ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — The U.S. military on Friday deployed six F-15C fighter jets to Turkey's southern Incirlik air base to help defend Turkish airspace against potential intruders.
The deployment of the air-to-air combat planes comes after two Russian warplanes, active in Syria, strayed into Turkish airspace last month, triggering strong condemnations from Turkey and its NATO allies. The deployment sends a message of NATO's resolve to protect its members following the Russian planes' intrusion.
The Stuttgart, Germany-based U.S.-European Command said it had directed six fighter jets from the 48th Fighter Wing, based in England, to Incirlik, adding to other aircraft already sent to the base as part of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group in Syria.
The command said the deployment was in response to Turkey's request for support in securing its airspace and was a "demonstration of our unwavering support for Turkish sovereignty and the collective security of the region."
"We will continue to work closely with our Turkish partners on supporting the sovereignty of Turkish airspace and our shared efforts to degrade and destroy ISIL," the statement said, using an alternative name for the IS group.
Last month, Turkish jets also shot down an unidentified drone that had violated Turkey's airspace at the border with Syria. It was not clear which country the drone belonged to.
On Thursday, the NATO secretary-general expressed concern over what he said was the buildup of Russian military forces in certain locations, including the eastern Mediterranean, and said NATO must discuss what to do in response.
Jens Stoltenberg spoke in Troia, Portugal during the alliance's most extensive military exercises in more than a decade, which the NATO chief also said were meant to send a signal of resolve.
John-Thor Dahlburg in Brussels contributed.