Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Ottoman Air Force

The Ottoman Air Force was founded in June 1909, making it one of the oldest combat aviation organizations in the world. Its formation came about after the Ottoman Empire sent two Turkish pilots to the International Aviation Conference in Paris.


After witnessing the growing importance of an air combat support branch, the Ottoman government decided to organize its own military aviation program. For this purpose, officers were sent to Europe by the end of 1910 to participate in the study of combat flight. However, because of bad living conditions, the student program was aborted and the trainees returned to Turkey in the spring of 1911.

Although left without any governmental guidelines for establishing an air force, the Ottoman Minister of Defence of the time, Mahmut Şevket Paşa, continued to encourage the idea of a military aviation program and sent officers Fesa and Yusuf Kenan, who achieved the highest maneuvering points in a piloting test conducted in 1911, to France for receiving a more satisfactory flight education.

In late 1911 Süreyya Ilmen was instructed with founding the Havacılık Komisyonu (Aviation Commission) bound to the Harbiye Bakanlığı Fen Kıtaları Müstahkem Genel Müfettişliği (War Ministry Science Detachment General Inspectorship).

On February 21, 1912, Fesa and Yusuf Kenan completed their flight education and returned home with the 780th and 797th French aviation diplomas. In the same year, eight more Turkish officers were sent to France for flight education.

Turkish pilots in early 1912

Turkish pilots in early 1912

The Ottoman Empire started preparing its first pilots and planes, and with the founding of the Hava Okulu (Air Academy) in Istanbul on July 3, 1912, the empire began to tutor its own flight officers. The founding of the Air Academy quickened advancement in the military aviation program, increased the number of enlisted persons within it, and gave the new pilots an active role in the Armed Forces. In May 1913 the world's first specialized Reconnaissance Training Program was activated by the Air Academy and the first separate Reconnaissance division was established by the Air Force.

Balkan Wars

Because of the lack of experience of the Turkish pilots, the first stage (1912) of the Balkan Wars (1912-1913) ended with the loss of several aircraft. However, the second stage (1913) was marked with great success since the pilots had become more battle-hardened. Many recruits joined the Air Academy following a surge of Turkish nationalism during the war.

With the end of the Balkan Wars a modernization process started and new planes were purchased. In June 1914 a new military academy, Deniz Hava Okulu (Naval Aviation Academy) was founded, also in Istanbul. With the outbreak of the First World War, the modernization process stopped aprubtly, but in 1915 some German officers came to the Ottoman Empire and some Turkish officers went to Germany for flight education.

World War I

Turkish pilots during the First World War years (1914-1918)

Turkish pilots during the First World War years (1914-1918)

The Ottoman Air Force fought on many fronts during the First World War, from Galicia in the west to the Caucasus in the east and Yemen in the south. Efforts were made to reorganize the Ottoman Air Force, but this ended in 1918 with the end of the First World War and the occupation of Istanbul.

With the end of the First World War and the occupation of the Ottoman Empire, the Ottoman Air Force was nothing more than a department. All personnel, including pilots and teachers, were either relieved of duty or disbanded, and all Air Force governmental buildings were closed. Some optimistic Turks tried to build new units in Istanbul, İzmir, Konya, Elazığ and Diyarbakır with planes left over from the First World War and tried to bring together flight personnel, but were unsuccessful.

Turkish pilots during the War of Independence (1919-1922)

Turkish pilots during the War of Independence (1919-1922)

During this period, the Turks in Anatolia were roused and ready to fight for their independence and motherland under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Turkish pilots were ready to do this, too, and subsequently joined the Konya Hava Istasyonu (Konya Air Station). Parallel to this, however, the Ottoman Air Force was closed by the Ottoman Ministry of War and all personnel were formally discharged. The Ottoman pilots were thus left without planes and proper assistance and the period of Ottoman Aviation ended. But with the opening of the Grand National Assembly in 1920 in Ankara, the reorganization of an ordered Army, the Kuva-yı Havaiye (Air Force) bound to the Harbiye Dairesi (Ministry of War bound to the TBMM) was found. A few damaged aircraft belonging to the Grand National Assembly were repaired, and afterwards used in combat.

In 1921, the Hava Kuvvetleri (Kuva-yı Havaiye) Şubesi air force section was renamed as Hava Kuvvetleri Genel Müdürlüğü, or the Air Force General Command.


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