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Why Turkey Is Discussing Procuring Eurofighters From Britain

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Why Turkey Is Discussing Procuring Eurofighters From Britain

Turkey is in talks with the United Kingdom over a multibillion-dollar arms package that includes an estimated 24-48 Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets. These talks come as the fate of another $20 billion deal with the United States for 40 advanced Block 70 F-16 Viper jets and 79 modernization kits remains up in the air due to substantive opposition from Congress. The Turkish Air Force would likely welcome a Eurofighter acquisition for several reasons.

According to Middle East Eye, which broke the story, the proposed deal is valued at over $10 billion and also includes C-130J Hercules transport planes, Type 23 frigates, and new engines for Turkey’s US-built M60 tanks.

Turkey could well be hedging its bets or opening the possibility of a deal that includes advanced Eurofighters to demonstrate to the United States that it has alternatives to F-16s. This isn’t the first time Turkey has contemplated buying alternative 4.5-generation jets, including the Eurofighter, which the UK has been eager to sell to Ankara.

In recent years, Turkish officials have suggested that the country could turn to Russia for Su-35 fighter jets. Just over a week before Turkey first requested the F-16 deal in October 2021, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and discussed partnering up to build jet engines, warships, and even submarines. Requesting F-16s so shortly after that meeting may well have been Erdogan’s way of signaling he had other alternatives if the US denied his request.

Turkey isn’t the only Middle East country to utilize such negotiation tactics.

In 1998, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) secured a landmark deal for 80 F-16 Block 60s, the most advanced variant of the fighter ever built at the time that was even more advanced than those flown by the US Air Force. The year before, Abu Dhabi purchased 30 Mirage 2000-9 jets from France, clearly signaling it had other viable options if the US did not go through with the F-16 deal.

Many believe it has recently attempted to replicate this strategy with the F-35 deal introduced by the Trump administration. Abu Dhabi suspended that deal, citing “onerous” US preconditions, and then swiftly signed a huge deal with France for 80 4.5-generation Dassault Rafales in December 2021.

In the late 1970s, the Carter administration came under scrutiny over a deal to sell 60 F-15 Eagles to Saudi Arabia, the biggest arms deal to the kingdom of its kind at the time. To publicly demonstrate it had alternatives, Riyadh opened negotiations with the French government for a potential sale of Dassault Mirage F1s. Unlike the Emiratis, however, the Saudis ultimately never bought any French jets.

It has, of course, yet to be seen if Turkey goes the Emirati or the Saudi route. If Congress remains steadfast and blocks the F-16 deal indefinitely, Ankara may have little choice but to turn to Britain for Eurofighters. Those jets could serve as stopgap fighters until Turkey either acquires or develops a fifth-generation aircraft sometime in the next decade. It would be noteworthy if Turkey opts for some second-hand Eurofighters to receive the aircraft sooner — especially since Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has previously derided Greece for buying used Rafales from the French Air Force.

Even if Ankara wins approval for the F-16 deal, it may push ahead with the Eurofighter acquisition. Its logic may be that the new F-16s and modernization kits are needed to keep its 270-strong fleet, the backbone of its air force, up-to-date, and Eurofighters are necessary for matching Greece’s recent acquisition of 24 Rafales.

Acquisition of 24-48 Eurofighters would also be an ideal solution for replacing Turkey’s older F-4 Phantoms. Turkish is currently operating an estimated 30 upgraded F-4E Terminator 2020s. As the name suggests, Turkey initially envisioned them serving until 2020 when they contracted Israel to upgrade them to this configuration in the early 2000s. However, they remain in service since Turkey was banned from buying fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters after its acquisition of advanced Russian S-400 air defense missile systems in 2019.

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