Initial Training For Combat Readiness Turkish Air Force Pilot Training Program

Issue 105

Well-trained personnel are an indispensable necessity for a strong Air Force as much as modern aircraft and munitions. The Turkish Air Force (TurAF) meets its personnel needs with the Pilot Training System, which is implemented according to NATO and U.S. Air Force standards. The first step of this system is the Air Force Academy (Hava Harp Okulu/HHO). During their education period, cadets of the Air Force Academy receive Applied Flight Training in addition to their academic and military lessons. With the help of this training, cadets improve their knowledge and skills about aviation. Flight Training, which is planned and controlled by the Wing Command, is conducted under the supervision of the *5th Squadron Command  and it is executed via highly experienced instructor pilots who have served in different bases of the Turkish Air Force for many years. While acquiring the principles and dynamics of basic flight within the content of light training, cadets enhance their knowledge in real flying conditions in T- 41D planes of the *5th Squadron, and they increase their skill levels intended for piloting training. In parallel to the recurrent flight training in every academic year, cadets also receive meteorology, flight physiology, radio communication, GPS, flight planning, and cartography courses as part of the ground training. Additionally, the Air Force Academy cadets are given glider courses by the flight instructors from the Turkish Aeronautical Association (THK) at Yalova airfield during the summer term.

Young Lieutenants who graduated from the Air Force Academy and Officers from different classes who meet the necessary conditions, to fill the need for pilots that emerged after July 15, receive flight training as Pilot Candidate Officers at the 2nd Main Jet Base in İzmir Çiğli. Training is given with five different aircraft/helicopter types at the Five Squadron Command located in Çiğli and Kaklıç. Training is divided into two classes, which are ground training and flight training. Ground training has four main subjects: Aircraft Technical Training, Squadron Ground Training, Simulator Training, and Academic Training. Pilot candidates receive technical information about the aircraft they will fly at the Technical Training Center. Here, they are given information on the technical characteristics of SF-260D, KT-1T, T-38M, and CN-235 aircraft and AS-532 Cougar helicopters in the inventory of the 2nd Main Jet Base Command. The academic training is 174 hours in total, and pilot candidates receive the courses along with flight training. These academic courses consist of 44 hours of the Initial Flight Training phase, 112 hours of Basic Flight Training phase, and 18 hours of Advanced Flight Training phase. 

Pilot candidates receive "Basic Survival Training" and "Physiological Training" before flight training begins. During survival training, they are trained to use maps, first aid, communication, survival in water, and radios. With Physiological Training, pilot candidates are taught different ways to avoid physiological problems that arise from the performance of the aircraft during the flight to minimize accidents that may occur due to human factors. 

After completing all these courses, the pilot candidates join the 123rd Squadron Command. After two weeks of ground courses, they begin to take Initial Flight Training with SF-260D aircraft. After taking Flight Ground Training lessons (Meteorology, Aerodynamics, Flight Planning, Flight Physiology, and Navigation) for the first two weeks of training, which lasts for 3-4 months in total depending on meteorological conditions, the pilot candidates who fly for approximately 20 hours in 16 sorties complete Initial Flight Training by flying their last sorties alone. 

