Under the guidance of Russia, the Syrian Air Force is trying to strengthen its ability to control the sky and prevent aggression from Turkey.
Previously, Russian warplanes regularly helped Syria intercept Turkish and Israeli warplanes that violated its airspace. However, there are indications that Russia is looking to assist Syria so that it can better defend its airspace, and the MiG-29 will be a key weapon.
If the conflict in Idlib escalates, there is a high probability that Syria will deploy warplanes to protect its forces from Turkish attacks and be ready to engage Turkish planes trying to operate in Syrian airspace.
If this happens, it is likely that Syrian MiG-29 fighters will join the fight. The Turkish Air Force currently operates two squadrons of Cold War-era F-5 and F-4 fighters, which were previously used for training and are unlikely to be deployed.
The remaining ten squadrons include F-16C/D Fighting Falcons, of which Turkey is the largest foreign operator with 250 in service. The F-16 is a light single-engine fighter that entered service four years before the MiG-29.
The MiG-29SMT is expected to have a significant advantage over the Turkish F-16 due to many factors. The MiG-29 is capable of launching R-77 air-to-air missiles with a range of 110km and relatively modern electronic countermeasures.
Meanwhile, the Turkish F-16 is not equipped with modern air-to-air missiles and relies only on the increasingly obsolete AIM-120A missiles, with a target destruction range of only 70 km.The MiG-29SMT also has access to the Zhuk-ME electronically scanned array radar, which gives it a significant advantage over the F-16’s similarly sized mechanically scanned radars, which are much more susceptible to interference.
In terms of flight performance, the MiG-29’s advantage is significantly greater, with its good maneuverability, high climb rate, operating altitude and speed all surpassing that of the F-16. Flying higher and faster also allows the MiG-29 to transfer more energy to its missiles, which will further increase their range advantage.
In close combat, all Syrian MiG-29s use R-73 missiles with helmet sights, to be able to hit targets at extreme angles. This feature is only available on some of Turkey’s latest upgraded F-16s with AIM-9X missiles.
In terms of personnel training, both Syria and Turkey have serious shortcomings. Syria has few resources to use during long flights, while Turkey jailed most of its air force officers, after they showed disloyalty to the government during a 2016 coup attempt.However, Turkey has the advantage of a support fleet, especially an E-7A airborne early warning aircraft that can provide targeting data and other beneficial information to F-16s.
The Syrian Air Force did not have support aircraft, although during training with the Russian Air Force, the country’s fighters operated with the support of A-50AEW jets from Syria. Russia is deployed in Syria.Thus, the confrontation scenario between the Syrian Air Force and the Turkish Air Force may happen in the future, but it is not yet certain which side will completely prevail over the other.