Frustrated with the resistance of its NATO ally U.S. to provide F-16 fighter jets, Türkiye has turned to European countries to procure 40 Eurofighter Typhoons, but Germany’s possible blockade has added uncertainty to the deal, experts said.
Turkish Defense Minister Yasar Guler told a parliamentary hearing on Nov. 16 that his country was looking for new suppliers and was keen on acquiring the warplanes to modernize the aging fleet of its air force.
“We want to buy the Eurofighter. It is a very effective aircraft. These planes are jointly produced by the UK (United Kingdom), Germany and Spain. Both the UK and Spain say ‘yes’, and now they are working to persuade Germany,” Guler said.
The export of Eurofighter jets requires unanimous approval from all consortium members, including Italy.
More than two years after Ankara’s request, Türkiye’s proposed 20-billion-U.S. dollar deal to purchase advanced F-16 Block 70 fighters and modernization kits from the United States is still pending authorization.
Türkiye embraced the F-16 procurement strategy after the U.S. removed it from its F-35 fighter jets program in July 2019, after Ankara purchased Russia’s S-400 air defense systems.
Due to political tensions between Ankara and Washington, the U.S. congress has reportedly held up the proposal until Ankara approves Sweden’s admission to NATO.
An informed Turkish source, who requires anonymity, told Xinhua that the Turkish parliament’s ratification process for Sweden’s admission to NATO was “on track” and was expected to be finalized in the near future in accordance to its agenda.
According to defense policy expert Ozgur Eksi, Türkiye’s Eurofighter bid is mainly driven by its neighbor and primary regional rival Greece’s order of 24 French-made Rafale F3R fighter jets.
Eksi, editor-in-chief of TurDef defense magazine, said in a recent interview that Türkiye isn’t ready to allow Greece air superiority which, in his view, would lead to a conflict between the two NATO members, which have engaged in sporadic aerial conflicts over territorial disputes in regions such as the Aegean Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean.
“It’s a strategic choice… Türkiye knew for some time that it had to acquire Eurofighters,” in order to respond to Greece and to make up for the delayed acquisition of more F-16 fighters from the U.S., said Eksi.
Türkiye plans to use the Typhoons as a stopgap option until the next-generation Kaan it is developing enters service sometime in the next decade, a source close to the Turkish government told Xinhua.
However, diplomatic strains have reportedly led to Germany’s objection to Türkiye’s purchase of the Typhoons, including Türkiye’s acquisition of Russian arms, its military campaigns in Syria, and postponement in endorsing Sweden’s NATO bid.
In Eksi’s view, German policymakers worry that a sizeable number of voters of Kurdish origin could politically oppose to a weapons sale of this proportion to Türkiye on human rights grounds, as Ankara is battling Kurdish separatists not only at home but also in Syria and Iraq.
“The German government is afraid that (arms sales to Türkiye) would cause a loss of votes from people of Kurdish origin, that’s the main reason of its objection,” he said.
Moreover, Türkiye’s rapprochement with Russia is viewed with suspicion by its Western allies and is also a potential cause of Berlin’s objection to Ankara’s project to renew its fighter jets, other analysts said.
“Many EU and NATO allies distrust sending more advanced military hardware to a country that imports S-400s and purchases large amounts of Russian energy,” Samuel Doveri Vesterbye, managing director of the European Neighbourhood Council (ENC), a Brussels-based think-tank, commented on his X account.
“It’s simply seen as too unbalanced and dangerously tilted in favor of Russia,” said Vesterbye.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s accusation of Israel being a “terrorist state”, and his praise of the Gaza-ruling Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), has added to the list of Germany’s concerns, said Serkan Demirtas, an Ankara-based analyst and journalist.
“This deal is not easy at all because of all of these issues,” he said, highlighting other political factors including Germany’s strict laws on weapons export.
Demirtas added that Berlin was “traditionally reluctant on weapon sales to Türkiye,” and more so since the Turkish army launched several offensives against Kurdish fighters in northern Syria in recent years.