Initiating a major strategic move, Turkey, under the leadership of Defense Minister Yaşar Güler, is considering the acquisition of 40 Eurofighter Typhoon jets, turning away from the controversial American F-35s. This initiative, against a backdrop of tense international relations and the quest for defensive autonomy, marks a significant turning point for the Turkish Air Force.
Redefining Turkish air power: farewell to the F-35
Turkish Defense Minister Yaşar Güler recently announced Ankara’s intention to acquire 40 Eurofighter Typhoon jets, a strategic choice that contrasts radically with the previous orientation towards American F-35s. This decision comes in the wake of Turkey’s exclusion from the F-35 program in 2019, following the controversial purchase of the Russian S-400 defense system. The minister highlighted the problems other countries are having with the F-35s, including flight restrictions in Israel and Europe, thus strengthening Turkey’s position in favor of the Eurofighter.
Diplomatic issues and challenges of acquiring the Eurofighter
Ankara’s quest for Eurofighters comes with diplomatic challenges, particularly in the face of opposition from Germany. The support of the United Kingdom and Spain, co-producers of the Eurofighter, is crucial to convince Germany. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan plans to discuss the acquisition during his upcoming visit to Germany with Chancellor Olaf Scholz. These negotiations take place in a tense context marked by Erdoğan’s recent statements on Israel and the Turkish proposal to create a commission to study the interaction between the S-400s and NATO systems.
Turkey and the F-16s: an unfinished business
At the same time, Ankara is engaged in negotiations for the purchase of 40 F-16 Block 70 Vipers and the modernization of 79 aircraft from the United States. This project, however, faces objections in the US Congress, exacerbated by tensions related to the acquisition of the Russian S-400 system and Turkey’s political positions regarding Sweden and NATO. The United States’ response remains uncertain, despite informal approval from the State Department and the beginning of the negotiation process with Congress.
Towards military autonomy: The development of KAAN
In an effort toward defense self-sufficiency, Turkey, under Erdoğan’s leadership, has made major strides to produce nearly 80 percent of its weapons needs locally. The flagship project of this strategy is the development of the 5th generation KAAN fighter by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI). This jet, a twin-engine, all-weather air superiority aircraft, is planned to replace the F-16 fleet and become a centerpiece of the Turkish Air Force by the 2030s. The KAAN, with a maximum speed of Mach 1.8 and various advanced technological capabilities, symbolizes Turkey’s ambition to position itself as a major player in the global air defense industry.
A New Era for Turkish Defense
Turkey’s defense strategy, structured around the acquisition of the Eurofighter Typhoon and the development of national projects such as KAAN, demonstrates a desire for independence and autonomy in a complex geopolitical environment. These steps reflect not only Ankara’s military aspirations, but also its desire to redefine its place on the international stage.