ANKARA — In December 2013, Turkish officials warned that because military pilots were leaving service at such an alarming rate, much greater attention must be paid to the training regime. Slightly over a year later, Turkey mourns the loss of six pilots in a span of six days.
Two Turkish RF-4E reconnaissance jets crashed into a hill on Feb. 27 near Malatya, eastern Turkey, killing all four pilots aboard. On March 5, an F-4E fighter crashed over an electronic warfare test field near Konya in central Anatolia, killing two pilots.
The Turkish military ruled out technical reasons for both mishaps. A statement from the military headquarters March 10 blamed the accidents on pilot error.
Although the military denied technical failures, it said on March 11 that it would decommission the remaining eight RF-4E aircraft in the Air Force’s inventory as of March 12. It said the F-4Es, which Turkey jointly upgraded with Israeli Aerospace Industries in the 1990s, would remain in service until 2020.
The F-4s first entered service in the Turkish Air Force in 1974. Since then 10 RF-4Es and 50 F-4Es have crashed.
Analysts and experts point to possible training weaknesses at the Air Force.
“The morale has been low among officers over the past few years due mainly to a slew of legal cases targeting their colleagues,” said one insider. “Mass departures from the service also has weakened the training concept.”
Read More:Training Cited in Turkish Aircraft Losses.