Turkey eyes up Eurofighter purchase amid German blockade concerns
Turkey has confirmed it has been in talks with the UK and Spain to purchase 40 Eurofighter Typhoon jets, but Germany could choose to block a potential deal.
‘We are working on procurement,’ Yasar Guler, minister of national defence for Turkey, said during a parliamentary hearing. ‘Now the UK and Spain are making efforts to convince Germany, [although] we are not in talks with Germany...if possible, we plan to purchase 40 Eurofighter Typhoon jets.’
His words could suggest that Ankara is ready to give up its tenaciously sought-after F-16 Block 70 deal which has been beset by delays. Turkey requested to buy the same number of Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 70/72 fighters and nearly 80 modernisation kits for its existing F-16 fleet from the US.
While the US State Department has approved a possible Foreign Military Sale (FMS) for modernisation of Turkey’s existing F-16s, technical talks have continued between the two sides on the transfer of new fighters.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit Berlin on 17 November despite relations between his country and Germany reaching a low point, due differing views on the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Erdogan has strongly criticised Israel and voiced support for Hamas during Israel's military actions in Gaza, which were initiated by the militant group's attacks on 7 October. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called some of Erdogan's comments ‘absurd’.
It is not the first time Ankara has eyed up the four-nation Eurofighter Typhoon since the F-16 deal began faltering. As Shephard reported in March, Turkish officials threatened to ditch the F-16 request in favour of non-US alternatives – a move which could be viewed as brinkmanship.
Germany has also maintained its export block on Eurofighter multirole fighters to Saudi Arabia, which prompted the kingdom to request a detailed quote from Dassault for 54 Rafale fighter jets. The French jet maker was reportedly given a deadline of 10 November, but figures were still not made public.
Dassault refused to comment on the matter at the Dubai Airshow 2023.
Michael Schoellhorn, CEO of Airbus Defense and Space and president of Germany’s aviation industry association BDLI, has previously said that Germany’s export rules ‘stand in the way of the desired expansion of cooperation and undermine the European idea’.
Germany's hesitancy regarding arms exports to Saudi Arabia has created tensions within the Eurofighter partnership involving the UK and its allies. Simultaneously, its reluctance has raised apprehensions among the French and Spanish regarding the Future Combat Air System (SCAF).
At one point, the UK considered using a legal loophole to sideline Germany from the Eurofighter initiative. It later decided against it, preferring not to sour relations and jeopardise delivery timelines even further.
The potential obstruction by Germany, if it impedes Turkey's earnest pursuit of procuring Eurofighter jets, may exacerbate tensions not only between nations but also within the defence industry consortium involving the UK and Spain. Such a blockade could cast more shadow on collaborative efforts and commercial partnerships, leading to increased frustration among stakeholders.
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