Turkey to revive Rolls Royce fighter jet engine deal – foreign minister

Ankara is looking to revive a deal with British manufacturer Rolls Royce to build engines for the TF-X, Turkey’s first indigenous fighter jet, the Guardian reported on Wednesday citing Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson have discussed speeding up the fighter jet project, Çavuşoğlu said, listing this as a possible solution to a gap in Turkey’s defence needs left by its ongoing disputes with Washington. 

The move to breathe life back into a project that stalled earlier this year comes as Turkey faces international pressure over aggressive moves in Syria and the eastern Mediterranean. It also comes amid the fallout of its purchase of Russian weapons, which led Washington to lock it out of the F-35 fighter jet programme. 

The deal was signed in 2017, but was effectively put on hold in March due to disagreements over intellectual property. The joint venture by Rolls Royce and Turkish defence firm Kale was initially set for completion in 2023, though Erdoğan said last month that it would likely take five or six years to complete.

The military operation Ankara launched against Syrian Kurdish groups in October has brought the country under the international spotlight and triggered calls to block arms sales to Turkey. The U.S. Congress is also mulling sanctions over the purchase of S-400 missile defence systems from Russia.

But Britain has remained one of Turkey’s closest Western allies, and it will be looking for trade partners due to its planned departure from the European Union, the Guardian said.

Turkey may be using the Rolls Royce deal announcement to send a message to Washington that it still has alternative partners after being suspended from the F-35 fighter jet programme, the newspaper said.

Neither company involved in the deal has officially confirmed any new developments.

As well as finding alternative suppliers to replace the Turkish firms that have been manufacturing F-35 components, the U.S. Congress has blocked the transfer of 100 jets Turkey had ordered and is considering buying them back.

Facing the loss of its first choice new generation fighter jets, Ankara has been considering alternatives including Russian Su-35s.