Türkiye said it expects prompt and tangible steps from the United States on the F-16 fighter jet deal while also urging Germany to show a stance aligning with the NATO spirit regarding its request to buy Eurofighter Typhoon warplanes.
Ankara has been frustrated by the prolonged process of its request to acquire F-16 jets from the U.S. it seeks to refresh its air force. This prompted it to begin discussing buying Eurofighters, produced by a consortium involving Germany, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom.
Türkiye announced last month it was in talks with Britain and Spain to buy 40 Eurofighter jets, though Germany has objected to the idea.
National Defense Minister Yaşar Güler said “technical meetings” regarding the procurement of F-16 has been completed, stressing that Türkiye expects “positive and solid steps” from the U.S.
“We expect the process to start with positive and concrete steps as soon as possible,” Güler told journalists in the Turkish capital of Ankara at a year-end evaluation meeting.
In October 2021, Türkiye requested to buy 40 Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters and 79 modernization kits for its existing warplanes.
U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has repeatedly promised to move forward with the $20-billion (TL 580-billion) sale. Still, there have been objections in the U.S. Congress over Türkiye’s delaying Sweden’s bid to join the NATO alliance.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Friday that Biden was approaching the issue of selling F-16s and modernization kits positively but that Washington’s main issue was the ratification of Sweden’s NATO bid.
Developments regarding the deal “made up the main points” of Erdoğan’s call with Biden a day earlier, he said. “Biden said he has a positive approach and that he is ready to make all sorts of proposals to Congress about this,” Erdoğan noted.
Erdoğan earlier this month signaled that the Turkish Parliament will only act on Sweden if the U.S. Congress approves Türkiye’s request.
Türkiye’s request aims to replace the aging F-16 fleet in the inventory of the Air Forces Command, which is planned to be phased out starting in the 2030s. The project was launched in 2016.
Türkiye sought to purchase Lockheed Martin’s more advanced F-35 fighter jets, but the U.S. removed it from the multinational program to buy and help build the warplane in 2019 after it acquired S-400 air missile defense systems from Russia.
Pointing out that the most important issue in the procurement process is sanctions, Güler said they always express that “allies should understand Türkiye’s global and regional function well and therefore immediately give up such restriction practices.”
“We emphasize that a strong Türkiye and a strong Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) mean a strong NATO and a strong alliance, and a strong fight against terrorism,” he noted.
He said Türkiye sees Eurofighter jets as the best alternative. He said there are plans to purchase 40 Eurofighters, 20 in the first phase and 20 later, the highest version.
Ankara has repeatedly criticized Germany for not approving its request to acquire the jets. Güler said they expect a German response aligning with the “spirit of (NATO) alliance.”
“The U.K.’s support and approach on this issue is important as it sets an example for other allies. Spain also provides similar support to us. Regarding Germany’s objections, it would be the right approach to take options and decisions in line with the common security perspective, based on the spirit of alliance,” the minister noted.
Erdoğan has said Ankara’s interest in military jets was not limited to Eurofighter.
“We have already given our answer clearly. If they give us these planes, they give them. If not, do we lack doors to knock on? No, we have many,” he said after his trip to Berlin last month.
Meanwhile, Türkiye’s domestically-developed fifth-generation fighter jet, KAAN, is expected to perform its maiden flight on Dec. 27.
Unveiled publicly earlier this year, KAAN is one of the most important projects in Türkiye’s history. The warplane made a runway debut and successfully completed its first taxi test after starting its engines for the first time in mid-March.
The platform makes Türkiye one of the few countries with the infrastructure and technology to produce a fifth-generation combat aircraft.
Güler said the realization of national defense industry projects “symbolizes the power of Türkiye.”
He also cited the homegrown supersonic advanced trainer and light combat aircraft Hürjet, the unmanned fighter jet Kızılelma, the stealth bomber Anka-3 and Atak-2 helicopter, the world’s first UAV carrier ship TCG Anadolu, as well as the new main combat Altay tank.