Greece will get F-35s, and the Turkish Air Force (TurAF) is acutely aware of the technological difference between it and the Hellenic Air Force (HAF).
As a result, one of Turkey’s most important strategic priorities is manufacturing the fifth-generation fighter aircraft KAAN by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI). The suitable engine for KAAN is expected to be supplied by the British business Rolls-Royce around 2027 or 2028.
KAAN could be introduced into the TurAF in significant numbers by the middle of the next decade. However, even this several-year timeframe is considered unacceptable to the TurAF. And, with all due respect to the Turkish defence industry, KAAN will never be able to match the F-35A’s capabilities. Just the fact that the F-35A is capable of carrying B61-12 nuclear weapons stored in US facilities in Turkey. Germany also ordered the F-35A for this particular reason.
White House National Security Advisor John Kirby, on January 31, underlined the United States’ unwavering stance on the F-35 sale to Turkey. He said the F-35 programme is incompatible with Turkey’s usage of the S-300 and S-400. He added that the discussions between the two countries are still ongoing. He said that if Turkey can address US worries about this issue, a return to the F-35 programme is possible.
Kirby made this remark after American Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, in an interview with the Turkish television network CNN Turk, stated that if Ankara relinquishes the S-400, the Americans would “gladly” welcome Turkey back into the F-35A family.
As a reminder, the Trump administration slapped sanctions against Turkey under the CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) for deploying Russian S-400 air defence systems. This resulted in its expulsion of Turkey from the F-35 programme despite having bought 100 units.
However, the mention of Turkey’s use of Russian S-300 batteries is odd, given that the country has never adopted such systems. This is not the case in Greece, which purchased those the Republic of Cyprus ordered from Russia in 1997 to resolve the resulting issue with Ankara.
Turkey pretended to be interested in Russian fighter aircraft – Su-35 “Flanker E” and Su-57 “Felon” – and mentioned the possibility of purchasing 40 to 80 Typhoons from the Eurofighter consortium (which includes BAE Systems, Airbus, and Leonardo), fearing that it would fall behind Greece in terms of fighter aircraft due to its inability to obtain the F-16 Vipers it requested. It is not known if it was an attempt to put pressure on Washington.
The “Typhoon” concept gained popularity in November following claims made by Turkey’s Minister of Defence, Yaşar Güler, during a hearing of the Turkish Grand National Assembly.
He stated that Turkey is working on procuring the Eurofighter because it wants to buy it. It’s a highly effective aeroplane. They are produced in the United Kingdom, Germany, and Spain. The United Kingdom and Spain agreed and are now attempting to persuade Germany. He remarked that they promised Turkey would address the problem (omitting the mention of Italy). He added that Turkey intends to purchase 40 Eurofighters if possible, guaranteeing that the F-35A has been “absolutely abandoned.”
One might have expected that the US administration’s approval to sell F-16 Vipers to Ankara would mean the end of the “Typhoon” contract, especially since Berlin appears to have not modified its attitude. This is not the case.
Even if Turkey does not expect the US Congress to veto the sale of the F-16s, Turkey still wishes to purchase Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft, a Turkish Defence Ministry official stated, according to Reuters. Turkey remains interested and awaits a positive response from Germany, a consortium member, on this matter, he insisted.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration will try to persuade Congress members not to oppose the sale of F-16 Vipers to Turkey. Ms. Nuland highlighted the importance of developing Turkey’s F-16 fleet for US security, citing the necessity to share the “weight” among NATO partners. She reiterated that Turkey procuring these aircraft is a top priority for the US.
The Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) offers Turkey up to 40 new F-16 Block 70 aircraft and upgrade kits to convert 79 Turkish F-16 Block 40/50s to the F-16V Viper levels. All of this comes at an astounding cost: $23 billion. The offer includes 48 F110-GE-129D engines (eight spares) and 149 AN/APG-83 radar systems for both new F-16C/D and upgraded F-16V. Turkey might buy up to 30 spare AN/APG-83 radars.
Also noteworthy are the 168 sets of Integrated Viper Electronic Warfare Suite (IVEWS) and 16 AN/AAQ-33 Sniper aiming pods. The package contains various aircraft subsystems, equipment, spare parts, tools, fixtures, and ammunition pylons, including the advanced Triple Missile Launcher Adapters (TMLA) for AMRAAM air-to-air missiles. No country, including the US, currently has TMLA in its arsenal. It was originally proposed for India’s F-21 project, a greatly enhanced F-16. This arrangement would enable Turkish F-16s to carry up to eight AMRAAM missiles and two Sidewinder missiles. The typical F-16 can carry up to six air-to-air missiles.
Turkey submitted an official Letter of Request (LoR) to the US government to purchase 40 F-16C/D Block 70 aircraft and 80 “Viper” upgrade kits in September 2021. At the time, the estimated cost was USD 6 billion. However, the US government postponed accepting the request because of escalating political tensions between the US and Turkey, particularly over the S-400. It is commonly known that Turkey bagged the F-16 deal in return for approving Sweden’s NATO membership. However, the “dynamic of relations” between the US and Turkey is far more complex.
TurAF currently employs 243 F-16C/D aircraft, including 157 F-16C and 86 F-16D. After completing the programme, TurAF will field 119 contemporary F-16C/D Block 70 and almost identical F-16V Viper aircraft. The new F-16C/D will replace 43 obsolete F-4E Phantom II aircraft. Furthermore, TurAF will maintain, at least on paper,164 original F-16 Block 40/50 aircraft.
The big multibillion-dollar package comprises a large amount of weaponry. Ankara will receive 952 AIM-120C-8 AMRAAM medium-range air-to-air missiles and 401 AIM-9X Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missiles. For precision strikes, up to 846 Small Diameter Bombs (SDB) GBU-39/B and over 1400 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) kits for upgrading GBU-31/32 bombs into satellite-guided extended-range weapons are provided. 96 AGM-88B HARM and 96 AGM-88E AARGM missiles would be provided to counter air defence systems.