One Russian Airbase Could Take Down Turkey’s Entire Fighter Fleet? New Assessment Shows a Favourable Military Balance in Syria Underlying Moscow’s Success
by Aspelta for The Saker Blog
While much uncertainty remains surrounding what exactly was agreed to in Moscow regarding the ceasefire agreement in Syria’s Idlib province, or how long Turkey intends to adhere to the new ceasefire agreement, it is clear that despite its bellicosity towards Damascus, Ankara has been extremely cautious about provoking Russia or undermining the strong relationship built over the past three years. Positive relations with Russia have remained particularly critical to Turkish interests since 2016 for a number of reasons. Increasingly alienated from the Western Bloc and its Gulf Arab allies, which are strongly suspected of having at least tacitly supported an attempted military coup that year, Turkey needed to quickly diversify its sources of economic and military security. Moving quickly to make amends for the downing of a Russian Su-24 strike fighter a year prior in November 2015, Turkey arrested the F-16 pilots responsible for the attack. Ankara subsequently saw its relations with Moscow quickly improve to the benefit of both sates – from the S-400 deal to growing exchange of tourists.
Russia for its part has a big stick to complement the carrot of positive defence and economic ties, and is capable of reigning in Turkish ambitions over Syria to a large extent accordingly. Alongside sanctions, cutting the flow of tourists and other economic measures, Russia has heavily fortified its position in Syria since November 2015 to deter attacks by Turkey and other potentially hostile parties. It has capitalised on this asset in a number of ways, more conspicuously by deploying Su-35 fighters to intercept Turkish incursions into Syrian airspace and more recently by deploying its Military Police to guard the strategically critical M4 and M5 highways and the city of Sarakeb. These targets were directly in the path of advancing Turkish backed Islamist militias in the first week of March, and with these militants relying heavily on Turkish air and artillery support to advance and take ground from the Syrian Arab Army, deployment of Russian personnel in tandem with the opening of negotiations drew a line under how much Moscow was willing to tolerate the jihadist push into Syrian territory.
What it is important to keep in mind is not only that Turkey needs Russia far more than vice versa – but also that, in regards to Syria, the balance of power between the two parties remains extremely one-sided. While NATO’s willingness to overtly support Turkey should it provoke an armed conflict with Russian forces remains highly questionable, an assessment of the military capabilities of both parties shows a tremendous Russian advantage in the field in the event of an armed conflict – with the far smaller size of Russian units in Syria compensated for by overwhelming technological supremacy. Underlining this often-missed point, I would strongly recommend the following video which assesses the outcome of a potential air war between Russian units at Khmeimim Airbase and the entire Turkish Air Force. This includes assets deployed to the airbase from December 2015 in response to the Turkish attack on the Russian strike fighter, such as Su-35 air superiority fighters and S-400 and S-300V4 surface to air missile systems.
A further lesson one can take from this assessment is why Turkey appears so eager to upgrade its air fleet in short order – either with the F-35 or with some combination of Russian Su-57, Su-35 and MiG-35 jets, having shown interest in all three. Negotiations to acquire the Su-35 in particular, the oldest of the three designs which has been in service since 2014, was reported in October 2019 to have reached its final stages. Given the precedent set by Russia’s Su-35 deal with Egypt, which was signed in 2018 but not announced until March the following year, it remains possible that a deal has already been made for transfer of the fighters to the Turkish Air Force to complement its S-400s.
I very much doubt The Saker would agree with this assesment.
One must ask the obvious question. Is it wise for Russia to improve (substantially) the capabilities of the Turkish Air Force and air defenses.
Maybe one way to look at that question is Erdogan’s reign is probably less than a decade. Turkey then will have a good relationship with Russian military and industry. (Perhaps, similar to India’s relationship to Russia.)
As for thinking the Turks would turn on the Russians–well, some imbeciles might try that. But Russia would dismantle Turkey’s security if such an act of aggression occurred.
In the real world, bad things could result. However, the Russians are not timid about close relationships with sketchy countries. They don’t act out of fear with anyone. They understand treachery exists in some hearts and minds. They also act as a SuperPower who will always have enemies, and thereby, will always suffer some losses. It’s a price SuperPowers must pay in the real world.
The calculus includes economic issues, geopolitical issues, oil and gas development and pipelines in the region, national security in the region, and cultural and historic connections. So, it looks like military equipment and weapon sales, but it involves other vital components.
IF Russia sells military hardware to country X, then country X won’t be able to use this gear against Russia.
And, also, export variants are often dramatically different from what the Russian military gets. There have been very few exceptions to this rule, and all under the US colonial occupation government (aka “Eltsin administration”).
How are they not able to use it against Russia, is it like a signed agreement or more technical in nature where Russia can switch those off? I doubt that NATO countries can be held to their word and I also doubt that Russia would include a kill switch in their exported arms as that would diminish the value of said arms.
Russia has the datalink codes that control the system’s ability to distinguish enemy from friend. With these codes, Russia can effectively cause Turkey’s system to regard Russian targets as friendly and therefore not fire on them. Or they can simply disable them. To balance this, it is suspected that Iran discovered how to change the S-300 codes so that Russia no longer had the capability to do this.
Russia will not export equipment that can be used against them.
There exist many technical ways to ensure that. One of it is reported by Victor, another one is called hardware Trojans and has been used by France in the weapons they sold to Libya before their invasion.
They’re very hard to detect and replacing the circuit is very complex.
