ANKARA – Even if US President Joe Biden succeeds in getting Congress to approve the sale of more F-16 fighter jets and upgrading of the Turkish Air Force, Greece will still have a decided edge, analysis in Forbes magazine showed.
The piece written by Paul Iddon, who specializes in aerospace issues, said that the timeline of delivery for more F-16s and upgrades for Turkey would be more than offset if Greece gets American-made F-35’s as Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ government is seeking.
That doesn’t include the superiority of Greek fighter pilots, ranked among the best in NATO and the world, and with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan having jailed his top pilots in the aftermath of a failed July, 2016 coup attempt against him.
Biden, an alleged Hellenophile who critics said turned on Greece, told Erdogan on the sidelines of a NATO meeting where Turkey lifted a veto on Sweden and Finland entering that he wants Turkey to get the jets.
Biden said that wasn’t a deal with Turkey in return for Finland and Sweden being able to enter NATO but Greek officials had indicated Erdogan was using the veto threat as pressure to get the American jets and upgrades.
“I said back in December, as you’ll recall, we should sell them the F-16 jets and modernize those jets as well,” he said. “It’s not in our interest not to do that,” Biden said at the NATO meeting.
“And there was no quid pro quo with that,” he added. “It was just that we should sell, but I need Congressional approval to be able to do that. And I think we can do that,” he said confidently.
A raft of US Congressmen, including the Hellenic Caucus, are fighting that but Mitsotakis has hinted he expects Turkey will get what it wants despite Greece renewing a military cooperation deal that will see a greater American military presence and bases in the country.
While there is such fury from critics and in the Diaspora that Biden has been accused of selling out, Iddon wrote that Greece will still have an advantage even if Turkey gets the F-16s and upgrades.
That’s because of timelines for deliveries and upgrades and with F-35s being so far superior to even upgraded F-16s although the piece said that the United Kingdom wants to sell Turkey Eurofighter Typhoons that could be used against Greece.
Turkey in October, 2021 asked to buy 40 new F-16s and 80 modernization kits for its existing fleet in a deal valued at $6 billion, the report said, needed more than ever after being barred from F-35’s for buying Russian-made S-400 missile defense systems that undermine NATO and threaten Greece.
Mitsotakis wants Greece to get 20 of the F-35s that now cost between $110.3-$135.8 million each, amounting $2.206-$2.716 billion for the purchase. But he also wants an option for 20 more which could bring the total to $5.432 billion, no word on how that would be funded during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mitsotakis acknowledged, however that Greece likely wouldn’t get them until 2027-28 at the least and his government has also made an agreement to buy French Rafale fighter jets and warships to build defenses.
But the report noted that even if Greece and Turkey both get the deals they want that, “The Hellenic Air Force (HAF) will still have a technological edge over Turkey’s larger air force.”
If the US Congress bars Turkey from the F-16s, Greece’s Air Force would nevertheless likely have a more technologically-advanced fighter fleet by the late 2020’s, when Mitsotakis might not be in power any more.
And if Greece gets the F-35s but Turkey gets more F-16s and modernization kits for its others, Greece could still have a technological advantage in aircraft as well as better pilots.
That’s because Greece had a contract to upgrade 84 F-16s that should be done by mid-2027, which would mean more modernized versions before Turkey does even if Congress goes along with Biden.
Greece would also begin taking delivery of F-35s around the same time and has shown interest as well in buying used F-35’s which would speed the delivery even faster and produce a bigger advantage.
Lockheed Martin finishes upgrading those HAF F-16s, presuming it can secure a deal for at least one squadron, which is not unlikely. Athens previously reportedly expressed its willingness to buy second-hand F-35s, which could mean it might acquire the aircraft a little earlier.
And even if Turkey gets Eurofighter Typhoons from the United Kingdom,the piece noted that “Turkey will still have difficulty overcoming the substantial technological edge the HAF will likely attain by 2030.”
Turkey could have 120 F-16s – 40 new and 80 upgraded – but Greece would have 84 F-16 Vipers by the end of 2027 and as 20-40 F-36’s and 24 Rafale fighter jets, giving the Greek Air Force 124 fighter jets equal or superior to the best Turkey would have.