The MiG-29SMT is expected to have a significant advantage over the Turkish F-16.

With the support of Russia, the Syrian Air Force is trying to strengthen its ability to control the sky, in order to 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 fighter jets to protect its forces against Turkish attacks. 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. Turkey is the largest foreign operator with 250 units in operation.

Syrian MiG-29
Syrian MiG-29

The MiG-29SMT is expected to have a significant advantage over the Turkish F-16. The MiG-29 is capable of deploying R-77 air-to-air missiles with a range of 110km and has relatively modern electronic countermeasures. Meanwhile, the Turkish F-16 is not equipped with modern air-to-air missiles and relies solely on the increasingly obsolete AIM-120A, with a range of only 70 km.

The MiG-29SMT also has access to the Zhuk-ME electronically scanned array radar, 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 advantage of the MiG-29 is significantly greater, with its good maneuverability, high rate of climb, operational altitude and speed all surpassing that of the F-16. The higher altitude and faster speed also allow the MiG-29 to transfer more kinetic energy to its missiles, which will further increase their range advantage.

In close combat, Syrian MiG-29s all 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 squadron, especially the E-7A airborne early warning aircraft that can provide targeting data and other intelligence to F-16 units.

The Syrian Air Force has no support aircraft, although in training with the Russian Air Force, the country’s fighters operated with the support of A-50 AEW Aircraft 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.


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