F-16 talks take longer: Alternative countries and planes

Negotiations continue with the United States for F-16 warplanes. The fact that the House of Representatives has not yet ratified prolongs the process.

The reaction from Turkey to this situation is growing. President Erdogan made a statement on the alternatives.

President Erdogan’s statement from the USA regarding the problems in the supply of F-16s brought to mind the question of “who are these signalers”. Eurofighter Taypoon, Rafael, Gripen or J-10 and SU-35. So, which countries produce the 4th and above generation warplanes and how are the defense industry exchanges with Turkey?

What are the alternative countries and planes?

One of the options is the 4 and a half generation Eurofighter Typhoon fighter aircraft produced in consortium by four countries in Europe. Its partners include the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain.

Defense Industry Researcher Anıl Şahin explains:

“When we look at Europe, especially in England, Eurofighter Taypoon aircraft are produced. These are purebred, high-performance warplanes equipped with twin-engine aesa radar and very powerful air-to-air missile systems, which have been developed as 4 and a half generations since the beginning.”

Another alternative for Turkey is the Rafale fighter jet produced by France. The fact that it is both 4 and a half generations and a double engine makes it stand out among its counterparts.

However, France’s political attitude towards Turkey shows that this process will not be easy.

“On the French side, Rafael is a really powerful aircraft. Our Turkish Air Force carries out the Anatolian Eagle exercise every year. We had the opportunity to examine the Qatari Rafael aircraft in the 2021 exercise.”

“They are not in NATO standards”

Sweden’s GRIPEN fighter jet is also among the options. This single-engine aircraft is close to the F-16 in terms of capacity, but does not exhibit superior features compared to its competitors.

Reminding that Sweden has a long-standing embargo policy, Şahin continues:

“It does not supply us with a weapon system in any defense industry. In fact, some Swedish-made weapon systems are currently actively used by the terrorist organization PKK.

That’s why we need to sift through the GRIPEN fighter jet. In any case, GRİPEN is not an aircraft that can serve the Turkish Air Force and meet its needs. Because it is a very small aircraft and due to its small size for aerial missions, it has various disadvantages, especially range.

Russia and China are also among the countries that Turkey looks forward to supplying aircraft. China’s J-10 and Russia’s SU-35 fighter jets are also four and a half generations. However, it does not seem very possible for Turkey to supply Chinese and Russian planes.

“However, Chinese and Russian aircraft are not NATO standards as is known. Therefore, the infrastructure of the Turkish Air Force is not compatible with these aircraft. Apart from that, we have developed a large number of national ammunition and we are actively using them in our warplanes. None of these ammunition is compatible with Chinese and Russian aircraft. Therefore, if we procure a Chinese and Russian-made warplane, it will take at least 10 years for us to adapt our infrastructure to these planes, including using the planes ready for combat.

If we supply Chinese and Russian type warplanes, that is, if we find another supply outside NATO in the defense industry, the dose of these CAATSA sanctions will probably increase even more. If we make a supply from China, I think that the dose of this sanction will increase much more.

Maintenance is as critical as purchasing.

The maintenance of all these aircraft is as critical as the purchase. Because the system is also purchased with the plane.

Aviation Researcher Cem Doğut underlines that this is where the real cost is:

“The engine of these planes will be maintained, the electricity will run the tribune with the compressed air you will give to start the engine. Their pressures, the voltage of their electricity and so on are all different. So you have to set up an infrastructure for that plane from scratch.

When we buy Eurofighter or Rafael or as I said, it will not happen, but when we buy the GRIPEN plane from Sweden, you will find plenty of American origin products. Some of these are commercial products. Then America won’t make much of a noise, but in chip-used or military products, America has a say.”

There are around 230 warplanes in the inventory of the Turkish Air Force today. Almost all of them are 4th generation F-16s.

However, many countries such as Greece and Israel supply 4 and a half or 5th generation warplanes. This obliges Turkey to turn to other options.

Editing: Kaan Alp Atasoy


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