Sketched out a few weeks ago, the hypothesis of buying Eurofighter Typhoon combat planes by Ankara seems to be becoming more apparent. Turkey has been excluded from the F-35 program, within which it ordered one hundred planes. Now Turkey would like to acquire 40 F-16 Vipers and bring 80 of its old generation F-16C/Ds to this standard. However, even if the Biden administration is a priori favourable to it, the agreement of Congress is required for sale to take place.
However, the U.S. Congress does not seem to hold a favourable opinion of Turkey because it purchased Russian S-400 air defense systems, which led to the ejection of Turkey from the F-35 deal. Turkey urgently needs to upgrade its fighter jet technology, given tensions in the eastern Mediterranean and its role in Libya and Syria.
To avoid the downgrading of its combat aircraft fleet, like that which Iran experienced after its break with the United States in 1979, Turkey turned to Russia. So much so that Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during Russian Airshows, and the possibility of purchase of Su-35 “Flanker-E” and Su-57 “Felon” planes was mentioned for a while.
However, a Turkish official mentioned the possibility of acquiring the Eurofighter Typhoon to Defense News last March. BAE Systems is involved in the Turkish TF-X combat aircraft project, and recently Turkey asked Rolls Royce to co-produce the engines for this future aircraft.
Last month, Turkish Air Force Chief of Staff General Hasan Küçükakyüz travelled to the U.K. to meet with Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Wigston, the head of the Royal Air Force and examined the Eurofighter Typhoons of the British “Quick Reaction Alert” (QRA).
Asked about the possible sale of Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets, a spokesman for the U.K. Department of Defense replied that “London is regularly in dialogue with Ankara, as with other countries, on cooperation in the field of combat capabilities.”
“The Typhoons are very good, of excellent quality,” a “source familiar with the Turkish government’s internal deliberations,” told the Middle East Eye site. Eurofighters could be an interim option until Turkey gets the fifth generation TF-X if the F-16 is not available, the source added.
For the moment, Turkey has a means of pressure with its opposition to the accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO. Congress could agree to the sale of these fighter-bombers in exchange for lifting the Turkish veto. But nothing is certain.
The pro-government daily Daily Sabah recently published an op-ed advocating the purchase of the Eurofighter Typhoon.
The daily writes that while Ankara awaits Washington’s response [for F-16 Vipers, Ed], the security environment continues to deteriorate. The conflict in Ukraine has reintroduced war on the European continent and potentially destabilised the region. Russia has increased its presence in the Black Sea and continues to create security problems in Syria by allowing the presence of the ‘terrorist’ group YPG (Syrian Kurdish militias, also supported by the United States, Ed.) in the northeast of the country. In the Eastern Mediterranean, the balance of air power has always been an important element in maintaining peace between neighbours. The recent acquisition by Greece of the French Rafale and the request for the purchase of F-35s will give the advantage to Athens, states Daily Sabah.
In addition, the newspaper states that Turkey no longer has time to wait, especially since the Typhoon “meets the needs” of its air forces, given that it is interoperable within the framework of NATO and that it is capable of “countering a wide variety of threats”. And to conclude: “Other important factors make the Typhoon the best choice for Ankara, such as the synergies between the Turkish defense industry and the companies of the Eurofighter consortium.”
“From its first flight in 1994, the Typhoon has been upgraded to become one of the most advanced multirole fighters on the market,” the article says. The fuselage is designed in such a way as to reduce the effective scattering area, and updates improve the stealth performance of the fighter. Data fusion, improved information environment management, state-of-the-art avionics and electronics, supercruise capability, and operational data protection will provide the Turkish Air Force with a competitive edge,” infers the article.
Eurofighter purchase may not be smooth either
A possible deal requires approval from Germany, Spain and Italy, but relations between Ankara and Berlin are tense. Germany is blocking the export of some key components for the Turkish military-industrial complex. In May, the U.K. lifted all restrictions on Turkish defense exports after Ankara launched an operation in northeast Syria. The source, who knows the details of the conversations on the sidelines of the Turkish parliament, says that the Turkish Armed Forces can easily adapt to the Eurofighter platform; however, it will take time for the transition. Turkey and the U.K. have a close defense relationship within NATO, as well as strong industrial ties. It is possible that British engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce and its local partner Kale will supply engines for Turkey’s first fighter jet, the TF-X.