Incirlik Air Base
39th Air Base Wing
Incirlik provides vital support for 21 units, including the squadrons of the 39th Mission Support Group and the 39th Maintenance Group, and five geographically separated units. Key support includes medical services, supply, security and force protection, base infrastructure maintenance, communications support, transportation services, airlift and services.
The U.S. Engineering Group began construction of the 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. The Turkish General Staff and the U.S. Air Force signed a joint use agreement for the new base in December 1954.
February 21, 1955, the base was officially named Adana Air Base, with the 7216th Air Base Squadron as host unit. The following years would prove the value of Incirlik's location, not only in countering the Soviet threat, but also in responding to crises in the Middle East. Project 119L, a U.S. Air Force meteorological balloon launching activity, conducted operations at Adana AB in 1955. Following balloon operations, pilots began flying U-2 reconnaissance missions as part of Operation Overflight. Renamed Incirlik Air Base 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 United States 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. Because no fighting involving U.S. Forces on the ground in Lebanon occurred, 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 from the United States.
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 group assumed control of permanent support units in place at Incirlik. During the 1960s, Incirlik hosted 16th AF and USAFE rotational squadrons training deployments and maintained a NATO alert capability.
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. These units also conducted training at Incirlik's offshore air-to-air range. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, except during the Cyprus crisis, many types of aircraft including F-4s, F-15s, F-16s, F-111s and A-10s deployed to Incirlik. In mid-1975, the Turkish government announced all U.S. bases in Turkey would close and transfer control to the Turkish military. This action was in response to an arms embargo the U.S. Congress imposed on Turkey for using U.S.-supplied equipment during the Cyprus conflict. Only Incirlik AB and Izmir Air Station remained open due to their NATO missions; however all non-NATO activities at these locations.
The U.S. Congress lifted the arms embargo in September 1978 and restored military assistance to Turkey. Normal operations at Incirlik resumed after the United States and Turkey signed a Defense and Economic Cooperation Agreement March 29, 1980.
After signing the DECA, USAFE initiated the Turkey catch-up plan to improve quality of life at the base. Major construction projects included new base housing as well as a state-of-the art hospital complex.
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 39th TACG was redesignated as the 39th Air Base Wing on Oct. 1, 1993 and restructured as a standard U.S. Air Force objective wing.
The U.S. State Department's Operation Quick Transit evacuated thousands of Kurds from northern Iraq in late 1996. The wing provided logistical support in Turkey 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.
The 39th Air and Space Expeditionary Wing was activated at Incirlik AB Sept. 15, 1997, to support and command U.S. Air Force assets deployed to Incirlik supporting ONW. Incirlik's tent city, Hodja Village, quickly became the Air Force's largest during this timeframe.
Incirlik has always served as a hub for U.S. support to the Turkish government in the wake of disasters and humanitarian emergencies. For instance, Incirlik served as a critical hub for a virtual armada of U.S. aircraft delivering supplies in the wake of the Van earthquake in November 1976. In 1998, Incirlik again served as an aerial relief hub, as well as deploying a Humanitarian Assistance Survey Team (made up of 39th Wing personnel) in the wake of back to back earthquakes near Istanbul in August and Nov. 1999.
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. When U.S. contingency airbases were constructed in Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, Incirlik's airflow supporting OEF decreased to a baseline sustainment level. With the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom March 19, 2003, ONW ended. Incirlik's last ONW patrol returned to base March 17, 2003. This flight terminated a successful 12-year mission to contain Iraq militarily. The 39th ASEW inactivated effective May 1, 2003.
The 39th Wing was inactivated and the 39th Air Base Group was activated, effective July 16, 2003.
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 Incirlik 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. Incirlik provided soldiers with a cot, warm location, entertainment and food for their first few hours outside of a hostile war zone.
March 12, 2004, the 39th Air Base Group deactivated, and the 39th Air Base Wing activated to provide the best mix of required support in the Global War on Terror.
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 via the 385th Air Expeditionary Group, a tenant unit at Incirlik.
Oct. 18, 2005, Incirlik served as an air-bridge for the Pakistan Earthquake Relief Effort. Seven countries participated in the NATO-UNCHR humanitarian operation. Over 100 trucks offloaded supplies at Incirlik that were transported in over 130 airlift missions which delivered 1,647 tons of supplies including heating oil, food and blankets.
From 21 to 28 July, 2006, Incirlik helped support more than 1,700 displaced American citizens from Lebanon in the wake of the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict. Incirlik Airmen readied Patriot Village, which provided housing, telephone access, a 24-hour BX/Shopette, a children's play area, chaplain's assistance and medical services for people transitioning back to the U.S.
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.