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Attack on Incirlik Airbase - From Chapter Six


November 2nd, 2005 that same time

WNN Broadcast Studios

New York City, New York, WNN

 

“We interrupt this program to bring you a SPECIAL NEWS REPORT.”

 

On TV screens across America and around the world, David Krenshaw’s face appeared as WNN interrupted normal programming.

 

“Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. … We have reports of military activity and are cutting live to our on-scene reporter, Maria Gomez. Go ahead, Maria.”

 

The feed cut to a night picture of a young Spanish American female reporter. Her hair was blowing in a gusty wind and she had her ear to her headset. In the background, crews were seen feverishly working on an F-15E Strike Eagle. Maria looked up into the camera and began speaking.

 

“Yes, David, this is Maria Gomez at the U.S. Air Force base at Incirlik in Turkey. We are about one hundred yards away from the command center here in an area that has been set up for the press to view aircraft as they taxi and then take off. Earlier this evening there was significant activity on the line which we have on film and will share with you later.”

 

“Right now, we are experiencing high tension and frantic action here as many aircraft are being feverishly readied in the background.”

 

“Within the past five minutes we have witnessed the launch of several dozen missiles from what we presume to be anti-air batteries. Several of them were Patriot missile launches. Incirlik base appears to be under attack.”

 

“BLAMMMmmm”

 

“Joe, get that! There was an explosion to our right and about a half mile away. Several of the earlier missile launches originated there. Apparently one of those batteries was just destroyed after a missile streaked in at unbelievable speed and exploded.”

 

“You can hear the sirens in the background which have been going off incessantly for the last ten to fifteen minutes. As they started, we were stopped by Air Force security and asked to seek shelter, but when those personnel had to rush off to another location, Joe and I made our way back here to get as much of the attack as possible on film.

 

“Oh! There's another set of missiles coming in! Joe, pan to the left!”

 

“As the camera panned to the left, two missile trails were clearly visible, leading from the ground about a mile distant and trailing up behind two rapidly climbing missiles. As the missiles got higher and more distant, the cameraman expertly zoomed in and caught on film the destruction of a GIR MiG-27 “Flogger” aircraft in a tremendous explosion when its fuel and ordinance ignited simultaneously with the impact of the missile.

 

“Unbelievable! David, did you catch that? Ladies and gentlemen, we are witnessing a live GIR air attack on Incirlik airbase. Quickly, Joe, over there on the runway, there’s a flight of four Strike Eagles just taking off.”

 

Again the cameraman panned and caught four F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft as they took off under full afterburner thrust and rocketed almost straight up into the night sky. They had risen no more than three thousand feet when the aircraft on the far left of the formation was hit by a missile and exploded in a brilliant flash of light and burning debris. There was no chute.

 

“My God! They took out one of those F-15E’s!”

 

The scene became more hectic as the cameraman panned back to catch as much of the action on the flight line as possible. There were numerous explosions on the taxiways where aircraft were being rearmed and several ejection seats lifted off from those positions. Many more didn’t.

 

“Look, Joe, quickly pan towards the far end of the runway. Do you see them? Those are unmistakably MiG-29 aircraft coming towards us. Look, they are releasing some type of missiles or bombs … Joe, are you catching this? Now, they are rocketing almost completely vertical. Oh. No! … Joe, get down, one of those bombs is homing in on the Command Center!”

 

On the screen, the unmistakable image of a bomb came flying towards the news crew as Joe zoomed in directly on it. The weapon flew off at a slight angle towards the Command Center when suddenly there was an incredibly bright flash, and then nothing but static.

 

“… Ladies and gentlemen, we seem to have lost our feed from Incirlik. We will try to reconnect with Maria momentarily and continue with the on-scene report of the action there in Turkey.”

 

November 2nd, 2005 06:15 local

Incirlik Airbase. Turkey

 

Within the thirty minutes, it was over.

 

Colonel Phillips' force on barrier CAP gave an excellent account of itself. The GIR pincer movement failed to capture and destroy all of the American aircraft before they could engage the GIR attack aircraft formations. All eight of the F-15’s sent to foil that pincer maneuver were destroyed, but not before they shot down eight GIR MiG-29’s and ten SU-27’s. This still left four MiG-29’s and eight SU-27’s to fly CAP over the attacking forces as at that moment no more U.S. defenders were in the air, outside of the four F-15’s protecting the last E-3 Sentry.

