The United States has refused to send Instructors to train new pilots for Turkey’s F-16 fighter aircraft after Ankara sacked more than half of the existing pilots for participating in the 2016 coup attempt against the Erdogan regime.
In addition, Washington has prevailed upon Pakistan not to send its F-16 instructors to Turkey. Islamabad had earlier agreed to train the Turkish pilots, Hurriet Daily News reported today.
During the thwarted coup, 25 coup pilots flew with F-16 jets and 11 of them bombed strategic sites. It was subsequently revealed that a significant number of followers of the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fehullah Gulen were in the Air Forces Command which led to the dismissal of 1,752 personnel.
Between 300 and 350 of those dismissed were warplane pilots and as a result the ratio of aircraft to pilots has nearly halved to less than one pilot per aircraft from the earlier 1.5.
Turkey’s warplane fleet with 240 jets is largely composed of F-16 jets which are currently being used in the war against the ISIS in Syria and one of which had short down a Russian Su-34 fighter jet in 2016.
The US has already spoken out against the mass dismissals in Turkey’s army of persecuting people suspected of having participated in or sympathized with the coup plotters.
The refusal to send instructors may lead to a fresh row between Washington and Ankara. Washington is peeved with Turkey for entering into an agreement with Russia to buy its S-400 anti-missile defence system.
Unconfirmed reports say that Erdogan had been warned in the nick of time about the coup by Russian Intelligence which had been keeping the skies over Turkey in close surveillance following the shooting down of its warplane.