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12° Nicosia,
29 May, 2024
 
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The base at Lefkoniko and the F-16 scenario

Kathimerini has confirmed that Turkey and the occupation authorities are formally converting the Lefkoniko Airport into a military base.

by Yannis Ioannou

The occupation authorities confirmed the analysis of "K" via OSINT about upgrading works in terms of the expansion of the base in Lefkoniko, with the "Minister of Transport," Erhan Arikli, announcing the relevant agreement for the concession of the airport to the occupation military apparatus ("Turkish Cypriot peace force"). The news, confirmed by Turkey's state newspaper, essentially foresees the conversion of the small facility in Lefkoniko from a "civilian" to a "military" airport with the effective withdrawal of the British-Turkish Cypriot businessman, Asil Nadir, via the cancellation of the relevant usage rights contract (ed. He recently sold the historic Turkish Cypriot newspaper "Kibris" to an AKP interest company in Turkey).

Since 2019, the Lefkoniko airstrip has served as a base for the deployment of Turkish TB-2 "Bayraktar" drones, with a significant number of them permanently stationed. Satellite downloads from open sources (OSINT) show significant work on expanding the facilities at Lefkoniko in the last year, with a quantitative increase in the number of capabilities (hangars, logistics support buildings, etc.). The scenario is trending towards:

- Gradual conversion of the area into a full military base for various types of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) (TB-2, TB-3, Akinci)

- Development of the base into a full-fledged military airport to allow for the temporary (or more permanent) relocation of Turkish Air Force fighter aircraft.

Lefkoniko's main runway. With a length of nearly 3km and a width of 55-60m, it can theoretically accommodate all Turkish fighter aircraft. However, there is still a long way to go before the site is converted into a base for a Turkish air force squadron (potentially 18 to 20 aircraft). In any case, the Republic of Cyprus prioritizes security by closely monitoring Turkey's deployment of air and naval capabilities in the Occupied Territories.

Turkish F-16s in Cyprus?

Ata Atoun, an academic and advisor to the pseudo-government in the Occupied Territories, noted in statements to the Turkish Cypriot press that the permanent presence of a squadron of Turkish F-16 aircraft as part of the upgrade of the base at Lefkoniko is a realistic possibility. The academic, who is well-known for his nationalist views, peppered his statement with references to the "Blue Homeland" doctrine as well as technical details about the operational time of the Turkish drones at Lefkoniko. However, for the time being, a permanent presence of Turkish F-16s in Lefkoniko is considered unlikely for a variety of reasons:

- The Lefkoniko facility is still far from being classified as a full military airbase in terms of technical designation. The runway at Lefkoniko is approximately 3 km long and 55 m wide. Theoretically, it allows for the transfer and take-off of F-16 fighters (depending on the circumstances, an F-16 fighter requires 500 to 1500 meters for a safe take-off), but the installation and maintenance of an entire Turkish Air Force squadron (aircraft, pilots, technical staff, aircraft storage and maintenance facilities, air defense) necessitates a significant expansion of the base - the scenario cannot be ruled out in the medium term.

- Having a permanent presence at Lefkoniko is not a priority for the Turkish Air Force at the moment, as the illegal airport of Tymvos exists for its service purposes in Cyprus and the region. - Turkish warplanes are frequently stationed at Tymvos.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

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Cyprus  |  Turkey

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