The US has rejected Ankara's request to send F-16 training pilots to prepare new airmen in the wake of an array of dismissals following after last year's military coup attempt in the country, saying that it has "no program regarding training pilots abroad."
The US, however, offered to train Turkish pilots in the US.
Turkey, for its part, insisted that its pilots operate from its own bases and in their own geographical conditions. Turkish Lieutenant General
Erdogan Karakus commented to Sputnik Turkiye on the US response.
"The US suggestion to send Turkish pilots for training in the US instead of sending its instructors to Turkey could be regarded as a certain message to Turkey, saying: 'look, we are not hampering your intentions.' However, in fact, the US is undermining all the Turkish efforts. This is unacceptable behavior on the part of the US," he told Sputnik.
He further suggested that this move of the US, which is yet another step in the deteriorating relations between the two countries, could cause the further aggravation of their ties.
Ankara has sent requests for F-16 instructors to some other states. Pakistan was the only country to accept Turkey’s request, but Washington has opposed this move, as any US military equipment purchase, sale, maintenance or training by third countries needs US approval.
Commenting on this decision, Erdogan Karakus suggested that the US might want to prevent Pakistani pilots from getting access to the digital terrain-mapping systems which are installed on the modernized F-16 jets possessed by Turkey.
The Lieutenant General stressed that the crisis with the pilots might be resolved if dismissed pilots return to military service.
"If you can't bring instructors from the US or Pakistan, you have to train them yourself. This is the solution. We have trained many pilots for other countries: Jordan, Bahrain, Qatar, Italy. We are able to train them for ourselves," he said.
"We have highly qualified instructors and pilots. This is, to a large extent, the reason behind all those games played against the Turkish Air Forces. Just imagine that during military drills in the US, one Turkish pilot is able to shoot down 26 American jets. As a result, the Turkish team is stronger by far," he told Sputnik.
Turkish pilots are so talented and professional that many countries feel worried and dissatisfied, the Lieutenant General said, However he assured that Turkey is able to solve its problems by itself.
According to Hurriyet Daily News, the government purged a large number of pilots from the Turkish Air Forces following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
After the coup, the newspaper says, it was revealed that a significant number of followers of the US-based Islamic preacher Fehullah Gülen were in the Air Forces Command and 1,752 personnel were dismissed with state of emergency decrees.
"According to official numbers, between 300 and 350 of those dismissed were warplane pilots and as a result the ratio between the number of seats and the number of pilots decreased to 1/0.8, when it should be 1/1.5," the outlet says.
The F-16 jets form the majority of Turkey’s warplane fleet with 245 jets.