The Importance of Incirlik

A deal with Turkey to stage Operation Inherent Resolve combat strikes from Turkish bases is still under negotiation, but the commander of the 39th Air Base Wing at Incirlik Air Base there said the base already is supporting OIR-related tasks and could be doing more soon. Col. Craig Wills, 39th ABW commander, said the wing is focused on “combat readiness” and preparing the base to accept forces for a wide range of missions. Wills noted the base, which will mark 60 years as a NATO asset next year, has performed numerous Cold War missions up to serving as headquarters for Operation Northern Watch, which ended in 2003, according to a Dec. 10 Pentagon release. Today, the civil war in Syria has affected the posture of the base, and airmen with the 39th ABW provide some support for the NATO air defense mission in southern Turkey, which features Patriot missile batteries manned by US, German, and Dutch personnel. A senior defense official noted Incirlik supports numerous “joint military requirements” already, in coordination with Turkey, to include intelligence support, and the base is preparing for any mission expansion. “That role could be military assistance, it could be building partnership capacity, it could be combat operations or it could be just support,” said Wills. “We just have to be ready.”