Why Turkey is interested in Eurofighter Typhoon jets
After a year of inspections and negotiations, Turkey formally declared on Thursday that it would like to buy 40 Eurofighter Typhoon jets as a stopgap option before its locally produced fifth-generation Kaan fighter jet enters service in 2030.
Turkish officials told Middle East Eye last year that the Turkish air force was considering the Eurofighter as an insurance policy in case the US slows down or even blocks the F-16 sales and modernization package, as its current fleet is of rapidly aging fighter jets. .
As the Biden administration seems to be in a hurry to promote the $ 20bn F-16 deal, which was linked to the ratification of the Turkish parliament of Sweden’s NATO offer, the Turkish defense ministry continues to look for other options.
Ankara’s request for 40 units of Eurofighters is in line with the current F-16 deal, which includes 40 advanced F-16Vs and upgrade packages for its existing 79 jets.
However, Turkish Defense Minister Yasar Guler told parliament that Ankara would be interested in buying both F-16s and Eurofighters at the same time, an unexpectedly expensive undertaking. In comparison, Saudi Arabia signed a $12.5bn deal with the UK to buy 48 Eurofighter jets in 2017.
“We want to buy the Eurofighter. A very efficient aircraft. The planes are produced jointly by the United Kingdom, Germany and Spain. Both England and Spain say ‘yes’, and now they are work to convince Germany,” said Guler. “The UK and Spain say, ‘We will solve that problem.’
Turkey has been negotiating mainly with the UK since last year.
Can Kasapoglu, a senior fellow at the Washington-based think tank the Hudson Institute, says that the operation of both systems would inevitably bring hardship arising from the dichotomy in the arsenal.
“It would mean different simulators, managing two pilot pools, a different maintenance infrastructure, and even a different base attitude,” he told MEE.
“However, in the area of defense diplomacy, it is much safer to get a Eurofighter Typhoon than the Russian or Chinese options. After all, opting for the European solution would not trigger sanctions or diplomatic differences [from the US].”
Turkey has in the past threatened to buy Russian-made fighter jets, but Russia’s struggle in the Ukraine war has greatly reduced the standing of Russian weapons in Turkey’s eyes. There are also concerns about possible western sanctions on Turkey’s defense industry should any deal with Moscow be closed.
A Turkish source familiar with the thinking of the Ministry of Defense said that Turkey does not have enough pilots to invest in the F-16 and Eurofighter systems, so in the end one of them would have to be chosen to rely on.
“Turkey is interested in the newest Tranch 4 variant,” the source said, speaking of the type of Eurofighter Typhoon jet it is hoping for.
the German opposition
One of the main obstacles facing the deal is opposition from Berlin. The jets are being produced by a consortium of countries including Germany, Spain, Italy and the UK.
Christian Molling, deputy director of the research institute of the German Council on Foreign Relations, says that Turkey has long been on Germany’s scrutiny list because of its use of German weapons, such as Leopard tanks, in internal security operations. or in ground warfare. in Syria, so Berlin is not wrong with the request.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Berlin on Friday, meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Responding to a question from a journalist, Erdogan angrily said that no one could threaten Turkey with fighter jet sales and that Ankara could find other countries for such a supply.
The Turkish president did not upset the German public when he criticized the bombing of Gaza by Israel and the way he asked Germany to criticize the Israelis for creating a humanitarian disaster in the Palestinian enclave.
“Delivering things to Turkey is a long question mark,” Molling told MEE.
“[Erdogan] he himself made the situation extremely difficult, simply because of his policy lines on Hamas, not seeing them as a terrorist group but as freedom fighters, etc. spectrum.”
‘The Green Party within Scholz’s coalition is the one who is against any exports to Turkey’
– German source
Erdogan said later on Saturday that Scholz himself did not bring up the subject of the Eurofighter sale during the talks.
Germany has previously blocked the sale of a similar Eurofighter jet to Saudi Arabia, angering British authorities. The local German producer Airbus and its workers’ union IG Metall demonstrated together last week in Manching, telling the German government that their opposition to large-scale procurement from non-European countries and the expiry of programs such as the Eurofighter.
Lights may go out at some Airbus factories if the company does not get more orders by 2030.
One German source, familiar with the German government’s thinking on the sale, told MEE that Airbus must already be lobbying the chancellor to push through the deal.
“The Green Party within Scholz’s coalition is the one against any export to Turkey, the chancellor and Scholz are pragmatic,” said the source.
The source said that if the deal were to be stopped, it would eventually collapse the Bundessicherheitsrat (Federal Security Council), which includes Green heavyweights such as Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who are likely to they against him.
“But Germany can never again risk competitors around the world selling their products as ‘German-free’ as the French do,” the source said.
European partners, such as Italy, Spain and the UK, may choose to produce weapons without German industrial output in the future.
“It would be a big prospect, also taking into account the statements of Scholz and Defense Minister Boris Pistorius [the] defense industrial base in Europe,” the source said, referring to the chancellor’s Zeitenwende speech after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which suggested Germany must spend €100bn to modernize its military.
“And what is the European industrial base if not Airbus?”