTIRN pods was placed when the first aircraft were leaving the production line. 162 Filo had to wait until 1998 to receive their first pods after a second order was placed. This however, marked a dramatic change in missions that could be flown. From 1998 onwards the squadron was fully operational on the type with all mission profiles to be flown.
TuAF F-16C block 40 #89-0037
from 162 Filo seen on final approach to Florennes AB on March 18th, 2003. [Photo by Elmer van Hest]
For a number of years, all F-16s squadrons within the Turkish Air Force are multi-role. This means they can handle all missions, but are specialised in one. With the CCIP program – which will start in 2009 – the aircraft will get an upgrade which will prolong their service life and introduce a completely new block 50 cockpit and advanced electronics.