Turkey Air Defense System. In the second half of the 1980s, it became clear that the Turkish Air Force fighter fleet is largely outdated and needs to be updated. As of 1985, about half of the 300 Turkish fighters did not meet modern requirements. The first Turkish F-100C / D Super Saber supersonic fighters, which were delivered in the early 1960s, had exhausted their life by the mid-1980s, were hopelessly outdated and were subject to decommissioning over the next few years. Enough numerous F-104G / S Starfighter fighters, due to the availability of a solid resource and a large stock of spare parts, could be in operation for another decade and a half. But life has shown that the Starfighters are optimal in the role of air defense interceptors, and in an air battle they are not able to compete with the MiG-21 and MiG-23, which at that time were the main front-line fighters of the Warsaw Pact countries. The F-4E Phantom II multipurpose heavy fighters were primarily assigned missile tasks. Although the Phantom had good acceleration characteristics, it was equipped with a powerful airborne radar and could carry guided medium-range missiles with a semi-active radar seeker, in close combat it lost the MiGam. Three dozen light F-5A Freedom Fighter fighters did not do the weather. These aircraft had good maneuverability, but even in the mid-1980s they were no longer considered modern. There was no radar station on board the fighter, and its maximum flight speed was not much higher than the speed of sound.
Considering the fact that since the mid-1980s, light fighters of the fourth generation MiG-29 began to enter the USSR Air Force combat fighter regiments, and in the future these combat aircraft were supposed to replace the MiG-21 and MiG-23 in the countries of the eastern bloc, it became quite obvious that the Turkish air force needs a radical upgrade. In 1985, the first group of Turkish pilots went to the United States to train on F-16C / D Fighting Falcon fighters. In 1987, the latest generation of light 4th generation fighter aircraft appeared in Turkey. Between 1987 and 1995, the Turkish Air Force received a total of 155 F-16C / D fighters (46 Block 30 and 109 Block 40). The final assembly of some of these aircraft was carried out at the factory in Ankara.
In the 21st century, the Turkish leadership headed for the development of high-tech military production in the country. In 2008, the Turkish aircraft manufacturer Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) entered into an agreement with the American corporation Lockheed Martin, on the joint production at the Ankara plant of F-16C Block 50 fighters. In March 2009, the Turkish Air Force placed an order for the first batch of 30 aircraft for a total the amount of $ 1,7 billion. At the same time, the agreement provided that the early-release F-16C / D with sufficient resources will be modernized during the overhaul.
On the fighters of the F-16C Block 50 version, instead of the old AN / APG-66 radar, a new multifunctional AN / APG-68 (V) 5 station was installed. The F-16C Block 50+ modification is equipped with AN / APG-68 (V) 9 radar. The armament includes new AIM-9X melee missiles and AIM-120C-7 medium-range missiles. The upgraded F-16C / D received Link 16 information exchange equipment, color multifunctional liquid crystal monitors, a helmet-mounted target designation system and night vision goggles. Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229 EEP engines with extended overhaul life significantly reduce the cost of the life cycle and increase flight safety. Some fighters are equipped with two conformal fuel tanks, which somewhat worsened the speed, acceleration characteristics and maneuverability of the fighters, but significantly increased the "range-combat load" parameter.
Fighter modification F-16C Block 50 with the engine F100-PW-229 has a normal take-off weight of 12 kg (723 kg with conformal tanks). The maximum take-off weight is 14 kg. The maximum speed at an altitude of 548 m is 19190 km / h. The combat radius when performing air defense missions with outboard fuel tanks, 12000 UR AIM-2120 and 2 UR AIM-120 - 2 9 km. Built-in weapons - 1 mm gun M750A20 Vulcan. For air combat missiles can be suspended at six external nodes: AIM-61 Sparrow, AIM-1 Sidewinder, AIM-7 AMRAAM or their European and Israeli counterparts.
Google Earth satellite imagery: F-16 fighters at TAI's factory airfield 30 km northwest of Ankara
The first F-16C Block 50 multirole fighter manufactured by the national industry under an American license was handed over to the Turkish Air Force on May 23, 2011. In the same place, in Ankara, Pakistani F-16A / B fighters were modernized and new F-16C / Ds for the Egyptian Air Force were assembled.
