WASHINGTON — On Tuesday, an unmanned system took off from Incirlik Air Base, flew into Syria and launched a military strike against the Islamic State group, marking the first US strike from inside Turkey since a new agreement paved the way for use of Turkish airbases.
Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis declined to go into specifics about what platform the strike was launched from or whether it was successful, aside from saying it was a strike against the militant group, commonly known as ISIL or ISIS.
However, he did note that the US has had unmanned systems for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) located within Turkey, and that turning them into strike vehicles is a simple matter of attaching weaponry. That would indicate the strike was likely carried out by an MQ-1 Predator or MQ-9 Reaper.
The strike is the first since Turkey opened up use of Incirlik for armed sorties into Syria, and strikes are expected to be regular from here out.
Those strikes were done with cooperation with from Turkey, but Davis said there is no formal request for permission the US has to get before launching strikes.
While those strikes are restricted to unmanned operations currently, Davis said preparations are underway to add manned strike aircraft to the mix and that the Pentagon expects that to happen "in the near future."
"When you talk about moving in manned aircraft, that takes a little bit longer than what it did to get to the manned phase," Davis explained.
It is unclear at the moment how much gear will be moved from other operating bases in the region toward Incirlik, but Davis noted that being able to operate from a base as close to Syrian territory as the Turkish base helps the US to "effectively and efficiently get more aircraft over targets in a timely fashion."
Asked if he could rule out a ground operation from Turkey into Syria, Davis said, "I can't rule anything out, but I can tell you right now our strategy on the ground is to work with moderate Syrians that we train and equip … that's not changed."
As to those moderate forces, Davis could not provide any new information regarding reports that a group of US-trained Syrian forces had been captured by the al-Nusra Front group.