Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s plane was almost shot down by Turkish F-16’s on the night of the coup while he was en route to Istanbul.

Turkish F-16’s harassed Turkish President Erdogan’s Gulfstream on Friday night. Reports are conflicting on whether or not the Turkish Air Force (TuAF) were sympathetic to the coup or to the government. However, the Turkish officer who was in command of Incirlik Air Base and 11 other Turkish troops on the base were arrested by Turkish authorities for allegedly taking part in the coup attempt.

President Erdogan’s plane made it safely to Istanbul late in the evening of the coup attempt.

According to a former military officer cited by Reuters, “At least two F-16s harassed Erdogan’s plane while it was in the air and en route to Istanbul.”

“Why they didn’t fire is a mystery,” the former official added.

The TuAF is no stranger to taking a shot when they have a chance.  In November 2015, a Turkish F-16 shot down a Russian Su-24 after a pair of Fencers trundled into Turkish airspace during a mission in Syria. The Russian Su-24’s were warned multiple times, but continued on until one of the aircraft made its way into Turkish airspace and was shot down by a flight of two Vipers in a Combat Air Patrol (CAP) nearby.

Turkish President Erdogan (photo Gatestone Institute)
Turkish President Erdogan (photo Gatestone Institute)

On Friday, a Turkish F-16 fighter jet shot down a Sikorsky helicopter hijacked by coup plotters seeking to oust the government. The military helicopter was taken down over the capital city Ankara.

The Turkish Air Force has somewhere between 245 to 270 F-16’s.  The inventory includes Block 30/40/50’s. In 2011, the Turkish and US governments signed a letter of offer and acceptance (LOA) for the $1.1 billion modernization of 117 Turkish Air Force F-16’s to a common avionics configuration.

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The upgrade created a very capable and modern F-16 . Systems integrated onto Turkey’s upgraded F-16’s include: AN/APG-69(V)9 radar for the Block 50/52, color cockpit displays, Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS), Link 16 datalink, AN/AVS-9 night vision goggles, and the AN/ALQ-178(V)5+ electronic-warfare (EW) system.

After a temporary shut down of airspace due to the coup, Turkey has re-opened airspace for Incirlik Air Base.

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Top Photo credit: Turkish Block 50 F-16s and F-4 2020 Terminators during an exericse. (Photo courtesy of Turkish Air Force)