Recently, Turkey tested the S-400 missile defence systems against F-16 fighter jets. As reported earlier by The EurAsian Times, the S-400s were deployed at the Mürted air base near Ankara and were pitched against US-made F-16 Viper and F-4 Phantom II aircraft.
Netizens have wondered why is Turkey keen to test the Russian S-400s against American F-16s?
As widely reported, the US was trying to make a deal with Turkey to buy Russian S-400 missile defence systems in order to inspect it against US stealth jets and gain a better understanding of their capabilities.
US congressmen have been threatening Turkey with sanctions over the acquisition of S-400 missile defence systems worth $2.5 billion from Russia. US has repeatedly asserted that having the Russian S-400 missiles and stealthy fifth-generation F-35 jets operating together could potentially allow Russia to gather sensitive information about the capabilities of F-35s.
The bill introduced in the congress is brought under the Countering Russia’s Export of Arms Act, that would designate Turkey’s purchase of S-400s as a significant transaction of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
However, Turkey is standing its ground and has signalled towards keeping the deal, despite the threat of sanctions by the US. “There is no way back to agreements, despite any decisions of the Congress. The contract is already being implemented,” said Vladimir Dzhabarov, First Deputy Chairman of the Russian Federation Council’s Committee on Foreign Affairs. He further stressed that the Turkish President is unlikely to surrender to such threats from Washington.
Since 2018, the two North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies have been at loggerheads with the US pressurising the Turkish government to cancel the purchases of S-400 systems from Russia. It even suspended Turkey from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.
The program intends to develop and acquire the F-35 Lightning II which will replace various other tactical aircraft including the US F-16, A-10, F/A-18A-D, AV-8B and British Harrier GR7, GR9s, and Tornado GR4.
Besides the US, UK, Italy, Canada, Australia, Turkey, the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway are a part of the program. Despite the added cost the US will have to bear, Washington singlehandedly banned Turkey from ordering F-35s for its air force, and began removing it from the aircraft’s production program.
Thanks to President Donald Trump’s good personal relations with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey has escaped sanctions until now. Washington had earlier insisted on reaching some form of compromise with Ankara on the S-400 issue to avoid the imposition of CAATSA and any further deterioration in US-Turkey relations.
If the US purchases Turkey’s entire S-400 arsenal, as many in the US have proposed, then Ankara would have fulfilled the U.S. precondition for re-entering the F-35 program. Such a US action is not unprecedented. In 1997, the US purchased Moldova’s MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter jets to keep them out of Iran’s hands.
Meanwhile, Moscow has clarified that Turkey would require its permission to do so. It is unlikely that Moscow would allow such a move and that Turkey would want to sell those missiles.
Experts have speculated the reason behind Erdoğan’s move to buy these missiles. They say that it is to protect itself from its own fighter jets in the event of another coup attempt.
In 2016, Turkish Air Force F-16s were used to attack Ankara, including the Turkish Parliament. This attempt left the Turks in a state of shock since it was the first time the city had experienced a military attack in 600 years.
“What was noticed during the 2016 coup attempt is that Turkey did not have any effective defence mechanism against ‘its own’ American-made weaponry!” said Ali Demirdas, foreign policy analyst.
According to Paul Iddon, a journalist based in Erbil, in an event of another similar coup attempt, Turkish S-400s that are not integrated into Turkey’s air defence networks would likely prove very well placed to shoot down any renegade Turkish F-16s targeting the capital.
“After all, the Russian-built system was designed with the possibility that it might one day have to shoot down NATO warplanes,” he added. Experts believe that this could be the reason that Erdogan has decided to risk its relations with the US to acquire S-400s and is even willing to endure the political and economic consequences of his decision.