Air Force Bases

Incirlik Air Base, Adana, Turkey

Location: Located 7 miles east of Adana, 2 miles northwest of Incirlik, and about 250 miles southeash of Ankara, Turkey.

Origin of current name: Named after the town of Incirlik, Turkey.

Date current name was assigned to base: February 28, 1958

Previous Names: Adana AB, 21 Feb 1955 (aka Incirlik Common Defense Installation).

Date Established: December 6, 1954

Date Occupied: November 1, 1954

Construction Began: April 1, 1951

Base Units: Det, 7216th AB Sq, Nov 1954; 7216th AB Sq, 21 Feb 1955 (rdsgd 7216th AB Gp, 1 May 1958; 7216th Cmbt Spt Gp, 9 Jul 1962); 39th Cmbt Spt Sq, 1 Apr 1966.

Changes in Capability: Immediately upon activation of the U.S. part of the field, winter 1954-1955, the base mission changed from support of a jet instrument and gunnery school to emergency support of long-range medium and heavy bomber operations, and support of all USAF activities in southern Turkey; 10,000-ft runway operational Nov 1954; base facilities became adequate to host first field exercise, with participation of seven B-47s and three KC-97s, May 1955; POL sea terminal at Yumurtalik and a connecting pipe line to the base became operational OctóNov 1955; living quarters considerably improved, primarily by completion of 200-man barracks, 1957; flying operations rose sharply during Lebanon crisis when 150 aircraft were on station JunóJul 1958; Jupiter missiles briefly stationed at the field 1962-1963; three BOO and two airmen dormitory buildings completed early 1962; precision measurement equipment lab accepted spring 1965; F-100s replaced F-105s in May 1964; dining hall, dormitories, VOQ, and freight/passenger terminal completed early 1966; facilities updated to accommodate operations of one tactical fighter rotational squadron and three supporting C-131 aircraft, and standby war-readiness spares kits provided for 36 aircraft, 1970-1971; Cyprus crisis strained U.S.-Turkish relations and greatly curtailed base activities 1974-1978; 36 TAB VEE aircraft shelters completed during 1974-1976 and modified by Sep 1980; bachelor and family housing construction, major upgrading of utilities, and construction of munition igloos finished 1981.

Changes in Status: Turkish AF owns installation and occupies part of base; USAFE has tenant status.


The U.S. Engineering Group began construction of the base located approximately 250 miles southeast of Ankara, Turkey, in the spring of 1951. The U.S. Air Force initially planned to use the base as an emergency staging and recovery site for medium and heavy bombers. The Turkish General Staff and the U.S. Air Force signed a joint use agreement for the new base in December 1954.

February 21, 1955, the base was officially named Adana Air Base, with the 7216th Air Base Squadron as host unit. The following years would prove the value of Incirlik's location, not only in countering the Soviet threat, but also in responding to crises in the Middle East. Project 119L, a U.S. Air Force meteorological balloon launching activity, conducted operations at Adana AB in 1955. Following balloon operations, pilots began flying U-2 reconnaissance missions as part of Operation Overflight. Renamed Incirlik Air Base Feb. 28, 1958, the base was the main U-2 operating location until May 1960, when Francis Gary Powers' U-2 aircraft succumbed to a volley of Soviet surface-to-air missiles over Sverdlovsk.

The Lebanon crisis exploded in the summer of 1958, prompting the U.S. president to order Tactical Air Command Composite Strike Force Bravo to deploy from the United States to Incirlik.

The strike force consisted of F-100s, B-57s, RF-101s, RB-66s, F-86Ds and WB-66s. These aircraft and supporting personnel overwhelmed the facilities at Incirlik, which also supported cargo and transport aircraft deploying an Army battalion from Germany to Lebanon. Because no ground fighting involving Americans erupted, the strike force flew missions to cover troop movements, show-of-force missions over Beirut, aerial reconnaissance sorties and leaflet drops.

As part of an effort to bring units with combat history into the theater, U.S. Air Forces in Europe inactivated Incirlik's 7216th, which had become an air base group, and activated the 39th Tactical Group at Incirlik in its place on April 1, 1966. The Group assumed control of permanent support units and hosted rotational squadrons conducting training and maintaining NATO alert at Incirlik.

