Türkiye has launched discussions to buy 40 Eurofighter Typhoon jets from European states after it saw that its request for F-16 jets from the United States may not work out, a Turkish Defense Ministry source said Thursday.
Defense Minister Yaşar Güler said last week that Türkiye was in talks with Britain and Spain to buy Eurofighter Typhoon jets, though Germany objected to the idea.
Güler was holding talks on the issue with his British counterpart Grant Shapps in Ankara on Thursday, the source said. Türkiye wants to buy the most advanced, newly built version of the Eurofighter, he added.
NATO member Türkiye requested in October 2021 to buy 40 Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters and 79 modernization kits for its existing warplanes.
President Joe Biden’s administration supports the $20-billion sale, but several lawmakers in the U.S. Congress, most notably former Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairperson Bob Menendez, have opposed the sale and tied their approval of the sale to Türkiye’s ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership.
Türkiye has informed NATO that the alliance’s foreign ministers meeting will not complete the ratification of Sweden’s membership bid next week.
Sweden and Finland requested to join NATO in May of last year in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Sweden believes it has done everything to address Türkiye’s concerns, but its case for membership in NATO rests now in lawmakers’ hands.
“Turkish air forces need new aircraft. Our first choice is F-16s … But considering the possibility that we might not get a positive response in this prolonged process, the Eurofighter Typhoon jets are the most suitable alternatives to F-16s,” the source said.
“The (officials from) the U.K. say that they could help convince Germany to back down their objections,” he added.
The Eurofighter Typhoon jets are built by a consortium of Germany, Britain, Italy and Spain, represented by Airbus, BAE Systems and Leonardo.
“For regional power balances, Türkiye’s need for a new technology fighter jet is no secret,” Defense Analyst Tayfun Özberk said.
“In this context, the move to acquire the Eurofighters may have been made to pressure the Biden Administration to persuade Congress for the sale of F-16s as soon as possible,” he added.
The Eurofighter Typhoons are “really the last chance to keep Türkiye in the Western defense industry,” according to Serhat Güvenç, an international relations professor at Kadir Has University.
“Acquiring the Eurofighter could create some operational issues as the Turkish Air Force operates in line with the American system. However, ultimately, the Eurofighter is a joint production of NATO members. Therefore, there shouldn’t be an interoperability problem,” he said.
Türkiye, which boosted its defense budget by 150% to TL 1.13 trillion for 2024, as unveiled in its “12th Development Plan,” is also working on localization of its defense industry.
The country aims to replace its existing F-16 fleet with new-generation aircraft, including KAAN, by the 2030s.
The 5th generation national combat aircraft, KAAN, unveiled publicly earlier this year, is expected to take a wing by the end of this year, according to officials.
Source: Daily Sabah