THE T-33A FINALLY left the Turkish Air Force inventory on January 20, 1997, at Eskisehir (1st Main Jet Base) when the final two aircraft were retired. It ended almost 45 years of service which had seen the type fill both the jet training and liaison roles. When the first two T-33As (serialled 51-4058 and 51-4059) were received through the Military Assistance Program (MAP) on December 27, 1951, it marked the beginning of the Turkish Air Force’s (TuAF) jet age.
Further examples arrived from the USA, Canada and France during the intervening years and by 1983 the TuAF had received 100 T-33As and 66 T-33ANs. Most of these were used by 121 Filo at Cigli-Izmir for advanced jet training until 1993 when they were replaced by 40 ex-USAF T-38A Talons, while a number were used for liaison flights or keeping up pilots hours. By 1993, approximately 30 had been dispersed amongst the TuAF bases when gradual withdrawal of the type saw them being stored at the 1 Air Supply and Maintenance Centre at Eskisehir (AFM, July 1996, p15) where they will be joined by the final two aircraft.
The TuAF officially disbanded 152 Filo on March 7, and in doing so saw its base at Merzifon bid farewell to the F-5 Freedom Fighters after more than 20 years of service. Having completed its conversion of all the F-104 squadrons with 160 Block 30-40 F-16C/DS (Peace Onyx I programme), an additional order of 80 Block 50s was placed to replace the F-5s. The first F-5A unit to disband was 151 Filo at Merzifon during December 1996 which saw its aircraft distributed to sister squadrons 152 Filo and 133 Filo at Konya.
Meanwhile Merzifon started to re-equip with the F-16 during late-March which saw 151 Filo receive 18 brand new Block 50 F-16s. An activation ceremony to mark the occasion will take place within the next few weeks.
Completion of the deliveries will mark the end of the long F-16 modernisation programme. Five front-line F-16 bases (Akinci, Bandirma, Balikesihir, Diyarbakir and Merzifon) will be fully equipped with ten squadrons which will include LANTIRN and HARM capability.
The de-activation of 152 Filo means that 133 Filo at Konya (3rd Main Jet Base) remains as the last F-5A operator, although it also flies a large mixture of NF-5A/Bs, F-5Bs and RF-5As.
The squadron provides Combat Readiness Training for the newly qualified pilots.
There are already plans to modernise 50 F-5A/Bs for F-16 transition training that would see these stalwarts receiving new avionics such as HUD etc.