After the Lebanon crisis, TAC deployed F-100 fighter squadrons on 100-day rotations to Incirlik from the United States. The flying mission at Incirlik further diversified in 1970 when the Turkish Air Force agreed to allow U.S. Air Forces in Europe to use its air-to-ground range at Konya, providing a suitable training area for squadrons deployed to Incirlik. These units also conducted training at Incirlik's offshore air-to-air range. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, except during the Cyprus Crisis, many types of aircraft including F-4s, F-15s, F-16s, F-111s and A-10s deployed to Incirlik. In mid-1975, the Turkish government announced that all U.S. bases in Turkey would close and transfer control to the Turkish military. This action was in response to an arms embargo the U.S. Congress imposed on Turkey for using U.S.-supplied equipment during the Cyprus conflict. Only Incirlik AB and Izmir Air Station remained open due to their NATO missions, but all other non-NATO activities at these locations ceased.

Congress lifted the embargo in September 1978 and restored military assistance to Turkey. Normal operations resumed after the United States and Turkey signed a Defense and Economic Cooperation Agreement March 29, 1980.

After signing the DECA, USAFE initiated the Turkey catch-up plan to improve quality of life. One of the major projects was a new base housing complex.

After Iraq's 1990 invasion of neighboring Kuwait, the 7440th Composite Wing (Provisional) assumed operational control of the 39th Tactical Group. The 7440th was the air component of Joint Task Force Proven Force which eventually controlled 140 aircraft and opened a northern front, forcing Iraq to split its defenses between the north and the south, where the main thrust of coalition attacks originated as part of Desert Storm. Following the war, Incirlik hosted Combined Task Force Provide Comfort, the effort to provide humanitarian relief to millions of Kurdish refugees in northern Iraq.

The 39th TACG was redesignated the 39th Wing Oct. 1, 1993 and restructured as a standard Air Force objective wing.

The U.S. State Department's Operation Quick Transit evacuated thousands of Kurds from northern Iraq late in 1996. The wing provided logistical support in Turkey to this operation, which signaled the end of the humanitarian aspect of Provide Comfort. Provide Comfort ended Dec. 31, 1996, and Operation Northern Watch took its place Jan. 1, 1997. ONW enforced the U.N.-sanctioned no-fly zone north of the 36th parallel in Iraq.

The 39th Air and Space Expeditionary Wing was activated at Incirlik AB Sept. 15, 1997, to support and command U.S. Air Force assets deployed to Incirlik supporting ONW. Incirlik's tent city, Hodja Village, became the Air Force's largest.

In response to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, Operation Enduring Freedom began in October 2001. Incirlik served as a main hub of humanitarian airlift operations to Afghanistan, MC-130 special operations missions, KC-135 refueling missions and sustainment operations for deployed forces. The aerial port managed a 600 percent increase in airflow during the height of OEF. When the main bases in Afghanistan and Uzbekistan were constructed, Incirlik's airflow supporting OEF decreased to a baseline sustainment level. With the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom on March 19, 2003, ONW ended. ONW flew its last patrol, March 17, 2003, and closed a successful 12-year mission to contain the Iraqi military and inactivated May 1, 2003. The 39th ASEW was also inactivated, effective May 1, 2003.

The 39th Wing was deactivated and the 39th Air Base Group was activated, effective July 16, 2003.

August 19, 2003, the first rotation of deployed KC-135 Stratotankers and Airmen arrived at Incirlik to support Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

January 6, 2004, more than 300 soldiers of what would become thousands transited through Incirlik as the first stop back to their home post, after spending almost a year in Iraq. Incirlik was part of what was described as the largest troop movement in U.S. history. Incirlik provided soldiers with a cot, warm location, entertainment and food for a few hours outside of a hostile war zone.

March 12, 2004, the 39th Air Base Group deactivated, and the 39th Air Base Wing activated to provide the best mix of required support and, as new mission requirements emerge, to shoulder the burden and better contribute in the global war on terrorism.

June 1, 2005, Incirlik activated one of the Air Force's largest C-17 Globemaster cargo hub operations in support of OEF and OIF. Hub operations deliver much-needed supplies such as add-on armor, tires, engines and more to U.S. Forces in theater via the 385th Air Expeditionary Group.

October 18, 2005, Incirlik served as an air-bridge for the Pakistan Earthquake Relief Effort. Seven countries participated in the NATO humanitarian operation. 100 trucks offloaded and 130 airlift mission conducted delivering 1,647 tons using 996 pallets.

July 21 to 28, 2006, Incirlik helped support more than 1,700 displaced American citizens from Lebnon during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict. Incirlik Airman built a Patriot Village, while providing housing, telephone access, a 24-hour BX/Shopette, a children's play area, chaplain's assistance and medical services for people transitioning back to the U.S.