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The Pakistani pilots that the Turkish Air Force relies on

In relation to our article “Turkey’s propaganda air battles,” we considered it right to write a few words about the Turkish F-16 fighter jets, which to some extent have been flown by untrained Pakistani pilots in recent years. This in itself says a lot about their combat readiness, but also their abilities in a possible war with Greece.

As is well known in international relations, and without either of them ever trying to keep it a secret, Turkey and Pakistan are close allies. Perhaps the clearest example is the statements by the Pakistani Ministry of Defense that “Turkey’s enemies are also Pakistan’s enemies.” But why are we interested in this issue?

Following the failed coup in Turkey in July 2016, the regime of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ousted from the armed forces and state services anyone who had the slightest indication of dissent or a relationship with such views. Among those imprisoned or expelled, according to official figures from the Turkish Ministry of Defense, were 680 pilots of the air force, out of a total of 1,350 in Turkey. In addition, of the remaining 670, some left voluntarily, and others retired, bringing the number to less than 400.

As a solution, the Turkish Ministry of Defense in 2017 made some very tempting proposals for private sector pilots, as well as retired air force pilots, to enter the air force with brief procedures. Due to general dissatisfaction, however, this resulted in less than 50 pilots being admitted through this program. See the first page of the 6-page related legislation discovered by Nordic Monitor below.

Turkey has reached the point of accepting literally anyone it wants to become a pilot, but without success. So Turkey turned to their ally, Pakistan, which has similar airspace. Pakistan agreed to become the soul of the Turkish Air Force but there was an issue, the US refused to train Pakistani pilots as Turks.

Finally, Turkey found the solution for this in December 2019. Since the US refused to provide training to Pakistani pilots of the Turkish Air Force, Turkey will do it alone. In particular, with an agreement signed, the Turkish company Yöntem Teknoloji will undertake the technical training of Pakistani pilots for F-16 fighter jets.

Theoretically, this started in June 2020, but as early as 2019, incidents have been recorded where Turkish planes are flown by Pakistani pilots. And while this is happening, the few Turkish pilots continue to dwindle, making for the first time in history a national air force heavily manned by pilots of a foreign nation.

So, the next time you hear about some air battle or interception between Greece and Turkey in the East Mediterranean, it might be more correct to say Greece-Pakistan air battle, and not Greece-Turkey. In conclusion, certainly advanced weapons systems and equipment are important to the armed forces, but above all it is their personnel-soul. The Turkish Air Force is a great example of what happens when you put equipment on top of personnel.

The views of the author do not necessarily reflect those of Greek City Times.

This article first appeared on Defense GR.

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