According to The Military Balance 2016, the Turkish Air Force had 35 F-16C / D Block 30, 195 F-16C Block 50 and 30 F-16C Block 50+. Taking into account the fact that non-upgraded F-16C / D Block 30s are mostly decommissioned or transferred to storage, and several newer fighters are lost in flight accidents or are being repaired, a little more than 200 F-16C / D fighters are actually combat-ready. After the F-4E Phantom II and F-5A Freedom Fighter aircraft were decommissioned, the single-engine F-16C / D became the only Turkish Air Force combat aircraft capable of performing air defense missions and fighting for air superiority. In addition, after the cancellation of the latest Phantoms, the main attack tasks were assigned to the Turkish Attacking Falcons.
Compared to the times of the Cold War, the Turkish Air Force fighter fleet decreased by about one third. Given the increased capabilities of the modernized F-16C / D, and due to the reduced risk of global war, a very small fleet of combat aircraft in Armenia and a landslide reduction in the number of strike aviation in Iraq and Syria, two hundred light multi-functional fighters for Turkey at the moment is quite enough.
In the past, Turkish F-16C / D behaved very aggressively. In the mid-1990s, at least two "Attacking Falcons" were lost during a "joint maneuver" with the Greek Air Force fighters. Turkey made extensive use of its F-16s in conflict with Kurds in southeastern Turkey and Iraq. Turkish fighters took an active part in the hostilities in Syria. On September 16, 2013, Turkish F-16s shot down a Syrian Mi-17 helicopter in Latakia province near the Turkish-Syrian border. On March 23, 2014, the Turkish Air Force shot down the Syrian MiG-23 when it bombed Islamist positions a few kilometers from the border. On November 24, 2015, an F-16C fighter was shot down by a Russian front-line Su-24M bomber located in Syrian airspace.
The falling Russian Su-24M, hit by a rocket from a Turkish fighter F-16C
After this incident, Russian President Vladimir Putin called the Turkish attack on the Su-24M in Syria a blow to the back of Russia, which was carried out by terrorist accomplices. According to him, the incident will have serious consequences for relations between Russia and Turkey.
The activity of the Turkish Air Force fell sharply after an attempted military coup July 15-16, 2016. During the coup at night and in the morning of July 16 in the capital of Ankara, F-16 fighters launched air strikes at the presidential palace and the parliament building when a meeting of deputies was taking place in it. After the failure of the coup in Turkey, large-scale purges in law enforcement agencies began. As of December 2016, more than 37 thousand people were arrested in the case of a coup attempt. Several dozens of experienced pilots and high-class technical experts suspected of supporting the rebels were expelled from the Air Force. At the same time, several fighter squadrons were actually disbanded. The Turkish Air Force fighter squadrons are now experiencing an acute shortage of qualified personnel, which is unlikely to be eliminated in the next few years.
Google Earth satellite image: F-16 fighters at Balikesir air base
Until recently, part of the load to ensure the integrity of the airspace of the Republic of Turkey was provided by the US Air Force fighters deployed at the Konya and Inzherlik airbases. At the same time, the Turkish military had the opportunity to get acquainted in detail with the American F-15C / D / E fighters. US Air Force twin-engine fighter jets carry out air defense missions and regularly participate in US-Turkish military exercises.
Google Earth satellite image: US Air Force F-15 fighters at Konya airbase
Fighters from the Konya air base participate in joint patrols and provide cover for E-3C AWACS aircraft, while the Eagles, based in Inzherlik, are part of NATO’s air force on a permanent basis in Turkey.
Google Earth satellite imagery: US Air Force F-15 fighter jets at Inzherlik airbase
At the international air showrooms, Turkish representatives in the past were actively interested in the F-15SE Silent Eagle heavy fighter, which is a further development option for the F-15E Strike Eagl, and today it is the most advanced in the Orlov family. The buyers of this modification were Israel and Saudi Arabia, F-15SE fighters also offered Japan and South Korea. Turkey, if desired, could well have received the F-15SE, but the Americans refused to sell these aircraft on credit and offered to participate in the JSF program. At the same time, the cost of the F-35A is $ 84 million, and in 15 the Boeing Corporation requested $ 2010 million for the twin-engine F-100SE.
