After the latest incident involving McDonnell Douglas RF-4E/TMs, in which four crew members were killed when two of the aircraft crashed in southeast Turkey, the nation has decided to retire the type after a 35-year service life.
On 24 February, two RF-4Es crashed during an approach for landing. According to information released by the Turkish air force, the aircraft were flying in cloud during the night-time approach. The crash area was about 7.5nm (14km) from the runway at Malatya/Erhac air base. An F-4E was also lost in Konya province on 5 March.
Turkey received its first batch of RF-4Es in 1980, followed by 32 ex-German air force examples in 1993. Between 2009 and 2011, 16 of the aircraft were modernised by the air force's 1st Supply & Maintenance Centre, bringing them up to the RF-4E/TM standard.
Since the modernisation activity was completed, a total of five RF-4Es have been lost, including one which was shot down in international airspace by a Syrian surface-to-air missile in 2012. Both crew members died in the incident.
In the wake of the 24 February crash, the air force has announced that its remaining eight operational RF-4E/TMs will be retired on 12 March. The type's last flight will be performed with the service's commander, Gen Akin Ozturk, on board.
Turkish air force
Turkey plans to replace the RF-4E's capabilities with Lockheed Martin F-16s carrying UTC Aerospace Systems DB-110 digital reconnaissance pods. Three of the sensors have been received so far for use by 142 Sqn, located at Akinci/Ankara air base.