The article 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) – Will Turkey get access to Russia’s most critical military-technical secrets? And why is Ankara teasing Moscow at all with the possibility of concluding a new and costly contract for military equipment purchase? All these questions arose after another statement by Turkey regarding the procurement of Russian Su-35 and Su-57 fighters.
“If Russia has an aircraft that meets our current needs … then, of course, we can buy it,” said the Turkish Minister of Industry and Technology Mustafa Varank. The minister’s words came in response to further suggestions that his country needs modern fighters (Russian Su-35 or Su-57).
However, does Ankara need Russian military aircraft?
Turkey has independently produced and continues to make licensed fighters of American origin from the F-16 family in the F-16C Block 30, F-16 Block 50+, F-16D Block 30, F-16D Block 50, and F-16 Block50 + modifications. About 260 such multi-role fighters in the Turkish Air Force bear the “Made in Turkey” brand. Turkey also produced light military transport aircraft Tusas CN-235 M – licensed Spanish CASA CN-235.
Turkey has gained experience from participating in the F-35 production program, in which it has been involved since 2002. The Turkish industry produced about seven percent of the parts for the new fighter.
Turkey, which planned to purchase 100 of these newest fighters, was one of the largest customers, and Great Britain and Australia counted on its production but refused by the United States. Now, F-35s outside the United States are produced only in Italy; it is planned to open an assembly line for these fighters in Japan by Mitsubishi (38 units).
Instability in US-Turkish relations and Europe’s desire to limit Turkey’s growing independence in the international political arena played a role in Washington’s decision. And when Ankara “kicked up” and abandoned the far imperfect and expensive American Patriots in favor of the Russian S-400s, they shook a finger from Washington: they say, they won’t get the F-35 now. Turkey retorted in response: “What, there are no other worthy planes? We will buy Russian Su-57s.”
Now the topic of Ankara’s purchases of Russian fighters is again a priority. However, one should not harbor any extraordinary illusions about the successful deal between Moscow and Ankara. Having announced a tender for the purchase of foreign fighter aircraft, Turkey prioritizes the creation of its fifth-generation fighter. We are talking about the promising TF-X (Turkish Fighter-Experimental) aircraft, which so far exists only in a full-size layout, and the first flight, scheduled for 2023, has smoothly flowed into 2025. That is, it will appear in the country’s Air Force in ten years at best.
Turkey is unlikely to maintain dominance in the region
Therefore, quite predictably, Ankara is looking for a replacement to update its combat aircraft fleet – and here, the option with the acquisition of the Russian Su-35, and possibly the Su-57, seems to be the most profitable acquisition.
According to several independent assessments, the Russian fighter is no worse than its American competitor, while significantly cheaper. He, however, has a significant drawback precisely from the point of view of the world arms market. Foreign buyers prefer to buy equipment that has already been mastered on a massive scale by the manufacturing country, run-in and cured of childhood diseases. In this sense, the American car wins – for all its shortcomings, the F-35 has long been accepted into service, dozens of these machines fly in the troops not only of the United States but also of a number of its allied countries. Simultaneously, the Su-57 in the Russian Air Force is still only in a single copy.
“Turkey is now more interested in purchasing Russian fighters,” military aviation expert Colonel Alexander Drobyshevsky told the VZGLYAD newspaper. “There is both a political and an economic nuance here. The Turkish president is a cunning fox, and with such a step, he will kick the American administration, as he did with the purchase of the S-400. This is such a “response” to the lost production of the F-35. In the event of such a deal, Russia will receive a very lucrative order not only in economic terms but also a particular influence on Ankara. The acquisition of Russian fighters is also the subsequent training of pilots and technical personnel, repair work, spare parts supply, and aircraft repair work. These are inevitable contacts and emerging connections.”
However, if Turkey nevertheless makes such a decision, it will not be easy to implement, primarily from a technical perspective. “The Turkish Air Force makes extensive use of American F-16 fighters and closely cooperates with the United States in the field of personnel training. Turkey will need serious reform, the question of America’s willingness to provide the F-16 with spare parts will arise. But suppose Ankara decides to move away from such close cooperation with the United States. In that case, it will need sophisticated military equipment from other suppliers – it is impossible to purchase American weapons and conduct a foreign policy independent of the United States”. These words were said by Vasily Kashin, an expert at the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, told VZGLYAD newspaper …
There should be no worries, Russia says
Suppose it comes to a conclusion and implementation of contracts. In that case, the manufacturer will export the aircraft in standard configuration: the glider itself and avionics, without the latest equipment and weapons. And if, say, half of the world is armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles, this does not undermine our defenses. So it is with fighters, the value of which lies precisely in weapons that remain secret and can be used by Russian pilots.
“The preparation of the export passport is controlled by the structure of the Ministry of Defense – the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation,” says the editor-in-chief of the magazine “Arsenal of the Fatherland” Viktor Murakhovsky. “Without a visa from the defense department, no product will go abroad in a configuration that poses a threat to Russia’s national security. This also applies to the Su-35 and Su-57 fighters. Nobody will know the secrets and peculiarities of our aircraft”.
There are, of course, nuances with Turkey. Its already mentioned membership in NATO, though not the biggest, is still an obstacle. Ankara is unlikely to purchase a simplified (export) version of the Su-35 or Su-57 but will demand that everything be on “full stuffing”. Again, it is unprofitable for the Turks to depend on Russia for the supply of spare parts, so they will want, albeit partially, to establish the production of these fighters on their territory.
Moreover, Turkey will likely want to get the opportunity to produce the licensed Su-57 itself, a kind of version of its Turkish-57. Simultaneously, it will most likely require a Russian loan for this production, which is not very profitable for Russia itself; it needs funds for the fighter’s serial production.
Turkey has a big problem with a critical component of the aircraft, which takes thirty years to build from scratch. Therefore, the Turks are actively cooperating in this regard with the Swedish Saab, considering the possibility of joining the South Korean or Brazilian program to create a new generation fighter.
Turkey has not yet decided on the purchase of the Russian Su-35 and Su-57
However, all this is still talking, the very meaningless reasoning about intentions. After all, Turkey has not yet decided on the purchase of the Russian Su-35 and Su-57. With a high degree of probability, it can abandon these fighters to maintain relations with NATO. Washington will also make efforts to impose its F-35 or some European aircraft on Ankara. In other words, the Turkish Foreign Ministry is making statements that are of little meaning from the point of view of accurate decisions – it only maintains the correct foreign policy balance. He teases both Moscow and Washington – and monitors their reaction.
“Erdogan is trying to play in a multi-vector approach,” Americanist Dmitry Drobnitsky explains to the VZGLYAD newspaper the political background of the plot. And it is not at all a fact that following the purchase of Russian S-400 systems. Turkey will decide to further aggravate relations with Washington by purchasing Russian fighters.
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