Power Restored to Turkey Base Used for US Airstrikes against ISIS

Two A-10C Thunderbolt II attack aircraft taxi down the flight line after landing at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, in October 2015. U.S. Air Force photo
Two A-10C Thunderbolt II attack aircraft taxi down the flight line after landing at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, in October 2015. U.S. Air Force photo

Power was restored Friday to the base in Turkey used by U.S. and coalition forces for airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, American officials said.

Incirlik Air Base in the southern part of the country had been without power since July 16 and relying on generators to conduct the strikes following the attempted military coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"We will retain this capability should the power be interrupted again," officials from U.S. European Command, based in Stuttgart, Germany, said in a release. "Meanwhile there is a steady flow of hot food, water, and fuel to support our service members and civilians in Turkey."

The statement continued, "The U.S., in close coordination with the Turkish Military, will continue to work towards ensuring our facility, the U.S. service members who live and work on it, and the operations occurring there remain fully prepared to take on a myriad of missions as we work together to defeat terrorism."

Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook this week said more than 3,000 military personnel live and work in Turkey, mostly with the 39th Air Base Wing at Incirlik. They are joined by about 100 military dependents in the country after voluntary evacuations last September of about 600 military families following the terror attacks on the Brussels airport and metro.

The U.S. Air Force has deployed F-15, F-16 and other aircraft to the installation to carry out airstrikes against ISIS.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Wednesday sought to minimize the impact of the failed coup and the ensuingpurge of military officers on the NATO alliance and the campaign against ISIS.

Despite the recent anti-U.S. rhetoric from Erdogan's government, which has demanded the extradition of a Muslim cleric in Pennsylvania, Carter said, "We support the democratically elected government."

The secretary added, "I don't have any indication" that the failed coup and Erdogan's tough response would affect Turkey's continuing membership in NATO. "The alliance is very strong, our relationship is very strong," he said.

Despite calls to do otherwise from arms control advocates, the Pentagon will probably keep its nuclear weapons stored at Incirlik.

Cook suggested as much during this week's press conference when he said steps had been taken to boost security for "special weapons" at the base shared with the Turkish air force to "keep everything safe, and we're going to continue to do that. As a matter of policy, we don't discuss strategic assets."

Incirlik is the largest U.S. nuclear weapons storage site in Europe with 25 underground vaults, each of which can hold up to four bombs for a maximum total base capacity of 100 bombs, according to the Federation of American Scientists, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., which opposes the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

There are an estimated 50 B61 thermonuclear bombs stored there, amounting to a quarter of the U.S. stockpile of the weapon, which can be carried by F-16s and other aircraft, the group has said.

The Defense Department is working on upgrading its nuclear weapon storage facilities with new fencing, lighting and sensors at Incirlik and Aviano Air Base in Italy.

-- Richard Sisk contributed to this report.

-- Brendan McGarry can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.

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