Two Turkish F-4E Phantom IIs were confirmed yesterday as the latest additions to the static display at the 2019 Royal International Air Tattoo, to be held at RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire, from July 19-21. The Türk Hava Kuvvetleri (THK, Turkish Air Force) last visited the Air Tattoo with F-4s in 2006.
The aircraft provided for RIAT 2019 will be from 111 Filo ‘Panterler’ (111 Squadron ‘Panthers’) based at Eskişehir. One of the jets is expected to be the specially marked F-4E 2020 serial 77-0296, which was painted last year with tail art to mark 60 years of the Phantom II. The jet was photographed recently at the Anatolian Eagle exercise in Konya. It is unclear if the markings will be adapted before 77-0296 makes the trip to the UK.
Turkey decided to equip the THK with the F-4E in 1972. Ankara ordered 40 F-4Es under Project Peace Diamond I, together with AGM-65A Maverick and AIM-9P Sidewinder missiles. The initial airfield selected for the new fighters was the 1. Ana Jet Üssü (1st Main Jet Base). The first two F-4Es (73-1016 and 73-1017) arrived at Eskişehir on August 30, 1974, ferried by US pilots. The first eight aircraft equipped 113 Filo ‘Tayfun’ (‘Typhoon’), established the same year at Eskişehir. After receiving 40 jets, Turkey was faced by a US weapons embargo due to conflict in Cyprus.
The embargo was lifted in 1978 and Turkey then ordered an additional 40 Phantoms under Project Peace Diamond II – 32 F-4Es and eight RF-4Es. These transfers included the 5,000th Phantom manufactured – serial 77-0290.
Turkey then continued to receive ex-US Air Force Phantoms, comprising 15 F-4Es under Project Peace Diamond III in 1981 and 15 F-4Es under Project Peace Diamond IV in 1984. A further 40 jets were recieved under Project Peace Diamond V in 1987. Although Turkey had begun looking for a replacement type, this policy changed in 1991, when a further 40 F-4Es were acquired from USAF stocks under Peace Diamond VI, as a return for Turkish support during the first Gulf War.
Over the years, the THK made good use of its Phantoms and decided to extend their service life and increase capability. Accordingly, an agreement was signed with Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) on August 24, 1995. This deal covered structural and avionics upgrade of 54 F-4Es. The modifications included the installation of new hydraulic systems, EL/M-2032 radar, Mil Std 1553B multiplex databus, Elbit ACE-3 computer, a new electronic warfare system and new cockpit. The crew now made use of multifunction displays (MFDs), wide-angle head-up display (HUD) and HOTAS (hands on throttle and stick) controls. The modernised Phantoms were redesignated F-4E 2020 Terminator and were assigned to 111 Filo and to 171 Filo ‘Korsanlar’ (‘Pirates’).
Today, approximately 23 F-4E 2020s remain with 111 Filo and with the Test Filo (Test Squadron).