Marlbork Air Base, situated in the quiet rolling fields of northern Poland, has a long history of aviation. Starting off as a German Focke Wolf production plant in the 1930s, it was a prime target of Allied bombers throughout WW2.

During the Cold War, it retained a very secretive nature with just one nondescript entrance easily overlooked when driving on the country road it resides next to. These days the base is known as the “22nd Air Base” and serves the Polish Air Forces' 41st Air Tactical Squadron which flies the Mig 29.

Today Marlbork is a regular host to QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) detachments from various NATO Allies. As such, the Turkish Air Force 161 Filo (squadron) deployed in June as a means to bolster and share responsibilities with Poland’s own QRA-tasked squadrons.

NATO, despite the various political tensions which arise between its ally nations, has the task to keep the fabric of the alliance intact. As an effort to strengthen the common goals among its members, this deployment shows the deep military cooperation NATO member nations have.

The Turkish Air Force detachment’s purpose is to provide added support to the Polish Air Force protecting Polish airspace from potential intrusions from neighboring countries, predominantly Russia.

These intrusions are mainly Russian Air Force aircraft flying to the Russian enclave Kaliningrad or testing NATO and Polish air defenses over the Black Sea. When an unidentified aircraft is spotted by the NATO radars, the NATO command center sounds the alarm and fighter jets are scrambled to intercept the intruders. The overwhelming majority of these intercepts are uneventful. Very rarely a report or video will surface showing Russian aircraft flying in an unsafe manner, but for the most part the rules of the game are known to all parties involved and are followed.

We had the opportunity to visit with the Turkish contingent stationed on the base. The Turkish Air Force hasn’t been deployed on this mission since 2006. For the crews involved, flying over the skies of northern Europe allows them not only a chance to help protect Europe’s skies, it also allows them to train closely with their Polish counterparts. Both Air Forces fly the (F16), and this provides them with a good starting point for cooperation. The Polish Air Force also flies the Mig 29 aircraft, and this allows the Turkish crews to train with unfamiliar aircraft as well while in Poland.

The detachment personnel are extremely welcoming and have a tight comradery. The detachment's commander, Col. Ahmet Candir, greeted us with a smile and welcomed us to the hangar serving his men. For Col. Candir, this opportunity to fly in Poland is one not to be missed, and he stresses the amount of training his personnel are conducting with his Polish counterparts. Col. Candir expressed his hope that the Turkish Air Force will have the opportunity to host the Polish crews in Turkey in the near future.

The author would like to thank NATO AIRCOM, Turkish Air Force Public Affairs Department and the Polish Air Force for facilitating the article.