The specter of Turkey’s Oraj Air Force plot to provoke Greece still looms large

Turkish F-16 fighter jets.

Abdullah Bozkurt / Stockholm

 

The memory of a secret 2003 plan to shoot down a Turkish F-16 fighter jet and scapegoat Greece for the false flag incident still haunts observers who are concerned about the tension in Turkish-Greek ties against the backdrop of increasingly belligerent talk from Turkish leaders.

The plan, dubbed Oraj [Thunderstorm], was first revealed in the independent Taraf daily by top-notch investigative reporter Mehmet Baransu in January 2010. The government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan not only shut the daily down but also locked up its then-editor-in-chief, Ahmet Altan, and Baransu, who had exposed many wrongdoings in the Turkish government. The same plans were also found hidden at the Gölcük Naval Command in December 2010 during the execution of a search and seizure warrant by the police.

Given that the tradition of such false flags is very much alive in the Turkish security, military and intelligence services and that those who devised such plans were eventually cleared of their crimes and protected by the government, there is more reason today to worry about what President Erdoğan and his partners in crime can actually do.

The Oraj Air Operation Plan (Oraj Hava Harekat Planı) was finalized on February 9, 2003 by Col. Cengiz Köylu under orders from Gen. Halil İbrahim Fırtına, the commander of the Air Force Academy who later became commander of the Turkish Air Force. Fırtına was one of the senior generals who were opposed to the AKP government back then and wanted to create an incident with Greece to force the government into declaring martial law, effectively taking the reins of government.

 

The secret Oraj plan proposed shooting down a Turkish F-16 jet and blaming it on Greece.

 

The plan first talks about the worrying general outlook in the country and then defines the mission as declaring martial law under a series of provocative actions. The heart of the plan is laid out in section 3 of Oraj, which listed 12 operations to materialize the mission objectives.

The plan saw an increase in the number of Turkish Air Force flights over the Aegean Sea. It urged a public campaign to claim that Turkish warplanes had been blocked and harassed by Greece when in fact a specific order was issued to pilots to harass and provoke Greek fighter jets to create conflict in the air. “If possible, a [Turkish] plane will be forced to be downed by the Greek Air Force, and if that does not happen, a pilot from the reorganized Special Fleet personnel will fire on a plane in his wing at the appropriate time and place so that our own aircraft will be shot down,” the plan stated in item number two. The Turkish media would be led to believe that the plane was downed by Greek jets.

 

Gen. Halil İbrahim Fırtına

 

Another point was to deliberately increase the hostility against the Greek Air Force in the Turkish Air Force Command, especially in the fleets, and pilots would be encouraged to be more aggressive during their patrol flights. “Pilots would be unofficially instructed that they could even take a shot at Greek planes in self-defense.”

The Oraj plans suggested close coordination with other forces in raising the tension with Greece on the sea and on land. For that, the frequency of patrols along the Greek-Turkish border in the Thrace region would be increased, and the naval forces would continually engage in joint exercises with the land forces in the border areas. Fighter jets would be on 24-hour standby at the Balıkesir, Bandırma, Çiğli, Çorlu and Dalaman airfields and would be scrambled even in a minor incident.

 

Details of the secret Oraj plan were designed to provoke Greece into a conflict with Turkey:

Oraj_false_flag_Greece_Plan

 

In order to influence public opinion, the Turkish Stars (Türk Yıldızları) aerobatic demonstration team, part of the 134th Fleet, would frequently organize air shows in various cities in Turkey to shore up the nation’s support for the Air Force. The first show was planned for Istanbul’s nationalist Kadıköy district, with cadets and privates, dressed in civilian clothes, brought in to mingle with the public to make it appear that a huge crowd had gathered to watch the show.

The second air show would be held in the air over the Çarşamba neighborhood in Istanbul’s very conservative Fatih district. On the night of the air show, a special group dressed in robes and turbans carrying green Islamist flags would be organized for a raid on the Air Force Museum and the historical planes exhibited there would be destroyed by Molotov cocktails.

Around the same time, the planners of Oraj contemplated orchestrating raids on the gates of the 3rd Main Jet Base command in the conservative province of Konya and the 8th Main Jet Base in the predominantly Kurdish province of Diyarbakır. The incidents would pave the way for the declaration of martial law with the army setting up checkpoints, detaining people and even using lethal force. The deliberate and provocative events would continue until parliament declared martial law, and low-flying jets would even make a pass over the parliament building to keep the pressure up on members of the legislature.

