Turkish F-16C vs. Syrian MiG-29SMT: Which Would Prevail in an Air Battle Over Idlib?

Relations between Turkey and Syria have for the reason that early years of the Chilly Battle steadily seen intervals of excessive tensions, with the previous being one of many earliest members of the NATO alliance whereas the latter persistently aligned itself in opposition to Western pursuits and with the Soviet Union. The 2 got here near a full scale conflict when Turkey made preparations for an invasion of Syria with help from america in 1957, earlier than Soviet intervention compelled Ankara and Washington to again down. The historical past of centuries of Turkish colonial rule in Syria has solely served to exacerbate in poor health feeling within the Arab nation in direction of its neighbour and sensitivity on the problem of Turkish interventionism in Syrian affairs. The outbreak of a big scale Islamist insurgency in Syria in 2011 noticed Turkey play the function of the insurgents’ main overseas sponsor. Whereas Syria Arab Army, with help from Russia, North Korea and Iran amongst others, managed to show the tide in opposition to the insurgency in 2016 the nation’s northeastern Idlib governate emerged as a protected haven for jihadist parts underneath the safety of the Turkish Army. Idlib has been referred to by U.S. officers as the biggest Al Qaeda stronghold the world has seen since 2001, and in February 2022 was discovered to be internet hosting the chief of the Islamic State terror group Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi who was killed in a U.S. raid on February third. The fear group has maintained a presence in Syria solely in areas protected by Turkish forces.

A Syrian authorities effort to expel jihadist militias from Idlib with a push into the governate in early 2020 was met with a large Turkish intervention in help of Islamist militants primarily based there, which included artillery and air help, provision of floor to air missiles and coaching to militants, and embedding of Turkish officers of their models. The clashes notably noticed Syrian forces chorus from sending in their very own air superiority plane or lengthy vary air defence programs, which Turkish forces took benefit of not solely to violate Syrian airspace but in addition to shoot down Syrian plane deep inside their very own nation. As tensions over Idlib stay excessive, with the Syrian Arab Army having gained some territory however stopped wanting a deep push into the governate, the potential for an additional escalation stays important. 

Shortly after the Idlib marketing campaign that concluded in March 2020, Syria acquired its first new fighter plane from Russia in properly over a decade with the supply of MiG-29SMT fighters. Syria had beforehand tried to buy extra succesful MiG-29M fighters and MiG-31 heavyweight interceptors earlier than 2011, though these gross sales had been blocked by Russia underneath Western and Israeli strain. The MiG-29SMT was a modified MiG-29A airframe that tried to bridge the efficiency hole with the MiG-29M, integrating virtually an identical avionics and weaponry, the identical modernised engines, and increasing on the MiG-29A’s gas capability with a dorsal spines for additional gas. The Syrian Air Pressure’s fleet of older MiG-29A fighters, which noticed little use in counterinsurgency operations and have been reserved for potential engagements with a state adversary, has additionally acquired funding for modernisation together with enhancements to avionics, entry to R-77 lively radar guided missiles, and integration of Belarusian digital warfare programs. Syria’s MiG-29 models from January 2022 started to conduct joint patrols with the Russian Air Pressure and mock fight engagements, by which the MiGs notably centered on air to air fight whereas Russian jets primarily engaged simulated floor targets. Whereas Russian fighters have steadily intercepted Turkish and Israeli fighters violating Syrian airspace, there have been a number of indications the Russia is in search of to help Syria to have the ability to higher defend its personal airspace for which the MiG-29 will show a key asset. 

Ought to battle within the Idlib governate escalate, there’s a rising risk that Syria will deploy fighters to guard its forces from Turkish assaults and have interaction Turkish plane that attempt to function offensively in Syrian airspace. Ought to this happen it’s possible that its MiG-29s will see fight. The Turkish Air Pressure fields a squadron every of Vietnam Battle period F-5 and F-4 fighters, the previous that are used for coaching and the latter that are unlikely to be deployed. The remaining ten squadrons are fashioned of F-16C/D Combating Falcons, of which Turkey is the biggest overseas operator with 250 jets in service. The F-16 is a light-weight single engine fighter that entered service 4 years earlier than the MiG-29, and which the MiG-29 was designed particularly to have the ability to neutralise in air to air fight. The 2 are from comparable weight ranges, and the occasion which might have a bonus in a conflict between them relies upon closely on each coaching ranges and on the variant of every fighter which is being deployed, as each have been modernised extensively over 4 many years. 

The MiG-29SMT is predicted to have appreciable benefits over Turkish F-16s because of a number of components. The fighter has entry to R-77 air to air missiles with 110km ranges and comparatively fashionable digital warfare countermeasures, whereas Turkish F-16s haven’t any post-Nineties standoff air to air missiles and depend on the more and more out of date AIM-120A and B variants. These have engagement ranges of simply 70km. The MiG-29SMT additionally has entry to an electronically scanned array Zhuk-ME radar which gives a substantial benefit over the F-16’s equally sized mechanically scanned radars that are much more prone to jamming. By way of flight efficiency the MiG-29’s benefits are considerably better, with its excessive manoeuvrability, climb charge, operational altitude and pace all significantly exceeding these of the F-16. Flying greater and quicker additionally permits the MiG impart extra vitality onto its missiles, which can additional improve their vary benefit. In shut vary engagements all Syrian MiG-29s use R-73 missiles with helmet mounted sights to have the ability to interact targets at excessive angles. This function is included on newer Turkish F-16 models with AIM-9X missiles – however not on older ones. 

By way of personnel coaching each Syria and Turkey have critical deficiencies. The previous has few assets to expend on lengthy flying hours even for its elite models, whereas the latter via political purges has jailed a lot of its air drive officer corps after they proved removed from loyal to the federal government throughout a 2016 coup try. Turkey does have the benefit, nevertheless, of a better fleet of help property specifically its E-7A airborne early warning plane which might present focusing on knowledge and different advantageous info to its F-16 models. The Syrian Air Pressure fields no help plane, though in coaching with the Russian Air Pressure drive its fighters have operated with help from Russian A-50 AEW jets deployed in Syria. These and different Russian property, akin to Russian S-400 and S-300V4 air defence programs deployed close to Turkey’s borders, might probably help Syrian MiG-29 operations by offering knowledge from their sensors and thus compensate for the shortage of such property in Syria’s personal arsenal.

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