Home' Defence Review Asia : DRA Jan-Feb 2017 Contents 28 DefenceReviewAsia | JAN-FEB 2017
attrition, which is frustrating and image-damaging
for the Turkish elite. It adds to the growing
disappointment of the national audience about a
never-ending war with the Kurds, who managed to
destroy dozens of vehicles, and shot down one F-16
and three AH-1s in 2016. And yet the worst is that
the radical Islamic ideology increasingly finds fertile
ground in Turkey, threatening it from within.
Seemingly, the Turks fail to exploit their
overwhelming advantage over Daesh in artillery and
armor to make gains on the battlefield. Furthermore,
complete air supremacy does not seem to help
much. With nearly three hundred fighter-bombers at
their disposal, the Turkish leaders have repeatedly
called for air support from the U.S.-led coalition,
often in a hysterical manner.
This fact might point to insufficient training and
shortage of aircrews with enough experience in
close air support (CAS) for advancing armor and
motorised infantry on the XXI century battlefield.
Moreover, the Turkish air force does not have
anything like A-10 or Su-25 dedicated attack aircraft
with armor protection, accurate aiming systems and
built-in 30-mm cannon.
Contrary to the American and Russian forces in
Syria, the Turks appear to have insufficient numbers
of modern reconnaissance aircraft and UAVs for
land surveillance work. Perhaps this results from
overconfidence in local designs and industry
capabilities that do not prove themselves in the real
During the past few months many more pilots
were fired from the Turkish Air Force for their
connections to the Gulenist movement. At the same
time, a new cadre base has been formed, which will
feed young pilots to the service. 995 applicants have
been examined, of which 225 passed and went for
medical examination and physical exercises. In the
end, 120 were enlisted as cadets with the Turkish
air force flight school. More are to join them later, in
groups of 60-80 people.
Having survived the coup, President Recep Tayyip
Erdogan launched purges in the Armed Forces.
Nearly 7,500 servicemen were reported as detained,
including 162 Generals and about two thousand
officers (in addition, more than 60,000 people have
been banned from jobs in the government sector).
In today's Turkey, it is easy to be branded as
terrorists or an unwanted social element that might
share ideas of not only radical Islam, but also those
of Fethullah Gulen, Abdullah Öcalan and even
Mustafa Kemal. At the same time, to be able to make
effective use of advance weapons systems, modern
armies need those who can accept responsibility,
think and act as a team with determination,
knowledge and precision. It is no surprise therefore,
that the coup and purges produced a strongly
negative effect on Turkish military might.
JOINT TURKISH-RUSSIAN AIRSTRIKES
Even though Turkish forces had been bombing Al-
Bab and nearby dwelling points for over a hundred
days, on January 18 they decided to do it jointly
with the Russians. That day the Turkish air force and
Russia's Air and Space Force (VKS) carried out "a
joint air operation for the first time ever", targeting
Daesh forces in the Al-Bab suburbs, according to
Sergei Rudskoi, chief of the Russian Armed Forces'
General Staff Main Operational Directorate.
"Assets involved in this air operation were nine
VKS strike aircraft including four Su-24M, four
Su-25 and a Su-34, and eight Turkish air force
aircraft, including four F-16s and 4 F-4s. In all, they
took out 36 targets". All of these were approved
by the headquarters and air command of the
two countries. For two days before the strikes,
these targets were continually re-assessed using
unmanned air vehicles and space reconnaissance.
"Initial assessment of the strikes shows high
effectiveness of the joint actions by the Russian
and Turkish air groupings", Rudskoi added.
The way to joint air operations was paved by
another remarkable act of 12 January. On that day
the Turkish Armed Forces HQ and the Russian
MoD signed a memorandum on prevention of
incidents and ensuring the safety of flights in the
area of combat operations. Details of its content
has been limited to an official comment that says
the following. "The memo determines mechanisms
of coordination and joint actions of VKS and
Turkish air force when performing strikes on
terrorists and their objects as well as the order of
actions that both sides should follow to prevent
incidents when their aircraft or unmanned air
vehicles operate in the Syrian airspace".
Knowing that Russia and U.S. signed a similar
memo over a year ago, the January document
indicates that the Turks are seeking a special and
unique role that no other member in the U.S. led
coalition has at the moment. With this, Turkey
emerges as no longer a junior partner of the United
States but largely an independent player in its own
right. This seems to be a new policy for Ankara, to
assert itself as an independent force that fights all
those whom it determines as "terrorists". Sovereign
states are assured the right for self-defense by
article 51 of the U.N. Charter, and Ankara believes
its actions in Syria qualify as self-defense.
It is also interesting to note that the January 12
A U.S. Army Patriot missile battery deployed from the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Air Defense Artillery
Regiment overlooks the city of Gaziantep, Turkey. (Photo Credit: Master Sgt. Sean M. Worrell)
Another local type is the Bayraktar Tactical UAV that also became
operational in 2014.
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