PCS Guide: Incirlik Air Base

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- -- The U.S. Engineering Group began construction of Incirlik Air Base, located approximately 250 miles southeast of Ankara, Turkey, in the spring of 1951. The U.S. Air Force initially planned to use the base as an emergency staging and recovery site for medium and heavy bombers.

February 21, 1955, the base was officially named Adana Air Base, with the 7216th Air Base Squadron as its host unit. The following years would prove the value of Incirlik's location. After balloon operations at Adana AB in 1955, pilots began flying U-2 reconnaissance missions as part of Operation Overflight. Renamed Incirlik AB Feb. 28, 1958, the base was the main U-2 operating location until May 1960, when Francis Gary Powers' U-2 aircraft succumbed to a volley of Soviet surface-to-air missiles over Sverdlovsk.

The Lebanon crisis exploded in the summer of 1958, prompting President Eisenhower to order the deployment of Tactical Air Command's Composite Strike Force Bravo from the U.S. to Incirlik.

The strike force consisted of F-100s, B-57s, RF-101s, RB-66s, F-86Ds and WB-66s. These aircraft and supporting personnel overwhelmed Incirlik's facilities and aircraft parking aprons. Incirlik also supported cargo and transport aircraft in deploying an Army battalion from Germany to Lebanon. The Incirlik-based strike force flew air missions to cover troop movements, executed show-of-force missions over Beirut, as well as accomplished aerial reconnaissance sorties and leaflet drops.

After the Lebanon crisis, TAC deployed F-100 fighter squadrons on 100-day rotations to Incirlik.

As part of an effort to bring units with combat history into the theater, U.S. Air Forces in Europe inactivated Incirlik's 7216th, which had become an air base group, and activated the 39th Tactical Group at Incirlik April 1, 1966.

The flying mission at Incirlik further diversified in 1970 when the Turkish Air Force agreed to allow USAFE to use its air-to-ground range at Konya, providing a suitable training area for U.S. squadrons deployed to Incirlik.

After Iraq's 1990 invasion of neighboring Kuwait, the 7440th Composite Wing (provisional) assumed operational control of the 39th Tactical Group. The 7440th was the air component of Joint Task Force Proven Force which eventually controlled 140 aircraft and opened a northern front. This aerial northern front forced Iraq to split its air defenses between the north and the south where the main thrust of coalition attacks originated as part of Operation Desert Storm. Following the war, Incirlik hosted Combined Task Force Provide Comfort (I, II and III) in its mission to provide humanitarian relief and protect Kurdish refugees in northern Iraq.

The U.S. State Department's Operation Quick Transit evacuated thousands of Kurds from northern Iraq in late 1996. The wing provided logistical support for this operation, which signaled the end of the humanitarian aspect of Operation Provide Comfort III. Dec. 31, 1996. In its place, Operation Northern Watch stood up Jan. 1, 1997. ONW enforced the U.N.-sanctioned no-fly zone for Iraqi aircraft and helicopters north of the Iraq's 36th parallel.

In response to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, Operation Enduring Freedom began in October 2001. Incirlik served as a main hub of humanitarian airlift operations to Afghanistan, MC-130 special operations missions, KC-135 refueling missions and sustainment operations for deployed forces. The aerial port managed a 600 percent increase in airflow during the early stages of OEF.

Aug. 19, 2003, the first rotation of deployed KC-135 Stratotankers and Airmen arrived at Incirlik to support Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

Jan. 6, 2004, more than 300 soldiers of what would become thousands transited through the base as the first stop back to their home post in the U.S. after spending almost a year in Iraq. Incirlik was part of what was then described as the largest troop movement in U.S. history, providing soldiers with a cot, entertainment and food for their first few hours outside of a hostile war zone.

June 1, 2005, Incirlik activated one of the Air Force's largest C-17 Globemaster cargo hub operations in support of OEF and OIF. Hub operations deliver much-needed supplies such as add-on armor, tires, engines and more to U.S. Forces in theater.
From July 21 to 28, 2006, 39th ABW helped support more than 1,700 displaced American citizens from Lebanon in the wake of the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict.
Incirlik and the 39th ABW continue to supply equipment and supplies in the GWOT - as of 2008, Incirlik aerial hub operations moved 18 percent of AMC's cargo and provided 57 percent of sustainment cargo for OEF and OIF.

Incirlik Air Base history and information's are culled from historical facts. Courtesy of the 17th Training Wing Public Affairs.