Guns and Gear

Fighter jets in Democratic convention’s military montage were Turkish, not American

Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

The Democratic Party’s national convention in Charlotte, N.C., may have doubled down on insulting the U.S. military community.

The Democratic National Committee has already apologized for using a photo of four Soviet-era Russian warships in a giant stage backdrop intended to illustrate the party’s support for military personnel and veterans.

That huge image, visible in the Time Warner Cable Arena during speeches by Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and retired Admiral John B. Nathman, also depicted a synchronized formation of jet aircraft that convention-goers assumed were American fighter planes.

But the F-5 fighter planes in the photo are part of the air force of Turkey, a nation whose government is now jailing journalists and establishing Islam as a state religion.

Brad Woodhouse, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, did not respond when the The Daily Caller asked why the convention planners displayed Turkish-flown aircraft alongside Russian warships while seeking support from the American military community.

On Sept. 12, Democrats apologized for using the picture of Soviet-era, Russian-operated ships after the slip up was first reported by the Navy Times. The Navy Times also received a tip that the planes depicted may have been from the Turkish Air Force. (NAVAL EXPERT: Ships shown during Democratic convention tribute to veterans were Russian)

The vessels, with their distinct radars and blue-cross-motif Russian naval flags, occupied the center of the massive backdrop. The aircraft were depicted flying in a seven-plane formation on the upper right.

At least three of the ships in the image were designed and built by the Soviet totalitarian state that killed 20 million of its own citizens. Amid steady pressure from the U.S. military, the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989, marking its defeat in the four-decade Cold War. One of the warships may now be part of the Ukrainian Navy.

The Russian ships and Turkish aircraft were shown during the final night of the Charlotte convention on Sept. 6, shortly before President Barack Obama accepted his party’s nomination to serve a second term.

The image first appeared in the closing minutes of an address by Sen. Kerry.

Obama is “a commander-in-chief who gives our troops the tools and training they need in war,” Kerry said, reinforced by visuals of foreign ships and aircraft operated by foreign-trained military personnel. (SEE ALSO: TheDC’s complete coverage of the 2012 DNC)

Martin Rosenkranz, a military aircraft expert and editor-in-chief of a military aviation journal in Austria, revealed the fighter jets’ origin to The Daily Caller.

“The aircraft in this image displayed are not U.S. [operated] aircraft,” he told TheDC.

“The jets are most likely from the Turkish air force [because] the formation and the type (F-5) flown is very typical of the seven-ship formation flown by the Turkish Air Force Display Team known as the ‘Turkish Stars,’” said Rosenkranz.

“There is no other display team worldwide” that uses a similar seven-aircraft formation.

Rosenkranz’s argument is bolstered by two other factors.

The aircraft shown at the Democrats’ convention are old F-5 aircraft. They were were designed in the United States and sold to many countries, including Turkey — whose display team uses that same model.

Also, the planes depicted in the Democrats’ Sept. 6 photo montage display an unusual red and white striped pattern painted on the underside of their fuselages — most visible on the lowest and best-lit of the F-5s in the image.

During a June 2012 airshow in Norway, seven of the “Turkish Stars” F-5s flew in formation above a cheering crowd. They all featured that same striped paint job, which can be seen 45 seconds into an amateur video available online.

The latest Charlotte faux pas comes as Obama has called for help from Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Erdogan, to stem widespread Islamist riots against U.S. facilities and diplomatic personnel.

Obama and Islamist leaders agree the riots were spurred in part by an anti-Islamic video produced in California, although many regional experts say upsurge was caused by Islamist groups competing for support from anti-American voters.

After blaming the video, the White House asked YouTube on Sept. 14 to consider removing the footage from its Web servers. That same night, just after midnight Pacific time, California police drove the film’s producer to an interview with federal law enforcement authorities to discuss a possible parole violation.

David Martosko contributed reporting.

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