In the future, the F-16 were to be supplemented by F-35A Lightning II fighters. First of all, it was planned to replace the decommissioned F-4E fighter-bombers with Lightnings. According to the Turkish military, this machine with a maximum flight speed of 1930 km / h, a maximum take-off mass of 29 kg, a combat radius without refueling and a PTB of 000 km is more suitable for performing attack missions than for intercepting and maneuverable air combat.
In fairness, it is worth saying that the F-35A is equipped with quite advanced avionics, although according to a number of criteria it is difficult to consider it a 5th generation fighter. The aircraft has a multifunctional radar with AFAR AN / APG-81, which effectively operates both on air and ground targets. The pilot of the F-35A has an electron-optical system AN / AAQ-37 with a distributed aperture, consisting of sensors located on the fuselage and a computer complex for processing information. EOS allows timely warning of an aircraft missile attack, detecting the positions of air defense systems and anti-aircraft artillery, launching an air-to-air missile against a target flying behind an airplane. The AAQ-40 omnidirectional infrared CCD-TV camera provides capture and tracking of any ground, surface and air targets without turning on the radar. It is capable of detecting and tracking targets in automatic mode and at a great distance, as well as detecting laser irradiation of an aircraft. AN / ASQ-239 jamming station in an automated mode counteracts various threats: air defense systems, ground and ship radars, as well as fighter radars.
Turkey joined the F-35A program in 2002, and in January 2007, Ankara became a member of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) production program. Under the JSF program, about 900 items of components were to be produced at Turkish enterprises. Throughout the entire life cycle of the F-35, Turkey could earn $ 9 billion in component production.
The first F-35A in the Turkish Air Force was planned to be delivered in 2014. In total, the contract provided for the delivery of 100 aircraft, at a rate of 10-12 units per year. However, due to a missed deadline, the first two vehicles built for the Turkish Air Force were transferred to the Luke Air Force Base in Arizona in 2018.
F-35A fighter built for Turkish Air Force
Until recently, Turkish pilots of the 171st and 172nd squadrons, who previously flew on the F-4E, were trained on these fighters. The Turkish Air Force command planned to deploy the F-35A at the Malatya airbase in Central Anatolia, where NATO’s key radar facility is also located. After the purchase of Russian S-400 relations between Ankara and Washington deteriorated so much that Turkish pilots were asked to leave the United States, and the fate of the aircraft has not yet been determined.
In the future, it was planned to replace the F-16C / D fighters in the Turkish Air Force with fifth-generation fighters TF-X (Turkish Fighter - Experimental). The development of this aircraft is conducted by the national aircraft manufacturing company TAI since 5. Also involved in the project are the Swedish company Saab AB, the British BAE Systems and the Italian Alenia Aeronautica. The development of the radar is entrusted to the Turkish radio-electronic corporation ASELSAN. The engine was supposed to provide the American corporation General Electric. According to open data, the glider for the TF-X is created using Turkish and foreign developments in the field of materials science, which should ensure a decrease in radar and thermal visibility.
For the first time, information on the development of the promising TF-X fighter was officially announced at the IDEF-2013 International Defense Exhibition in Istanbul. A full-scale model was presented on July 17, 2019 at the Le Bourget air show.
TAI fighter model
The twin-engine machine with an arrow-shaped wing and two keels looks reminiscent of foreign fighters of the latest generation. The length of the layout reaches 21 m, the wingspan is 14 m. The maximum take-off weight of a production aircraft will exceed 27 tons. It will be able to reach speeds of up to 2300 km / h, climb to a height of 17000 m and carry a variety of weapons in the internal and external compartments.
In 2013, it was said that flight tests of the prototype will begin in 2023, and subsequently they were moved to 2025. At the same time, Ankara announced the possible purchase of 250 new aircraft. However, the implementation of these plans is in question. From the very beginning, aviation observers from a number of foreign publications specializing in the field of military aviation expressed reasonable doubts about the ability of Turkish developers to meet the deadlines. TAI has no experience creating modern combat aircraft, and after Ankara went into conflict with Washington, Americans are 100% likely to block the transfer of critical technologies and will impede cooperation with European companies. It is clear that without foreign scientific, technical and technological assistance, Turkey has no chance to independently create a 5th generation fighter.
