F-16s are late, so Turkey is considering acquiring 40 Typhoons

In an interesting turn of events, Turkey is considering purchasing the Eurofighter Typhoon. As a member of NATO, Turkey’s interest in the Typhoon is a strategic move to offset the lag in acquiring additional F-16 fighters from the United States. Various sources hint at a potential order of up to 40 Typhoons.

Many highly trained Eurofighter pilots train J-20 pilots in Asia
Photo by David Donald

Nonetheless, a sale of this scale might meet some hurdles due to the shared ownership of the Typhoon program, with Germany possibly posing objection to a deal with Turkey. 

Today, Yasar Gular, Turkey’s Defense Minister, revealed ongoing discussions with Spain and the UK about a potential Typhoon purchase. Reuters has reported Germany’s resistance to the plan. However, Italy’s point of view is unclear as it is one of the four nations part of the Eurofighter consortium.

F-16s are late, so Turkey is considering acquiring 40 Typhoons
Photo credit: Krasimir Grozev

In a recent parliamentary hearing in Ankara, Gular shared that procurement procedures are in progress. He interestingly noted that while there are no current discussions with Germany, efforts are being made to involve the United Kingdom and Spain. Gular gave some insight into probable procurement plans, hinting at the acquisition of 40 Eurofighter Typhoon jets. Some reports suggest these 40 jets could be divided into two batches of 20 if the proposed deal goes ahead.

Put simply, the company Eurofighter is still actively producing new Typhoon jets. Importantly, some participant countries like Austria, have made attempts to let go of their less useful, older version of the jet, known as Tranche 1. Despite having quite restricted air-to-ground capabilities, these Tranche 1 models could be supplied at a speedier rate. 

F-16 fired a 5th-gen missile with upgraded circuit guidance cards
Photo credit: USAF

An arrangement like this would ideally suit countries like Spain and the UK, allowing them to retire these outdated aircraft from their collections, which could free up extra resources for potential upgrades.

But don’t forget, Germany’s approval is crucial for this transfer to happen. Additionally, Turkey might want to boost its capabilities. This could include upgrading their radar systems, acquiring the MBDA Meteor, a top-tier air-to-air missile with beyond-visual-range capabilities, and elevating their air-to-ground munitions. 

Based on reports from Al Arabiya TV and Turkish insiders, it’s expected that Turkish President, Tayyip Erdogan, will discuss key matters with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz during his visit to Germany tomorrow. The top of their agenda? Potentially, Erdogan’s request to lift restrictions on Typhoon sales.

Russia and Turkey discuss the supply of an additional batch of S-400 missile system
Photo credit: AFP

It seems like Scholz may stick to his guns. Given Germany’s tough arms export laws and the present global politics, it might be unlikely for Berlin to sell weapons to Turkey.

Turkey often comes under the radar for potential human rights issues, the use of Russian S-400 air defense systems, and its actions against the Kurdish forces in Syria. Plus, it’s recently questioned Israel’s response to a Hamas attack in early October. 

During a pro-Palestinian rally in Istanbul, Turkish leader Erdogan labeled Israel as an occupier and defended his belief that Hamas is not a terrorist group.

Erdogan has voiced his opinion to the assembly that the West is primarily to blame for the ongoing crisis in Gaza. He further believes that, aside from a few thoughtful objections, the Western nations are solely responsible for this tragic situation. Moreover, Erdogan labels Israel’s actions as those of a ‘war criminal’, an opinion that has led to considerable criticism in Germany.

A potential barrier to Germany approving a Typhoon sale may be Turkey’s ongoing refusal to support Sweden’s NATO membership. Essentially, Turkey is upset with what they believe is Sweden’s supportive stance toward Kurdish militants. This group, including the Kurdistan Workers Party [PKK], is categorized as a terror organization by Turkey, the European Union [EU], and the United States.

When speaking about Erdogan’s visit to Germany, German government spokesperson, Steffen Hebestreit, described it as a comprehensive discussion with a challenging associate. He also reiterated Germany’s “stance on Israel’s right to self-defense, following the October 7th attack by Hamas.”

F-16s are late, so Turkey is considering acquiring 40 Typhoons
Photo by Chris Lofting

Ever wondered why Turkey is keen on buying Typhoon jet fighters at the moment? The answer lies in the need for additional jet fighters due to unexpected hitches in Turkey’s plan to acquire more F-16s. 

The Turkish Air Force has the prestige of being the world’s third-largest operator of F-16s. With an impressive collection of 270 F-16s, they have gradually managed to accumulate a powerful fleet with various levels of capabilities, such as Block 30, Block 50, and Block 50+ configurations.

Since October 2021, Turkey has been trying to secure a $20-billion deal to acquire 40 more new F-16s and around 80 upgrade kits for its existing fleet. However, due to political tensions between Ankara and Washington, this proposal has been held up by Congress. Finding itself amid a strained relationship with the U.S., Turkey began amassing spare parts for its current F-16s as early as 2019. As mentioned in previous discussions, Turkey initiated a structural enhancement program aimed at prolonging the lifespan of its senior F-16s and boosting efforts to integrate locally produced weapons. 

French Rafale F5 coming with emphasis on EW and SEAD in 2030
Photo credit: Twitter

In the meantime, Turkey bears witness to Greece, its primary regional adversary and fellow NATO member, pitching French-made Dassault Rafale fighters into its air squadron. Historically, when Greece acquires new fighters, Turkey answers in kind, leading Greece to reciprocate. The ongoing strain between Turkey and Greece, which often results in heated aerial encounters, is well-documented, as you can read in this prior report. 

Additional factors propel Turkey’s pursuit of new fighters. After adamantly refusing to cancel plans to purchase S-400s from Russia, Turkey was dramatically expelled from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. The Turkish Air Force’s aging F-4 Phantom IIs were to be replaced by at least 100 F-35s, but they now await a suitable successor. 

Currently, Turkey is advancing towards a domestically designed and manufactured fighter, the Turkish Aerospace Industries TF-X, also known locally as Kaan. The viability of this project, particularly regarding sourcing its engines, leaves a few question marks. Additionally, the earliest estimate for its induction into service is 2030. Alongside this, Turkey harbors aspirations of further expanding capability through advanced drone programs, but these projects are still in their infancy. 

Egypt buys Eurofighters, M-346 aircraft, frigates, and spy satellite
Photo: Eurofighter Typhoon

Speculation is rife that Germany will not grant approval for a Typhoon sale to Turkey. 

It’s been suggested that Ankara’s interest in the European jet could be a strategic play aimed at exerting greater pressure on Washington to sanction the much-desired F-16s deal. Strikingly, the Turkish parliament’s foreign affairs committee has started deliberations about Sweden’s entry into NATO, a development that could pave the way for U.S. approval of the F-16 transfer. Currently, the debate appears to be at a standstill. 

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