Turkey’s air force facing serious challenges ahead, report says

The Turkish Air Force's air warfare capabilities are facing a serious test over the next two decades, according a recent report in April by Can Kasapoğlu, director of the security and defence program at Turkish think tank EDAM.

The Turkish Air Force’s fourth-generation F-16s and third-generation F-4s are nearing the end of their lifespan and Turkey’s plans to update them with 100 fifth-generation F-35A stealth fighters have collapsed after the country was kicked out of the F-35 fighter jet programme by the United States over its purchase of Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missiles.

“The low visibility or stealth capacity of the F-35 is important. The S-400 system does not yet have a combat success,” Kasapoğlu warned.

Kasapoğlu recalled that Turkey, unlike the United Arab Emirates, was a member of the manufacturer consortium.

“For Turkey, the F-35 was not just a fighter jet, but a project in which the Turkish defence eco-system would have a portfolio of hundreds of millions of dollars and employ thousands of people,’’ said Kasapoğlu, adding that “therefore, it is not appropriate to evaluate Turkey's loss only over the military pros and cons of the platform. Industrial losses of each participating Turkish firm should also be taken into account.”

“The F-35 is a game-changer, like an expensive but talented star player in a football team,” he noted.

One potential loss of Turkey is related to the TCG Anatolia and naval aviation, according to Kasapoğlu who said that Turkey is interested in the F-35B for its TCG Anadolu.

“There is currently no solution in the world that can be used instead of the F-35B that does not face retirement and has no mass production restrictions. Turkey will use TCG Anatolia mainly for its drones, rotary-wing platforms and amphibious capability,” he said.

In summary, Turkey’s exclusion from the F-35 programme is a serious loss for the country, according to Kasapoğlu.