Turkey has disbanded its first squadron of McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom strike aircraft, under a transition plan leading to its future operation of Lockheed Martin's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The Turkish air force's 172nd Sqn, based in Malatya Erhac, had flown the F-4E for more than 32 years. It is planned to reform in 2014 following first deliveries of the JSF. Ankara expects to receive its first two F-35s that year, although these will first be used at a training centre in the USA. The air force's first conventional take-off and landing F-35As should arrive in Turkey in 2015, with the nation planning to buy 100 of the aircraft.

The 172nd Sqn retirement leaves Turkey with five Phantom units, including the 112th Sqn at Eskisehir, which operates "classic" F-4Es introduced from 1974. Two squadrons fly F-4E 2020 "Terminator" bombers, which were upgraded in the late 1990s in co-operation with Israel Aerospace Industries. The air force also has two squadrons of RF-4 reconnaissance aircraft.

Turkish F-4 Phantom
 © Tolga Ozbek

Source: Flight International