With the US-Turkey F-35 Jet deal heading towards a possible collapse, Turkey is considering alternatives such as the Russian Su-57, Chinese J-31 or even accelerating the development of its own fighter jet.
The US has stopped supply of parts to Turkish firms involved in the F-35 supply chain besides suspending pilot training for F-35s ‘delivered to Ankara’ but still based in the United States. The deal cancellation could follow if Turkey does not heed a July 31 deadline to cancel the S-400 air defence systems deal with Russia.
The thinking in Turkish security bureaucracy is that even if Ankara aborts the S-400 deal, the country will always be dependent upon the US for parts supply, maintenance, system upgrades, track changes in critical processes. “The jets will effectively be controlled by the US affecting Turkey’s ability to operate them independently,” Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak quoted unnamed sources as saying.
The US could sanction Turkey or halt the F-35 deal for any other political or military action of Ankara that Washington does not approve of, the security apparatus sources said.
The Russian and Chinese jets are far cheaper than the F-35 for which Ankara has already paid $1 Billion. It is not known if Turkey has any plans to seek a refund of its advance paid for the F-35s.
The security bureaucracy feels that even though the F-35 stands out for its stealth features, advanced weapons and networking features, that the operation of the jets will always be controlled by the US government is a big negative to Ankara.
While Russia has offered to make available its Su-57 to Turkey, the Chinese position is not known. Official media in China had previously reported that the J-31 would not be exported.
Turkey’s opinion of the F-35 mirrors that of some other states in Europe, namely France and Germany which have announced plans to develop their own fifth generation jets to bypass American export control regulations and control over key technologies.