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Turkey re-opens airspace for U.S. base, strikes against ISIS resume

July 17, 2016 (Photo Credit: Ozan Kose/AFP via Getty Images)

This story was originally published July 17, 2016 at 11:05 a.m. EDT. 

Turkey has re-opened airspace for Incirlik Air Base after a failed coup of the country's president. The move allows the U.S. to resume airstrikes against the Islamic State terrorist group in Iraq and Syria.

An MQ-1 Predator was the first aircraft to take off from Incirlik after the airspace was reopened, followed by a KC-135 tanker, said Lt. Col. Christopher Karns, a spokesman for U.S. Air Forces Central Command.

The Turkish government closed the airspace around the base during the coup attempt, which forced U.S. Central Command to adjust its flight operations against ISIS. 

"We're making appropriate adjustments to ensure impact to air operations are minimized," Lt. Col. Chris Karns, spokesman for U.S. Air Forces Central Command, told Military Times on Saturday.

The U.S. has manned and unmanned aircraft at Incirlik, which is about 100 miles from the border with Syria, but operations were halted there after Saturday’s attempted coup by elements of the Turkish military.

The Turkish officer who was in command of Incirlik Air Base and 11 other Turkish troops on the base were arrested by Turkish authorities for allegedly taking part in the coup attempt, the wall Street Journal reported on Sunday.

“After close coordination with our Turkish allies, they have reopened their airspace to military aircraft,” Defense Department spokesman Peter Cook said in a statement on Sunday. "As a result, counter-ISIL coalition air operations at all air bases in Turkey have resumed.”

 

Electricity on base is being supplied by backup generations because Incirlik’s power supply has been disrupted since the failed coup attempt.

“U.S. facilities at Incirlik are still operating on internal power sources, but we hope to restore commercial power soon,” Cook said. “Base operations have not been affected."

In July 2015, Turkey gave the U.S. permission to fly missions against the Islamic State. Flying from Incirlik allows U.S. aircraft to get to their targets much quicker than taking off from elsewhere in the region, Maj. Peter Gersten, then deputy commander of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, told Air Force Times. In August. 

“We can get out of Incirlik to the combat area in roughly 20 minutes; where, typically, we are averaging somewhere around 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours to get to the combat area,” Gertsten said. “If you can get from launch to target area in 20 minutes, you don’t require a tanker.”

The Air Force flies KC-135 tankers, MQ-1 Predators and A-10 Thunderbolt II fighters from Incirlik. The Marine Corps also has EA-6B Prowlers there.

 

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