ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Six U.S. F-16 fighter jets arrived at an air base in southern Turkey on Sunday to join the U.S.-led coalition fight against Islamic State militants, the U.S. military said.
The U.S. European Command said in a statement that the U.S. air force deployed a “small detachment” of six F-16 jets, support equipment and about 300 personnel at Incirlik Air Base. The detachment is part of the 31st Fighter Wing based at Aviano Air Base, in Italy, it said.
Turkey carried out airstrikes against IS targets in Syria last month following a suicide bombing that killed 32 people and the killing of a soldier by IS militants and agreed to allow the U.S. to use the strategically-located base. The moves ended months of reluctance by Turkey, giving it a more active role in the U.S.-led coalition against the extremist group.
Last week, U.S. armed drones taking off from Incirlik struck IS positions, and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said an “extensive” fight against the extremists would soon begin.
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“The United States and Turkey, as members of the 60-plus nation coalition, are committed to the fight against ISIL in the pursuit of peace and stability in the region,” the U.S. military said, using an alternative name for the militant group.
Turkish media reports say the U.S. is expected to deploy around 30 fighter jets at Incirlik for strikes against IS.
Incirlik is located close to IS strongholds across the border in Syria, allowing the U.S. to move more swiftly and nimbly against IS targets. Its use would enable the U.S. -led coalition to conduct better surveillance over Syria and act quicker on intelligence than when it was limited to launching flights from places like Iraq, Jordan and the Gulf states.