The Turkish Air Force is set to decommission its ageing fleet of RF-4E Phantom II all-weather, long-range supersonic jet interceptor aircraft after a fatal crash occurred.
The move comes days after three aircraft crashed in Turkey’s central Konya province and the eastern province of Malatya during training missions, in February and March respectively, killing six on-board pilots.
Primarily, the aircraft are used for reconnaissance missions. They are scheduled to be replaced by the more advanced F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft.
Turkish Air Force combatant commander Abidin Unal was quoted by Anadolu Agency as saying: "As of yesterday, we have completed the last tests and the chief commander of Turkish Air Forces and I will fly a RF-4E warplane in a closing ceremony tomorrow (Thursday)."
According to Unal, the air force had undertaken measures to transmit new exploration codes to F-16 jets to retire the RF-4E planes, which were originally anticipated to fly until the end of 2015.
A total of ten Turkish pilots have been killed in mid-air collisions and crashes involving 11 RF4-E fighters between 1995 and 2015, as reported by Daily Sabah.
The Turkish Air Force currently has eight operational RF4-E fighter jets in its inventory.
However, the Turkish Defence Ministry plans to continue flying the F-4E 2020 fighter jets, which are the upgraded version of RF-4s, until 2020. They will then be replaced by the fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighters, as reported by Today’s Zaman.
Image: A Turkish Air Force’s RF-4E Phantom II aircraft at Izmir Cigli Air Base, Turkey. Photo: courtesy of Aldo Bidini.