With rising tensions between Greece and Turkey, Rafale fighter jets and a C-130 aircraft belonging to the French Air Force are now deployed in the Greek Cypriot administration. The French Rafales and Turkish F-16s could be indulged in an inevitable clash, as per experts.
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As per local media reports, two French fighter jets and a cargo plane landed in the Greek Cypriot administration. The jets were landed on the Andreas Papandreou airbase in Paphos as part of a defence cooperation agreement signed on August 1.
The Greek Cypriot administration and France hold activities in various fields, especially in the Eastern Mediterranean, and lead a partnership targeting Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).
Tensions intensified last month when Greece objected to the activities of Turkey’s seismic research vessel, the MTA Oruc Reis, in an area south of the island of Meis, or Kastellorizo. Athens controversial move last week to sign a maritime delimitation agreement with Egypt, which Turkey says violates its continental shelf and maritime rights, has further escalated tensions between the two countries.
Turkey has long contested the Greek Cypriot administration’s unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, saying that the TRNC also has rights to the resources in the region.
Tense encounters between Greek and Turkish fighter jets have become common in the air over the Aegean Sea. In May, a video surfaced showing a close encounter between Mirage 2000-5EG Mk2 jets with Turkish F-16 jets. According to Meta-Defence, the deployment of two French jets indicate Paris’ support and is expected to continue to lend the support if Turkey interferes further.
Rafale fighter jet is a twin-jet fighter aircraft manufactured by French-based Dassault Aviation. Rafales are able to operate form both, shore bases and aircraft carriers. On the other hand, the US-based Lockheed Martin developed F-16s are fourth-generation, single-engine supersonic multirole fighter aircraft. As far as the F-16s are concerned, there are approximately 3,000 operational F-16s in service across 25 countries.
“With its outstanding load-carrying capability and its advanced mission system, the Rafale can carry out both air-to-ground strikes, as well as air-to-air attacks and interceptions during the same sortie. It is capable of performing several actions at the same time, such as firing air-to-air missiles during a very low altitude penetration phase: a clear demonstration of the true “omni-role” capability and outstanding survivability of the Rafale,” as per Dassault Aviation.
The jets can integrate with missiles like MICA air to air missiles, SCALP long-range missiles, laser-guided bombs, AM39 anti-ship missiles, GIAT 30 internal cannon, METEOR long-range air to air missiles and air to ground precision-guided weapons.
On the other hand, the F16s come armed with Penguin Anti-Ship missiles, cluster bombs, runway denial bombs, AIM-9 sidewinder short-range air to air missiles, AIM -120 medium-range air to air missiles, GPS guided monks and conventional drop bombs including Nuclear drop internal 20 mm Vulcan cannon.
France and Turkey are already on the opposite sites of conflict in Libya. Turkey has sent military support to the UN-recognised government in Tripoli, while France, Russia, Egypt and the UAE support the forces of Gen Khalifa Haftar.
The French frigate La Fayette has been on exercises with the Greek navy and will be halting in the region. The Rafale jets were in Cyprus for drills and are now moving to Souda, on the Greek island of Crete.
French President Emanuel Macron tweeted: “I have decided to strengthen the French military presence temporarily in the Mediterranean, in co-operation with Greece and other European partners. “The eastern Mediterranean situation is worrying. Turkey’s unilateral decisions concerning oil exploration are provoking tensions. Those tensions must end, to enable calm dialogue between countries which are neighbours and allies in Nato.”