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Politics

Turkey’s Presidential Advisor Says Greece Has Aegean Air Superiority

ΑΤΗΕΝS – With Greek fighter jet pilots rated among the best in Europe and the world – and Greece adding to its Air Force arsenal – Turkey’s Presidential Advisor Mesut Hakkı Caşın is now at a military disadvantage, especially in the air.

The former Air Force officer, who has the ear of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, mocks Greece on TV shows but now worries that the purchase of 18 French fighter jets and upgrading US-made F-16’s has given Greece air superiority.

Turkey regulates Greek airspace, sending in fighter jets that is countered when Greece scrambles its own and the two sides engaging in frequent mock dogfights over the Aegean.

The Stockholm-based site Nordic Monitor, which covers religious, ideological and ethnic extremist movements and radical groups, with a special focus on Turkey, said that  Caşın has acknowledged Greece now has the air edge.

Erdogan said that Turkey will match Greece in any arms race, ratcheting up on-and-off worries of a conflict, raised higher when he said he would again send an energy research vessel and warships in a hunt for energy around Greek islands.

Caşın in December attended the annual Islamic Union Congress organized by the Association of Justice Defenders Strategic Studies Center (ASSAM), a front organization run by private military contractor SADAT, which many believe is a de facto paramilitary force loyal to Erdogan, the site said.

Caşın said the “arms assistance to Greece” scares him the most, the report said, as he added that besides fighter jets “Four modern American frigates were given to Greece. France also provided four. Four MEKOs (German-made frigates) in the inventory are being modernized. With these 12 warships, American-Greek cooperation has been challenging us in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean. There are 20 US military bases in Greece. We see that Turkey has difficulties in Alexandroupoli and Crete.”

While the US and Greece renewed a military cooperation deal in which more American military bases could be added to the country, the only one in operation now is a US Naval site at Souda Bay on Crete.

Caşın said air superiority has shifted towards Greece with the help of the new fighter jets and noted that Israel is helping train Greek pilots at Kalamata Air Base on the Peloponnese.

Rafale jets prepare to take off during a hand over ceremony in Tanagra military air base, about 82 kilometres (51miles) north of Athens, Greece, on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022. Six advanced-tech Rafale jets bought from the French air force were handed over Wednesday to the Greek armed forces ‒ the first major delivery to result from multi-billion euro defense deals sealed with Paris last year. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

SKY HIGH

“It is not yet clear what Turkey can do against an attack by the Greek army, which is prepared to intervene in Thrace and the Aegean,” he said, also noting joint US-Greece military exercises in the Aegean in November, 2020.

In January 2021 Greece inked a deal to buy 18 French Rafale jets, 12 of them used, for 2.5 billion euros ($2.82 billion) and in September added another six, Turkey further pushed back when denied buying US F-35 fighter jets.

That was because Turkey bought Russian-made S-400 missile defense systems that undermine the security of NATO – to which Greece, the US and Turkey belong – and could be used against Greece in a conflict.

Greece is also interested in acquiring the F-35’s and signed a mutual defense pact with France and has been building an international alliance over Turkish provocations in the seas.

But Greece’s call for sanctions was blocked by Germany and Spain, both of which provide arms to Turkey, arming an enemy of Greece, an ally. Germany provided submarine components to Turkey, reducing a key Greek advantage.

But the US – with its no permanent friends, only permanent interests policy – is trying to strike a balance and keep relations with Turkey, where it has troops at an air base, and Turkey wants to buy 40 more F-16’s and modernize 80 others.

Nordic Monitor had reported that the Turkish Air Force is set to train with Qatar’s French-made Dassault Rafale jets to counter the Greek military, which has increased its air force capabilities with the newly acquired Rafale fighter aircraft, France supplying both sides.

Documents obtained from a Turkish parliamentary committee showed Turkey wants to align itself with Qatar to familiarize its pilots with the Rafale fighter jet’s capabilities because of the threat of Greek Air Force, the site added.

The military agreement, signed by the chiefs of staff of both countries in March 2021, allows the temporary deployment of up to 36 Qatari military aircraft and up to 250 personnel to Turkey, looking to offset Greece’s deal with France.

Ironically, Erdogan drastically weakened his Air Force when he purged the military leadership, as well as civil society, the courts and education system after a failed July, 2016 coup attempt against him.

That act required the grounding of many fighter jets because there weren’t pilots to fly them after the Air Force earlier warned the departure of

pilots for commercial jobs as well and pilot shortage was a national security risk.

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