In 2021, the Anatolian Eagle 2021 exercise was organized by the Turkish Air Force, which saw the participation of Azerbaijan, Pakistan, and Qatar Emiri Air Force combat aircraft at Konya Air Base, in central Anatolia, south of Ankara, Turkey.
The participating aircraft in the exercise were Turkish F-16s, Pakistan’s JF-17 “Thunder” Block II, Qatar’s Rafale, and Azerbaijan’s MiG-29 and Su-25 “Frogfoot”.
The exercise provided the participating Turkish and foreign nations air forces an interesting opportunity to perform joint combat training in real-world scenarios that include Combined Air Operations (COMAOs) on tactical and strategic targets defended by Aggressors aircraft and Surface to Air Missile (SAM) threats of all types. A wide array of missions are planned and executed during Anatolian Eagle, spanning from CAP (Combat Air Patrol), Fighter Sweep and SEAD/DEAD (Suppression/Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses) to AI (Air Interdiction), CAS (Close Air Support) and CSAR (Combat SAR).
Not much is known about the air exercise, but some military analysts, claiming to have insider information about “Anatolian Eagle 2021,” suggested that the exercise provided an opportunity for the Pakistan Air Force to test the real capabilities of its JF-17 “Thunder” aircraft, which it developed in collaboration with China.
The alleged report claimed that the exercise allowed the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) to test the mettle of JF-17s, developed in collaboration with China, against the French Dassault Rafale fighter jets of the Qatar Air Force.
The said report quotes “unconfirmed sources” to claim “the kill-ratio of JF-17 aircraft against the Qatar Rafale aircraft was 6:2, meaning the JF-17 Block II aircraft shot down Rafales six times compared to only two losses in air combat simulations during the exercise.” No details about the missions flown have been given.
This conclusion was made by defense analysts based on unconfirmed sources.
In addition to facing Rafale aircraft, the JF-17 also encountered MiG-29 aircraft brought by the Azerbaijani Air Force during the Anatolian Eagle exercise.
Whether the JF-17 Thunder aircraft managed to “kill” much more advanced and modern Rafale aircraft in the Turkish exercise is still a subject of debate.
The French fighter jet Rafale, meaning ‘Gust of Wind,’ has been the latest induction in the Indian Air Force (IAF), PAF’s arch-nemesis. The IAF has specific enhancements for its Rafales to meet the South Asian security threat scenario, meaning countering PAF’s combat fleet and that of China’s air force. The modifications included an engine that can start at 12,000 feet altitude. The specification caters to the threat India faces on its eastern border.