The first six of 12 U.S. Air Force F-15C Eagle jet fighters arrived on Incirlik Air Base in Turkey Nov. 6, to conduct combat air patrols in Turkish airspace at the request of its government, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook told reporters Tuesday.
The United States agreed last month to the Turkish government’s request for support to secure the sovereignty of its airspace, Cook said.
The request came “on the heels of the incursions we saw by the Russians … and it’s a request we’ve honored,” Cook said.
The U.S. action reflects “both our commitment to ensure the safety of our NATO ally and our commitment to degrade and ultimately defeat the [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] in Iraq and Syria,” he added.
The U.S. Air Force will also soon deploy F-15E Strike Eagle jets to Incirlik as part of the coalition’s counter-ISIL operations, although their number and date of arrival are yet to be determined, Cook said.
“We commend Turkey’s decision to open these [airspaces] to us and other coalition members participating in air operations against ISIL and Turkey’s participation in coalition counter-ISIL air operations,” he added.
The U.S. presence in Turkey includes U.S. personnel recovery assets and manned and remotely piloted aircraft already conducting counter-ISIL missions from Incirlik, Cook said.
The American fighter jets will join Turkish F-16s at Incirlik, which regularly participate in coalition counter-ISIL missions in Syria, including strike missions, he added.