This post was published in Vzglyad. The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.
MOSCOW, (BM) – Russia’s oldest geopolitical rival, Great Britain, has found a new way to defend its interests with someone else’s hands. The conclusion has drawn from many aspects of military-technological cooperation between London and Ankara. It is especially true for developing one of the essential instruments of military superiority – the fifth-generation fighter.
How far the ties between the Turks and the British have gone has long been known politically. The British can influence Azerbaijan through Turkey, some analysts say. London can control the situation in Syria and Libya with Turkish hands. Its interaction with Turkey is becoming closer every day.
But few people pay attention to another area in which the British make the Turks stronger and more dangerous, giving their traditional geopolitical game a new dimension. It is about military-technical cooperation.
Not only a resort
The Russian man in the street associates Turkey with resorts in the summer. An ordinary person interested in military issues, even with Syrian militants and terrorists, Bayraktar drones, and wars – in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Karabakh, in which Turkey secretly or openly participated. Someone will remember the Turkish military bases in Qatar and Libya, the Turkish presence in Somalia. All of this is just the tip of a giant iceberg.
Turkey has a robust military industry and significant technical achievements in the military sphere. The Turks mostly provide light armored vehicles, self-propelled artillery, anti-aircraft artillery, and many high-tech weapons. So, Turkey is the only country in the world that has successfully used laser weapons in the battle to destroy enemy unmanned aerial vehicles. Turkey is the second country in the world after Russia to have anti-torpedoes ready for combat use.
Turkey is ahead of most NATO countries, Russia, Japan, and many other arms-producing countries to create small-sized cruise missiles for aviation. The Turks have an excellent Bora tactical missile with 280 kilometers and a warhead weighing 480 kg. The Turks used against the Kurds in Iraq, and it is very accurate. Long-range missiles are creating. The Turks also tested ship-based cruise missiles, and their anti-ship missiles are already in the series. The two Turkish military giants, Aselsan and Roketsan, are world-class military concerns without any discounts with enormous potential in military electronics, naval underwater weapons, missiles, lasers, and more.
Moreover, Turkey has a national space program, and this program is proceeding strictly on schedule. Experimental ultralight launch vehicles for microsatellites created in Turkey have not brought anything into orbit yet (the plan is to launch the payload in 2025). Still, above the Karman line (100 km altitude), these launch vehicles have already flown, which formally makes Turkey one of the countries whose aircraft reached space, albeit without entering orbit.
And where there are space rockets, there are ballistic ones. Among the Turkish “right” for a long time and persistently, there have been rumors that the rocket center in Sinop is engaged in astronautics and, for example, in ballistic missiles for submarines.
It is logical for such weapons to have “special”, as they say, combat units. Or, more simply, nuclear. And the Turks are looking in this direction, but very carefully. On September 4, 2019, speaking in Sivas at a party conference of his Justice and Development Party, Erdogan stated the following: “Some countries have missiles with nuclear warheads – not one or two. But we cannot have them [according to these countries]. I cannot accept this. “
Later on, Erdogan repeatedly said that Turkey’s non-nuclear status was unacceptable, and rumors circulate among the Turkish “right” about the start of work on their bomb. How true this is is impossible to say. Technically, Turkey cannot develop nuclear weapons, but interest in the subject indicates at the highest level. From a military-technical point of view, this is what Turkey is, in general terms.
One of the most complex and ambitious Turkish military-industrial complex programs is creating its own national fifth-generation fighter TF-X, developed by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI). The Turks themselves would never have pulled this project. We needed a partner who would help design this machine, provide design and advisory support.
And such a partner was found. At the end of December 2015, Turkish officials announced that BAE Systems, the British defense (including aerospace) giant, would help Turkey create the fifth-generation fighter. Rolls-Royce, another world leader in its field and British, offered its engines for the future car (and the transfer of technology).
And three years later, in 2018, when work on the Turkish aircraft was already in full swing, the British Secretary of Defense announced Britain itself would create the fifth generation Tempest fighter – and precisely by BAE and Rolls-Royce. The mosaic has formed.
Britain’s interest in the Turkish project is multifaceted. On the one hand, it is technologically advantageous. The British can shift some of the design work onto the Turks and not invest either money or funds in it, getting the finished result for themselves too. Turkey is not a newcomer to aviation; this country participated in the F-35 program and previously assembled the F-16 on its territory. The Turks know what an airplane is, and they can take over some of the simple systems.
The British, firstly, will have access to all Turkish developments. Secondly, they will carry out their part of the design development with Turkish money, and then, based on all this paid by Turkey and partially fulfilled by Turkey, their fighter, Tempest, will also be created. Which “ideologically” repeats the TF-X – this is also a twin-engine fighter with a similar aerodynamic design.
Politically, Britain is pushing Turkey towards an active policy with this project. Now the Turks do not need to worry that the United States, dissatisfied with Russia’s cooperation, will “cut off” their supply of the latest aircraft in the same way as they had previously pushed them out of the F-35 program. This situation will unite the hands of Turks. That is, they will not even have to take aggressive actions. Having their world-class aircraft, they are highly likely to use it themselves in any case, and the British will traditionally fish for themselves in troubled waters. Not a bad deal, isn’t it?
Excitingly, the cooling of relations between Turkey and some European countries did not affect British-Turkish cooperation. Turkey’s expulsion from the F-35 program also does not lead to anything like that; the British continue to pump Turkey with aviation technologies. In March 2019, Rolls-Royce left the project, and now the TRM consortium will create a new engine based on the American General Electric F110. But basically, it doesn’t change much. The leading partner of Turkish TAI is still British BAE. Everything goes according to plan.
Symbolic gesture and British hypocrisy
Such an idyll in relations between Turkey and Britain requires some political gestures that demonstrate allied associations. And there are such gestures.
On November 16, a joint exercise of British Typhoon fighters and Turkish F-16s began at the Turkish Konya airbase. According to Turkish sources, the program includes: training the British in strikes on the S-400 air defense system in particular and the tasks of breaking through and suppressing air defense in general, interaction with unmanned aircraft, training Turkish pilots in air combat against the air forces of countries armed with Eurofighter Typhoon fighters “. Considering the problems between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, which has such aircraft, this looks quite amusing (however, the information is still not confirmed from independent sources).
But it is known for sure that the British Air Force (Air Chief Marshall), General Sir Michael Wigston, honored the exercise with his presence, which is not an ordinary case. In his Twitter, Wigston emphasizes with all his might that these exercises are under the auspices of NATO, that they aimed at deeper integration within NATO, even the hashtag #WeAreNATO (“We are NATO”) does not forget to add to every message. For some reason, the residents of other NATO countries do not feel any enthusiasm for these exercises because they are directing against the NATO “allies”. And this is obvious. However, anti-Russian orientation is also evident.
Conclusions for Russia Thus, there is every reason to believe that the “Great Game” – that very centuries-old rivalry between Russia and Britain in Asia – has returned. And now it goes not only on the geopolitical field but also on the technological one. Our old rival, Britain, is no longer only politically “nudging” our potential opponents in the back, provoking them to an adventurous policy, but is also doing the same with the help of technology. Britain is handing over to third countries such instruments, from which the latter in the future may well “blow off their heads.” Own fifth-generation fighter jet is just such a tool. Russia should take all this into account in its plans – and not only in political, but also in technological. Will it does not turn out that the fifth-generation fighter will appear in service with the Turkish Air Force earlier than that of the Russian Air Force – at least in the required quantities? And we should also learn from the British how to use other countries to their advantage – the new, de facto round of the “Great Game” makes this skill vital.
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