Six American F-16 jets have arrived at Incirlik air base in Turkey, following the Turkish government’s agreement to allow U.S. planes to fly bombing runs against ISIS from their air fields. Last week saw the first strike missions carried out by drones, which were flying unarmed reconnaissance from Incirlik prior to Turkey’s change in policy.
The Kurdish Rudaw news agency reports the Fighting Falcons were accompanied by a C-5 transport plane, a KC-135 refueling aircraft, and 300 military personnel. The detachment was sent by the 31st Fighter Wing, based at the Aviano air base in Italy.
Fox News adds that “a search-and-rescue team of elite Air Force pararescuemen, also known as ‘PJs,’ with their support helicopters and crews will be moved into position after the fighters arrive.”
“The arrival of the F-16s at the base will allow the U.S.-led coalition to step up the pace of strike missions,” predicts the Wall Street Journal. “Air Force pilots will be able to spend more of their time looking for targets on the battlefield and less time in transit to the area from military bases elsewhere in the region.”
Rudaw concludes its report with an apprehensive note about how Turkey’s anti-ISIS offensive has mostly consisted of dropping bombs on Kurds, specifically the PKK separatist movement.
“Until now, Turkey has been largely criticized for being a reluctant partner in the US-led coalition arrayed to defeat ISIS,” Rudaw writes. “Ankara says it is gearing up for an assault on the Islamists after turning a blind eye to their use of the Turkish border to smuggle in fighters and smuggle out oil and goods to sell.”