 

Cengiz Köylu, a former colonel who was involved in planning Oraj.

 

“After the declaration of martial law, activities in the Aegean and Thrace will be scaled back gradually and tension will be reduced as per needs,” the plan stated. In the event of civilian resistance, the plan had four jets on standby to respond and take live fire shots at people who resisted the imposition of martial law.

The Oraj plan provided detailed assignments to four divisions in order to fulfill the action plan. The 1st Tactical Air Force Command would plan Aegean flights, operate control rooms, plan a special fleet squadron for the incident with Greece and coordinate its actions with the Istanbul-based 1st Army Command as well as with the Navy Command. The 2nd Tactical Air Force Command was tasked with insuring that all troops maintain the highest level of readiness for war and coordinate actions with the 2nd Army Command and the 3rd Army Command.

The Air Force Training Command would take measures for the transfer of troops and coordinate action with the Aegean Army Command. The final division, the Air Force Logistics Command, would ensure all weapons systems were ready and functional, provide logistical support to other units and prepare full contingencies in the event of a national mobilization.

 

Officers who were involved in executing the Oraj plan were named in the indictment: 

Oraj_false_flag_Greece_Plan_officers

 

The overall coordination of the Oraj plan was to be done by specially designated personnel who would act in utmost secrecy and would not even tell their superiors in the chain of command about the plan. This suggested that the plan had not been approved by the top brass in the army and was organized by a neo-nationalist group of officers who held important positions in the Turkish military.

“Special officer personnel will not speak to anyone, including their superiors in any way related to the operation and their duties, and will implement the principle of need-to-know in full secrecy until the time of the operation,” the plan stated. The planners adopted secret passcodes such as “AYAZ” to designate a temporary halt of the plan and “HALI” as the complete abandonment of the plan in the event things did not work out as anticipated.

Once the operation began, reports would be filed in secrecy with the Air Force Academies Command, which would be running the Oraj plan. The Air Force Command would be kept in the dark and not be informed. After the declaration of martial law, a massive purge was planned of officers who were not supportive of the Oraj action plan and were opposed to martial law.

The Oraj plan has 15 annexes covering an entire range of services to insure the successful completion of the clandestine operation. It included duty assignments, command and areas of responsibility, intelligence, operation plans, rules of engagement, communications, psychological warfare, logistics, civilian-military cooperation, press and public relations, operational safety and counterintelligence.

The Oraj plan as well as its navy equivalent the Suga plan were debated during a planning seminar held March 5-7, 2003 at the Selimiye Barracks. Both plans were part of the Sledgehammer action plan devised by a renegade group in the Turkish military.

 

Documents show that the Oraj plan was partially executed:

Oraj_false_flag_Greece_Plan_execution

 

According to National Intelligence Organization (MIT) records, Col. Köylü, who drafted the Oraj plan, is affiliated with neo-nationalist Homeland (Vatan) Party leader Doğu Perinçek, who has been an ally of President Erdoğan since he was freed from jail by the government.

Multiple pieces of evidence incorporated the case file showed that the Oraj plan’s preparations were executed in large part according to the plan, but the planners, although they adopted and updated their plans, failed to finalize the operation because of the resistance from the top brass. Testifying at the Istanbul 4th High Criminal Court on November 3, 2014 as a witness during the trial of suspects who drew up the Oraj plan, then-Chief of General Staff Gen. Hilmi Özkök said he had never heard of Suga when he was serving as top commander of the Turkish armed forces.

The suspects who drew up the Oraj plan were later convicted as part of the Sledgehammer trial heard by the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court. The convictions were upheld by the 9th Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals on October 9, 2013, which verified the authenticity of the Oraj plan.

However, President Erdoğan made a secret deal with the neo-nationalists and their rogue officers in the aftermath of December 2013 corruption investigations that incriminated him and his family members. In exchange for help in hushing up and whitewashing his own crimes, Erdoğan orchestrated the release of the convicted officers and secured them a retrial with the pre-determined outcome of acquittal for the group’s members under his government’s political directives.

Today Erdoğan and the neo-nationalists work hand-in-hand in raising tensions with Greece, which gives more reason to be highly concerned about what might happen in the future.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter