Turkey was unceremoniously booted out of the F-35 programme in 2019 over its decision to buy Russia’s S-400 air defence system, notwithstanding its membership in NATO and the fact that its defence industry helped to develop the fifth-gen fighter jet.
Turkey has no interest in purchasing US Patriot surface-to-air missile systems, and considers the F-35 issue “closed” for the moment, Turkish Defence Industries president Ismail Demir has said.
“At the moment there is no demand for Patriots from our side. If we’re talking about the defence industry, we have turned the page on the matter. This issue has been removed from the agenda of the Defence Industries administration because were not perceived as an interlocutor [by the US side]. There’s no need to swim against the current,” Demir said, speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the Antalya Diplomatic Forum on Monday.
Turkey already has four types of air defence systems in operation today, according to the official, up from zero 3-4 years ago. “Of course, until now, Turkey has used aircraft to counter air attacks. But now it has very significant capabilities at the [ground] level. The S-400 cannot be disregarded. It is one of the best air defence systems in the world. I believe it will provide a great advantage in terms of air defence,” Demir said. Demir also commented on the state of the F-35 negotiations recently started up with the US.
“The negotiation process has begun. This is not a public process. Mutual steps were taken to understand and hear out the other side. It’s too early to say that we’ve made a decision, what kinds of requirements and steps to resolve the situation could be made in the event that we continue the conversation. The start of dialogue is a positive moment. We believe that the issue surrounding the F-35 is closed, and that we must solve our problems ourselves. Today we’re developing additional capabilities based on projects like the MMU [fifth-gen jet concept] and the Hurjet plane. We are also determined to modernise the F-16,” the official said.
Russia and Turkey penned a $2.5 billion deal for the delivery of 4 batteries of S-400 air defence systems in 2017, after years of fruitless negotiations between Ankara and Washington on the possible sale of Patriot missile systems to the country. Turkey’s S-400s were delivered in 2019. Washington responded by kicking Turkey out of the F-35 programme, notwithstanding Ankara’s role in developing the fighter, and status as the producer of parts for the jet’s centre fuselage, cockpit display systems and other 900 other components. In late 2020, the US slapped sanctions on Demir and the Presidency of Defence Industries over the S-400 issue. In mid-2021, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he had no doubts that Ankara would buy a second S-400 regiment from Russia.