 

Colonel Phillips himself penetrated the main GIR formation with his seven aircraft and was able to get into range before the twenty-two MiG-21’s and their R-73 missiles could counter them. Colonel Phillips and his flight launched twenty-eight AMRAAM missiles into the oncoming horde of GIR aircraft. The AMRAAMs were launched just as the SU-24 aircraft, which had surged slightly ahead of the main attack group, launched forty-eight air-to-ground Kh-59 missiles and then turned away. While the American AMRAAMs were flying towards their targets, the MiG-21’s came into range and launched eighteen R-73 “Archer” infrared missiles at the F-15’s. In the resulting “dog fight," five of Colonel Phillips' aircraft were destroyed, including the Colonel’s own. His last living thought had come while sighting on a MiG-29 attack aircraft. He announced “Fox-2” as he launched a Sidewinder missile, just an instant before being destroyed by two “Archer” missiles launched from two of the four MiG-21’s that were targeting him.

 

Altogether eighteen GIR attack aircraft and ten of the escorting MiG-21’s were destroyed by Colonel Phillips' attack. His disregard for his own life in the face of overwhelming odds, and while attempting to stave off the attack on Incirlik, would later earn him, posthumously, the Medal of Honor.

 

As the WNN news crew observed, the longer-range Patriot missile batteries and the Hawk missile batteries engaged the Kh-59 missiles first. These were fast, anti-radiation (or anti-radar) missiles that had been designed specifically to attack anti-air missile defenses. The resulting “engagement” destroyed 50% of Incirlik’s Patriot and Hawk missile sites, and caused another 25% to expend their missiles defending themselves. Nonetheless, the remaining Hawk systems and the Patriot systems exacted a heavy toll on the GIR attack aircraft before they reached the base, destroying twelve MiG-27’s, eight F-5’s and fourteen MiG-21’s. At this point, the ground forces’ shoulder-fired Stinger missiles and the Avenger missile systems came into play.

 

Just as the GIR attack aircraft appeared over the base proper, the first flight of re-armed F-15E strike eagles took off. As related in the SPECIAL BROADCAST, their takeoff and the vivid destruction of one of their number was seen around the world as a result of Maria Gomez’s reporting and the live video filmed by her cameraman, Joe. These four aircraft, armed with four AMRAAM and four Sidewinder missiles, had to fight their way to altitude in order to launch their missiles. Only three of them succeeded and engaged the first wave of MiG-27 “Flogger” attack aircraft which were making their bombing runs on the runways. These Strike Eagles destroyed fourteen aircraft in a wild, twisting and confusing dogfight, before they were destroyed themselves. These were the last American aircraft to get into the air from Incirlik that day, or for the remainder of the battle for Kurdistan.

 

The MiG-27’s caught twenty F-16’s and twelve F-15E’s on the ground at Incirlik as they were rearming. Tremendous secondary explosions occurred as GIR munitions exploded amongst these aircraft on the taxiways and runways. Several pilots were able to eject from their aircraft and survived, but most were killed where they sat. While performing these ground attacks, another eighteen GIR aircraft were destroyed by the shoulder-fired Stinger missiles and the Avenger missile systems among the defense forces.

 

As the MiG-27’s completed their work on the runway, two flights of twelve MiG-29’s, fitted for ground attack, appeared unmolested over the airfield. These were the fateful aircraft that Maria Gomez described. Each carried one Fuel Air Explosive (FAE) device used to attack the command and control facilities, the fuel dumps, the barracks, the hangars and revetments.

 

FAE devices create huge detonations by spraying a fine mist of highly explosive liquid into the atmosphere, and then igniting it to produce extremely large, lethal explosions. Such detonations could level almost any structure within hundreds of yards. The resulting twenty-four massive detonations destroyed most of the structures on the base, killing the entire command staff in the command center, including Brigadier General Howell. That same explosion also killed Maria Gomez and her cameraman, Joe, of WNN as they caught their own impending demise on film.

 

While these ground attacks were going on, the dozens of remaining MiG-21 and F-5 aircraft were making run after run against the ground defense forces and more attacks against the air base’s runways. This resulted in numerous US casualties on the ground.

 

When this large raid from the East completed its attack and departed, right behind it came the one hundred aircraft from the Southeast. These aircraft were completely unopposed, except for the remaining light, but effective, Stinger missiles defenses among the ground forces. These defenses accounted for ten more GIR aircraft, but another dozen FAE explosions and scores of bombing and strafing runs insured the already definitive results of the earlier attack. For all intents and purposes, Incirlik was completely out of commission.



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