A member of the Turkish Presidency’s Security and Foreign Policies Council, Cagri Erhan, has announced that the country is expected to drop its requests to acquire F-16C/D fourth generation fighter aircraft from the United States. He cited the fighter’s “$20 billion cost package,” and the availability of more cost effective options in particular the Chinese J-10C. “Now we have other options like the Chinese jet, which was sold to Pakistan, Russian jets and also Eurofighter jet.”
Pakistan began receiving J-10C fighters
from China in February 2022 - a fighter from the same weight range as the F-16 but with a design several decades newer and multiple important performance advantages particularly in regards to its armaments and flight performance. Like the F-16 Block 70/72
, the J-10C is a single engine lightweight fighter with a low operational cost and enhanced fifth generation level avionics. The Chinese aircraft has the benefit of comparable and in most respects superior capabilities, as well as lower maintenance needs and a much faster delivery time. Turkey, however, is the largest foreign operator of the F-16 with approximately 250 in service, meaning new F-16s would be much easier to integrate with existing logistics and training regimes and would be compatible with existing air launched weapons it already fields. China has in the past modified its fighters to be able to operate American weapons at the request of foreign clients - most notably third generation J-7 fighters sold to Pakistan which can used American AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles. Turkey is itself looking to phase out American air to air weapons from its F-16 fleet by developing indigenous alternatives, the Peregrin and Merlin, which could provide a means of standardising the weaponry on both J-10 and F-16 units. Neither of these missiles, however, nor those available for even the latest F-16s, match the performances of the PL-10 and PL-15 air to air missiles used by the Chinese aircraft. The J-10C’s arsenal of cruise missiles
also optimise it for anti shipping, air defence suppression and strike roles with many of these weapons having no analogues in the F-16’s armaments suite. A further key benefit of the J-10C is that it can be acquired at a small fraction of the cost of the F-16
, in part because it is being produced on a much larger scale. While China has acquired over 200 J-10Cs for its own fleet since 2018, the United States has not purchased F-16s for 18 years since 2005 meaning the aircraft is being manufactured as a lower end product for export. The discrepancy in the statuses of the two programs is reflected in the fact that the J-10 design has received considerably more far reaching upgrades and investments to improve its performance over the past two decades than the F-16 has.