Against the background of aggravation of relations between Turkey and the United States and the freezing of the F-35A supply schedule, Ankara started talking about the possibility of acquiring Russian Su-35SK heavy fighters.
Russian Su-35S fighter at Ataturk Airport
The Turkish top military-political leadership had the opportunity to get acquainted with the Russian Su-35S during the Technofest technology festival, which was held in Istanbul on September 17-22, 2019. According to the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation of the Russian Federation at MAKS-2019, the Russian and Turkish sides are discussing the possibility of supplying Russian Su-35 and Su-57 fighters. Later, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that he did not rule out the purchase of Russian Su-35 and Su-57 fighters instead of American F-35 aircraft. On December 11, 2019, the Turkish Daily Sabah published the words of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu: “Russia can provide (Turkey) an alternative to F-35 fighters if the US refuses to sell them.”
However, it is highly likely that the Turkish leadership is thus blackmailing the White House. What contradictions and resentment between Ankara and Washington would not be, it should be remembered that Turkey, a member of NATO, is very dependent on military and economic support from the US and the European Union. If we discard the emotional and political components stories with the supply of F-35A frozen, Ankara’s purchase of Russian Su-35SK and Su-57E fighters seems unlikely.
There is no particular doubt that our top leadership can easily authorize the sending of the most advanced military equipment and weapons to the North Atlantic Alliance, even if in the future this could damage Russia's defense capabilities. Another question is how much Turkey needs this. It is no secret that the economic and political situation in the Republic of Turkey is quite difficult, and the country is in an economic crisis. According to SIPRI, Turkey spent $ 2018 billion on defense in 19,0, which amounted to 2,5% of the country's GDP. At the same time, military spending over the decade increased by 65%. For comparison, Russia spends $ 61,4 billion on defense. But at the same time, our country has a much larger territory and is forced to invest heavily in a nuclear missile shield, finance a number of expensive defense programs and maintain large military contingents in harsh climatic conditions. Even with a very solid military budget for a country like Turkey, Ankara does not have free financial resources to buy modern combat aircraft.
The F-35A fighter was designed as a lightweight single-engine multi-purpose platform with low-signature technology and advanced sighting navigation equipment. The main emphasis when creating the F-35A was placed on its shock capabilities. Although this aircraft has some potential as a fighter, it will be inferior to heavy fighters in gaining air superiority. However, it should be understood that the Turkish Air Force, which has operated exclusively American-made combat aircraft since 1952, or built under an American license, are oriented towards Western standards. Although the Su-35S fighter is one of the best in the world, it is hardly possible to equip it with MIDS equipment. The MIDS system is a NATO tactical communications system that unites various types of information platforms into a common tactical data transmission network with Link 16 equipment. In other words, if Turkey buys Russian combat aircraft, they will not be able to be combined with NATO's automated command and control and data exchange system. without which the combat value of fighters will fall. In addition, the life cycle of the Su-35S is significantly more expensive than that of the F-16C / D single-engine fighters, well mastered by the Turkish flight and technical staff. According to information published in open sources, two AL-35F41S bypass turbojet engines with a service life of 1 hours are installed on the combatant Su-4000S. The service life of the Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229 EEP engine installed on the Turkish F-16C Block 50+ is 6000 hours. The only decisive argument may be the sale of the Su-35SK on credit, with the export price of one aircraft over $ 30 million. But in this case, the question arises, what does our country get besides the short-term deterioration of relations between Turkey and the United States?
Of course, we can deserve to be proud of the best Russian fighters in the world, but in the long run, are we interested in seeing NATO military experts thoroughly familiar with them in the near future? You can recall the damage our defense suffered after the MiG-29 and Su-27 fighters and “potential partners” were able to study in detail not only the flight data of the aircraft and the characteristics of the weapons, but also take off the operating parameters of the airborne radar stations and passive optoelectronic detection systems. Those who advocate the speedy sale of the Su-35SK to Turkey should understand that regardless of whether Recep Tayyip Erdogan remains in power or if someone else is the president, the Republic of Turkey will remain in the US zone of influence and will not leave NATO, as no matter what we want.
To be continued ...