In Turkey Air force seeks to lure back seasoned pilots

Six pilots who left the air force over the past decade and would be eligible to return spoke to Reuters.

  • Published:
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech in Ankara on November 3, 2016 play

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech in Ankara on November 3, 2016

(AFP)
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Turkey’s air force has made a public appeal to hundreds of former pilots to return to its depleted ranks to replace more than 350 airmen purged after July’s failed coup.

According to military officials and former pilots on Thursday, the call has largely gone unanswered, as the deep divisions exposed by the coup attempt in Turkey’s military and other institutions remain unhealed.

Six pilots who left the air force over the past decade and would be eligible to return spoke to Reuters.

Only one said he would re-register to help replace dismissed colleagues whom the government blames for being part of a network that planned the failed July 15 coup.

“Air force pilots played a major role in the abortive putsch, commandeering jets and helicopters that bombed parliament and threatened the aircraft of President Tayyip Erdogan.

“Turkish media have reported that only a tiny proportion of the several hundred pilots who left the force between 2010 and 2015 and would be eligible to return have actually re-registered.

The numbers are “below expectations”, a military source who is not authorised to speak publicly, said.

The depletion in air-force resources comes at a delicate time for Turkey, the second-most militarised member of NATO.

Ankara is pursuing military incursions against Islamic State in Syria and battling Kurdish PKK militants in Turkey and northern Iraq.

The former air force pilots said they felt betrayed by a military which had failed to protect them from followers within the ranks of Fethullah Gulen.

Gulen is the U.S.-based cleric Turkey blames for the attempted coup and whose supporters have been jailed en masse since.

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