Perhaps SteveK9 was implying that upgrading Turkey’s military would allow Erdogan to severely damage Syria’s army even worse than they are now. In other words, what happens if S-400s are launched against Syrian aircraft defending its infantry? Or Su-35s wiping out Syrian aircraft trying to bomb al-Qaeda’s ground troops? Even worse, what if Ergodan lets in Lockheed Martin to reverse engineer Su-35s & S-400s; is that not a dangerous thing?
I am not sure of the point of these type of analysis.
These scenarios would escalate almost immediately to a hyper-beligerant US/ NATO “shoot first and shoot and newk” response.
In all fairness, NATO showed ZERO inclination to help Erdogan in Syria.
Why would they do that when the risk is Russia, with all THAT entails…?
World War 2 proved that overwhelming material advantage of qualitatively inferior equipment can make up for the crap equipment.
not true AT ALL
besides, WWII was a long LONG time ago.
Now we have nuclear and non-nuclear intercontinental hypersonic missiles and warheads.
WWII is long, long gone, at least in Russia :-)
I suppose you’re talking about the Americans, with crap like the Sherman tank.
Which the Germans called “the Tommy-cooker” (and the British “the Ronson” because it lit up first time, every time).
Then there was the British Churchill, which its Russian crews took to calling “a grave for seven brothers”.
Personally I would take a T34/85 any time – or, better still, a JS2.
Number is superior to quality/accuracy for the same range.
But if ranges are different, then longer range gives a much superior advantage.
A mass missile rain can saturate the Russian defenses, yes. But the advantage of long range mean that the Russian, even if they take huge loses, will still be able to reach and destroy/kill all the ones that launched the missiles.
It is a game of deterrence; the enemy, knowing he will die after the launch, is less prone to do it.
Very interesting. I like how it shows just how much firepower the S-300V4 and S-400 really have, the true ranges of Russian bombers and the capable of the R-37M.
I liked this channel’s previous videos on South Korea vs. Japan, Brazil vs. Venezuela and Algeria vs. France. I wonder what they will do next…
Let’s hope that it will never come to this. Such conflicts have a habit of spiraling out of control and drawing in many more actors. It would probably be easier if someone within Turkey would take out the would be sultan, without it reflecting on Syria, Russia or Iran.
Erdogan is a puzzlement. Scott Ritter analyzes the recent history in Idlib and proclaims that the Sultan was sent home from Moscow after a figurative spanking by Putin. Numerous other analysts do the same. Absolutely no one opines that he won a danged thing. Yet, here he is again making extreme overt threats against the Syrian government if it dares to make any attempt at recovering the last of its occupied territory. He still treats Idlib as though it were Turkish soil and as though the al Qaeda terrorists were Turkish regulars in his armed forces, requiring his protection rather than long promised extraction. Eventually, Syria will have to make a move to regain its sovereignty over Idlib, what will Russia do when Erdogan’s forces open fire on them as promised? It seems that, for all the ridiculous summits and cease fire agreements, nothing ever really changes between Erdogan, Assad and Putin. I know Putin doesn’t want to see either Syrian or Turkish troops torn up in battle because that will undo all his diplomatic efforts. Can’t someone else knock some sense into Erdogan–who has now turned an angry eye towards Greece? Wish it could be Greece, but they are no match for the Turks.
The elephant in the room regarding Idlib is the people there, particularly the foreign jihadist element and their families. Where do they go? There is no military solution to this particular problem.
They are disarmed and sent back to their country of origin, or prison if they refuse to go. Alternatively, they are disarmed and allowed to stay if they don’t continue to fight the government. If they insist on staying and fighting, they deserve their martyrhood. There must be former terrorists keeping a low profile throughout the country and the region which must be eliminated if they emerge to cause violence. But such cancers cannot be allowed to act against the population with impunity just because Erdogan loves the chaos and mayhem caused to the Syrian state. Plenty of Nazis hid throughout Europe after WWII who would have been extirpated had they blown their cover and committed violent acts. The smart ones secretly fled to the Americas where they were pretty much ignored.
Erdogan’s problem with Assad is that he won’t agree to a power-sharing deal with the majority Sunnis of Syria. A large number of Sunnis are traditionally against the Assad dynasty since its creation during the 19th century. Assad wants to continue ruling Syria and won’t agree to a nationwide free and fair election overseen by say, the U.N. That is the reason Eardogan is fighting for these Sunnis.
Baloney, Erdogan is fighting for anglonazi interests, at this point, it’s no longer just about Assad. with your “clever” argument, its leading me to believe that you would support a Wahhabi Sunni state to the detriment of all other faiths in Syria?
We here will never support jabhat al nusrah and its pet projects.
Assad wants the best for his people, and we all agree except you that he will do a better job for ALL Syrians than any Turkish sponsored monkey will ever do.
There will be no power sharing deal, it only leads to institutional paralyses, like in Lebanon. Or maybe that suites your fancy too?
No true. His military senior staff and many in his government are sunni
Any conflict is unlikely to be as binary as Turkey vs Russia.
The relationship between Turkey and Russia is complicated by geography. In order to exit the Black Sea, the Russian Navy relies on passage via the Bosphorus (aka Strait of Istanbul), connecting the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara, 31 Km (19 mi) long, 700 m wide at narrowest point and the Dardanelles- connects Sea of Marmara with the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas; 61 Km (38 mi) long, and 1.2- 6 Km (0.75 to 3.73 mi) wide, averaging 55 m (180 ft) deep. In the event of increased hostilities between Turkey and Russia, Erdogan can easily close both passageways to Russian maritime traffic.