Turkey consults Russia on acquiring jets as S-400 co-operation deepens – Russian official

Turkish officials are holding consultations with Russia on the acquisition of new-generation jets, Russian state-run TASS news agency quoted a senior Russian official as saying.

Meanwhile, the two countries continue to cooperate closely on the deployment of Russian-built missile defence systems in Turkey, TASS reported.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan provoked a wave of speculation over plans to buy warplanes from Russia when he examined a new-generation Su-57 multirole fighter with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin near Moscow at the MAKS 2019 air show last week.

Though Turkey is yet to submit a formal request, consultations on the purchase of Su-57s and the older-model Su-35 jets are under way between the countries, TASS quoted the chief of Russia’s federal service for military-technical cooperation, Dmitry Shugayev, as saying.

Turkey has been seeking alternatives after Washington expelled it from the F-35 fighter jet programme over its purchase of Russian S-400 missile defence systems.

NATO officials say the presence of S-400s on allied soil could give Moscow access to sensitive information on the new F-35s through subterfuge. Turkey was suspended from the programme in July, after the first S-400 batteries began to arrive in an airbase near Ankara.

Turkey could be allowed back into the programme if it completely removes the S-400s from the country, U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said last week

Yet satellite images published by Israel-based geo-intelligence firm ImageSat International on Tuesday appeared to show the S-400 deployment driving on at full pace.

And on Wednesday, the Turkish Defence Ministry announced that its military personnel had begun training to operate the missile defence systems in Moscow.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu insisted last week that Turkey was still a part of the F-35 programme and its preference was to buy the U.S.-built jets, for which Ankara has already stumped up $1.4 billion.

However, the minister admitted that Turkey would look for alternatives if pressed. Turkey’s air force currently relies on a fleet of aging F-16 fighter jets, and officials have said the acquisition of new jets is a priority.