Pilot candidates, who go to the 122nd Squadron Command to receive Basic Flight Training, take the Aircraft Egress Trainer (UTER) course before flying with the KT-1T trainer aircraft. Having learned to use the Martin-Baker Mk16 ejection seat used in KT-1T and T-38M aircraft, pilot candidates begin to take ground courses with the "Computer Based Training System" before flight training. In single rooms, basic information about the KT-1T aircraft is interactively displayed on two computer screens, both audibly and visually, and the cadets start the training with the simulator. During simulator training, 2 KT-1T Aircraft Operational Flight Training (OFT) Simulators, 2 KT-1T Aircraft Instrument Flight Training (IFT) Simulators, and 2 Aircraft Training Devices (ATD) are used. After flying 35 sorties with the simulator, the pilot candidates complete their Basic Flight Training by performing 69 sorties with the KT-1T trainer aircraft. At the end of this training, which lasts 6 to 9 months, pilot candidates must make a decision that will affect their future careers. They are divided into Jet, Transport, or Helicopter Pilots. The cadets who will be Transport and Helicopter Pilots are assigned to the 125th Training Squadron Command. After six months of training, which consists of 52 sorties with CN-235-100M aircraft and 18 sorties with the simulator, the successful Transport Pilots are divided into C-130B/E, C-160D, and CN-235-100M aircraft. C-160D and C-130B/E pilots are assigned to the 221st and 222nd Squadrons at the 12th Air Transportation Main Base Command in Kayseri for Combat Readiness Training, while the CN-235 pilots are assigned to the 212th Squadron at the Ankara 11th Air Transportation Main Base Command to receive their Combat Readiness Training. Helicopter pilot candidates also fly 50 sorties during six months of training. Those who successfully complete the training continue their Combat Readiness Training at the 125th Training Squadron Command. Lastly, candidates selected as Jet Pilots start their Advanced Jet Training at the 121st Squadron Command.

Pilot candidates fly 69 sorties with T-38M aircraft for six months. Twelve of these sorties are solo flights (1 pre-solo flight sortie, 4 contact flight sorites, 4 basic formation flight sorties, 2 advanced formation flight sorties, and     1-night flight sortie.) The pilot candidates also fly 35 sorties in the simulator during this training period, and they can take additional lessons with the simulator if needed. These simulation lessons are performed with 2 T-38M Aircraft Operational Flight Training (OFT) Simulators, which emulate visual flight conditions with a wide-angle display system and only the front cockpit layout, 2 T-38M Aircraft Instrument Flight Training (IFT) Simulators with a normal angle-of-view display system and both front/rear cockpit layout, and 4 Debriefing Systems. The orientation period of the T-38M is more difficult. The cadets must be able to control and fly the high-speed (900 km/h and above) aircraft in the air and land the plane safely while approaching the runway at a speed of approximately 300 km/h per hour. 

Air Force Academy, the 2nd Main Jet Base Training Center Command

Pilot candidates are qualified to wear their badges after successfully completing their one and a half years of intense training. They are assigned as pilots to the F-4E/2020, F-16, E-7T, and KC-135R aircraft of the Turkish Air Force. Depending on the aircraft type, they are sent to different Squadrons to receive Transition to Combat Readiness Training. F-16 Combat Readiness Training is given with T-38M trainers at the 121st Squadron. F-4E/2020 Combat Readiness Training is provided by the 111th Squadron at the 1st Main Jet Base. E-7T Combat Readiness Training is given with simulators at the 131st Squadron Command and the Turkish Airlines Training Center. KC-135R Combat Readiness Training is provided by the 101st Tanker Squadron at the 10th Tanker Base Command.

Pilots who started their flight careers at the Air Force Academy, continue their training with Combat Readiness Training after graduation. As can be seen, pilot training is a long and expensive process. Moreover, simulator training, which can also be considered synthetic flight, is gaining significance as it shortens this process and reduces overall cost. Compared to other countries, fortunately, Turkey can design and manufacture these simulators domestically. Havelsan has become a world-renowned company in this field. Fighter aircraft used by the TurAF today or to be used in the future have become increasingly sophisticated. All the 5th generation fighter jets have been or will be produced as single-seat aircraft. Simulators have become even more critical in transitioning pilots to these aircraft. Additionally, new generation trainer aircraft are required for the 5th gen-fighters. The HürKuş and HürJet projects, which were initiated to meet these needs, are still ongoing. In its 110-year history, the Turkish Air Force, which has met its training needs primarily from foreign countries, has now turned into a Force that can provide and support the entire process from Initial Training to Combat Readiness Training. With its seasoned experience the TurAF can now provide training to other allied Air Forces worldwide. 


Editor Note: * 5th Squadron name was changed for 126th "Serçe" Squadron.