Dim Prospects of Procuring F-35 Jets as Turkey Shifts Focus to F-16, KAAN

Erdogan: "We are now focused on the F-16 rather than the F-35"
  • Defensemirror.com bureau
  • 06:04 AM, February 27, 2024
  • 895
Dim Prospects of Procuring F-35 Jets as Turkey Shifts Focus to F-16, KAAN
KAAN fighter's first flight on February 21, 2024

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has signaled a pause in procuring F-35 fighter jets, emphasizing the nation's focus on the F-16 and the KAAN fighter project.

This decision stems from a prolonged deadlock with the United States over Turkey's purchase of the S-400 missile defense system from Russia, resulting in Turkey’s removal from the F-35 program.

In a statement today, President Erdogan noted the altered trajectory, stating, "In our current plan, we are now focused on the F-16 rather than the F-35. We are distancing ourselves from the F-35 technically and approaching it diplomatically."

Turkey has remained cold to a U.S. offer of "settling" the S-400 issue if it wants to get back into the F-35 program. Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland expressed the U.S.'s readiness to welcome Turkey back into the F-35 program earlier this month, provided the S-400 disagreement is successfully addressed. She stressed the importance of resolving the S-400 matter while ensuring Turkey maintains a robust air defense.

Turkey's desire to purchase F-35 fighter jets led to sanctions under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), resulting in its exclusion from the F-35 program in 2019 after acquiring S-400s from Russia. The U.S. contended that the air missile defense systems posed a threat to the advanced fighter jet, while Turkey maintained they would not be integrated into NATO systems.

In the midst of negotiations, Turkey sought reimbursement for F-35 payments and expressed interest in acquiring F-16 warplanes and modernization kits. The Biden administration approved a $23 billion sale of 40 new F-16s and nearly 80 kits in January, marking a significant step forward.

Turkey has allocated around $20 billion for the development of the KAAN fighter, aiming to create a 5th generation aircraft comparable to the F-22 and F-35. The KAAN recently performed its maiden flight. The KIZILELMA Unmanned Combat Aircraft Projects will also be pursued, financed entirely by Turkish company BAYKAR.

The shift in focus to projects like the F-16 Block 70 and the ambitious KAAN Fighter Plane indicates a diminished likelihood of importing a new fighter jet in addition to the F-16 Block 70.

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