With continued dilly-dallying by the United States on the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey, Ankara has officially announced it would purchase Eurofighter Typhoons if the US does not come through with the Fighting Falcons.
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Speaking to the local NTV news channel on September 23, Turkey’s presidential spokesperson, Ibrahim Kalin, confirmed the previously reported plan, saying, “We have negotiations with Europe regarding Eurofighter; Turkey will never be without alternatives.”
In October 2021, Turkey asked the US for 40 F-16 jets and almost 80 modernization kits for its existing fleet of Fighting Falcons. With 270 F-16 C/Ds in service, the F-16 has been the mainstay of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) for the past 35 years.
However, the aging fleet has necessitated an urgent upgrade, especially in the face of hostilities with neighboring Greece.
Previously, Ankara was kicked out of the F-35 Lightning II program for its decision to purchase Russian S-400 missile defense systems. The United States then slapped CAATSA sanctions on Turkey and refused to sell its fifth-generation stealth fighter.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s arch-rival Greece has not only purchased advanced Rafale fighter jets from France but has also set its sight on the American F-35 aircraft. In the face of this modernization, Turkey has felt the heat and has been looking at alternatives should the US not approve the F-16 sale.
After Ankara removed its veto on Finland and Sweden joining NATO, the US administration warmed to the sale of the fighters to Turkey. According to Kalin, US president Joe Biden’s administration backed the potential sale in June.
However, the US Congress has placed riders on the deal, which has become a bottleneck.
In June, EurAsian Times reported that Turkey had expressed interest in the more capable Eurofighter Typhoon fighters should the deal with the US derail. And in a more aggressive stance, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that Turkey might turn to other countries, like Russia, if the US does not provide the F-16s.
Erdogan expressed optimism that the US would “not lead” Turkey down “different tracks,” saying, “The US is not the only one selling warplanes in the world. The UK, France, and Russia sell them as well.”
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President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated last week that the negotiations with the United States are moving favorably, adding that he may later speak with US President Joe Biden on the phone about this matter.
This statement came just two days after the Turkish President claimed to have heard a “good” response from two American senators he met in New York regarding their prospective support for the sale of F-16s to Turkey.
While the deal is mainly in the final stages of approval, the Turkish-Greece rivalry has made the US House tread cautiously.
In July, the US lawmakers passed legislation that forbids the sale to Ankara unless the Biden administration declares that doing so is necessary for US national security, including the actions taken to ensure they are not used for unlawful flights over Greece.
Turkey has made it clear that it strongly opposes any limitations on the sale of the F-16s. This is where the Eurofighter Typhoon comes into the picture.
Ankara is reportedly impressed with the British-German-Italian-Spanish jet’s twin-engine, delta-wing, thrust-vectoring, sensor fusion, avionics, and super-cruise capabilities.
Turkey wants to purchase the F-16s or the Eurofighters as a stop-gap measure until its domestic Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) TF-X takes to the skies. Turkey hopes to obtain the latest Tranche 3A or Tranche 4 model of the Typhoon.
General Hasan Kucukakyuz, the commander of the Turkish Air Force, visited the United Kingdom, the primary manufacturer in the Eurofighter consortium, and met Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wingston. Kucukakyuz also inspected the UK Quick Reaction Alert that flies with Typhoon aircraft.
Further, an op-ed in Turkish publication Daily Sabah said earlier this year that the Typhoon’s ability to operate in Future Combat Air Systems (FCAS or Tempest) would also provide Eurofighter and its partner businesses time to develop their platform-specific technology.
It also covers things like possibilities for training in challenging multi-domain circumstances. The Turkish TF-X program may benefit from these technological lessons learned.
Seyyid Akr, an Istanbul-based defense enthusiast, had earlier told the EurAsian Times that “the UK is a strategic partner in many domains with Turkey. The acquisition of Typhoon fighter jets looks the most likely out of the three options you put forward. I think it is also the option most supported by Turks.”