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Distant Thunder

Distant Thunder, a Turkey-based exercise, was held by land and sea forces in western Anatolia and the eastern Mediterranean in May 1997 with the participation of Italy, Great Britain and the US. The exercise aims at training land and air forces to use air defence in all kind of air operations.

From 4-14 May 1998, the Sixth Allied Tactical Air Force Headquarters was abuzz with activity as more than 95 people comprised the battlestaff in its role as the Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC) for Exercise DISTANT THUNDER 98. During the annual live exercise, five NATO nations came together to conduct air, land and maritime operations in various locations in Turkey and in traditional NATO exercise areas in the Aegean Sea and Eastern Mediterranean.

Forces from France, Italy, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the United States made crucial contributions to this small-scale exercise which tested electronic, anti-air, and anti-surface warfare techniques. Live exercises like DT98 allow allied nations to train together both to maintain the readiness to respond to crises and to give NATO the credibility which makes it the catalyst for initiatives aimed at reaching the overall goal of regional peace and stability.

From the CAOC, SIXATAF issued Air Tasking Orders (ATOs) to air forces deployed at various locations in Turkey. These ATOs, based on guidance from the Joint Forces Air Component Commander, located at Allied Air Forces Southern Europe (AIRSOUTH) in Naples, Italy, provided targeting information and execution direction to tasked NATO air forces. Liaisons from more than 15 participating units provided key inputs and tactical expertise to SIXATAF in building the ATOs. During DT98, air forces flew air defence missions, and missions in support of land and naval forces training.

The more than 1,000 sorties flown included Turkish Air Force F-4s and F-16s, US Air Force F-15s and B-52s, the US Navy's P-3, Italy's TF-104s and F-104s, the United Kingdom's Falcon 20 aircraft, the French Air Force's EA-3F AWACS plane, and NATO's E-3A and Learjet missions. In addition, maritime forces provided valuable training to NATO air forces in this exercise. The Turkish Navy participated in DT98 with eight vessels - four frigates, two fast patrol boats and two submarines. The US Navy participated with the AEGIS class destroyer, the USS LABOON.

Exercise DISTANT THUNDER 98 was a success in that it provided participating units with training for joint/combined operations and procedures. DT98 was conducted under the direction of the Commander-in-Chief, Allied Forces Southern Europe (CINCSOUTH), Naples, Italy, and coordinated by the Commander of Allied Air Forces Southern Europe (COMAIRSOUTH), also located in Naples.

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