Russian jet purchase could confirm Turkey’s defence reorientation - analysis

If Turkey decides to acquire Russian Su-35 jets, this could confirm some analysts’ opinion that Turkey’s defence priorities have been reorienting and drifting away from the West, analyst Mark Episkopos said in the National Interest on Friday.

Turkish defence officials have been considering alternatives for the country’s air forces, after the United States halted the delivery of 100 F-35 stealth fighters to Turkey last month due to Ankara’s decision to acquire Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile systems. The Pentagon also suspended Turkey’s participation in the programme to build F-35s over concerns that S-400 systems could access sensitive data on the aircraft’s defence. 

Pro-government daily Yeni Şafak reported last week that Turkey’s Defence Industry Directorate had been formally weighing in on the possible purchase of Su-35 jets, Russia's most advanced air superiority fighter. 

Two days after Washington formally suspended Turkey from the F-35 programme, Sergei Chemezov, the CEO of Russia’s Rostec, said he was ready to work out the delivery of Su-35s, if Turkey was interested. 

Yeni Şafak said in June that Turkey was also considering Chinese J-31 jets. Assuming the United States will not impose further sanctions on Turkey over its S-400 purchase, Eurofighter Typhoon and Sweden’s Saab JAS 39 Gripen could also be options, said Episkopos, a research assistant at the Center for the National Interest. 

He said the Turkish defence sector was also well versed in leveraging Russia and the West against one another and seeking favourable import terms. If Ankara and Washington resolve their differences and Turkey reaffirms its commitment to NATO’s common defence structure, it might be possible for Turkey to import U.S. stealth fighters, he said.

“If NATO can dismiss the S-400 deal as an unfortunate one-off affair, then a Su-35 import contract would confirm what some Western analysts maintain to be a long-term reorientation in Turkish defence priorities,” Episkopos said.
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