Su-57 became a reason for Turkey to tease Moscow and Washington
March 12, 2021
Will Turkey get access to Russia's most important military-technical secrets? And why is Ankara teasing Moscow at all with the possibility of concluding a new and very expensive contract for the purchase of military equipment? 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 Turkish Minister of Industry and Technology Mustafa Varank. The minister's words came in response to further suggestions that his country needs modern fighters (for example, Russian Su-35 or Su-57).
However, does Ankara really need Russian military aircraft?
To date, Turkey has independently produced and continues to produce 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. There are about 260 such multipurpose fighters in the Turkish Air Force, which 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 along with Great Britain and Australia, counted on its own production, but was 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 has again become a priority. However, one should not harbor any special illusions about the successful deal between Moscow and Ankara. In fact, having announced a tender for the purchase of foreign fighter aircraft, Turkey gives priority to the creation of its own 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.
And yet, on only one F-16, even modernized and improved, 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.
Indeed, according to a number of 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 in large quantities 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. While 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" for 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 certain influence on Ankara. The acquisition of Russian fighters is also the subsequent training of pilots and technical personnel, repair work, supply of spare parts, 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 point of view. “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 a serious reform, the question will arise about America's willingness to provide the F-16 with spare parts. But if Ankara actually decides to move away from such close cooperation with the United States, it will definitely need sophisticated military equipment from other suppliers - it is impossible to purchase American weapons and conduct a foreign policy independent of the United States, ”Vasily Kashin, an expert at the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, told VZGLYAD newspaper ...
As for the question that, they say, we are equipping the NATO country with our advanced technologies in the field of combat aviation, there should not be any particular worries here either.
If it really comes to the conclusion and implementation of contracts, then the planes will be exported in the standard configuration, that is, 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 want 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, but to establish the production of these fighters on their territory.
Moreover, it is likely that Turkey will want to get the opportunity to produce the licensed Su-57 itself, a kind of version of its Turkish-57. At the same time, it will most likely require a Russian loan for this production, which is not very profitable for Russia itself, it itself needs funds for the serial production of the fighter.
Turkey has a big problem with a key component of the aircraft - the engine, 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.
However, all this is still just talk, the very meaningless reasoning about intentions. After all, Turkey has not yet made a final decision on the purchase of Russian Su-35 and Su-57, and with a high degree of probability it can abandon these fighters in order to maintain relations with NATO. Washington will also make efforts to impose its own F-35 or some kind of 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 real 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.
Text: Victor Sokirko